For young men graduating from high school, adult expectations and situations arrive rapidly and with increasing regularity, and the unprepared can quickly find themselves overwhelmed.
Enter Mike Lanham, a teacher at Baymonte Christian School in Scotts Valley, where he has taught several groups of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade boys a class he calls Life Skills for Young Men since the beginning of the school year. The school has students in preschool through eighth grade.
The nine-week elective course meets three days a week and focuses on both skills for surviving life after school and following a moral compass.
Lanham, 25, said the class typically has 15 to 17 students and spends the first session each week talking about lessons from the book “Flight Plan” by Braxton Brady and Lee Burns about what it takes to be a centered, moral person.
“Every Monday, we go through a book that shows us how to be a man of character,” he said. “What it means to be a man of God.”
Discussions vary depending on the ages of the boys in each group, Lanham said, but they prepare students to make responsible choices when faced with decisions about dating, peer pressure, alcohol and drugs.
“It’s a great learning experience,” said Tyler Wilson, a sixth-grader. “I took the class because it makes me become more of a man.”
Tyler, 11, said he enjoys the open discussions Lanham has with the class. He said it feels like a comfortable and safe environment to ask questions.
Lanham, who also leads a lunchtime prayer group for students, said he enjoys teaching the class and feels that the students can relate to him as a young teacher.
“I have a real heart for building up young men of character,” he said.
During the second and third sessions each week, the focus of the class shifts to practical, everyday skills the boys could use at any point growing up or as an adult.
According to Lanham, his students learn how to change the oil in a car, replace a flat tire, wash and iron laundry, be a gentleman on a date and even shave — using a balloon for practice.
“We discuss certain skills they’ll need in college life, like making money when Mom and Dad aren’t there to pay the bills anymore,” he said. “The favorite skill we focus on is usually barbecuing.”
Rachel Wilson, mother of Tyler, said the lessons in life skills complemented her son’s academic subjects.
“We’re thrilled,” she said. “It’s great to see a class that focuses on what it takes for a young man to succeed.”
Lanham said his current class recently wrapped up a unit on automobile care that included a field trip to Canepa Designs to see how an auto shop works. Next up, he said, was a unit on basic home economics.
“With every skill, I try to pull something out of the book that can be backed up biblically,” he said.
For Tyler, an aspiring gearhead, the auto section has been enlightening.
“My favorite activity would be learning how to work on cars,” he said, explaining that he had learned to identify many vehicle components by name.
Lanham said he has seen noticeable improvements in focus and responsibility in his charges. He said a similar class for Baymonte girls was being considered, teaching many of the same skills.
“The response has been very, very positive,” he said. “The parents love the class, the kids love the class.”
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