Essential Education

I’ve agreed to take on CTQ’s Teacherpreneur Brianna Crowley‘s PA Blogging Challenge for a few reasons.

1 – I want to blog regularly. Believe me, I do. Despite my lack of regularly posts, I really do. I think there is a lot of benefit in reflection and sharing is caring.
2 –  I learn some of my best stuff through reading educator blogs (latest favorite blog – I’m so excited to be a part of something like this and have meaningful discussion over some great topics.

This week’s topic is “essential education”. The way I decided to approach this was taking a step back and asking myself, As a parent and a member of society, what do I absolutely NEED today’s students to know in order to survive (and possibly succeed) in today’s society?

In my opinion, it’s the “life” skills that are essential. They are things that aren’t necessarily taught, but are experienced. Some things that come to mind:

  • Communication and social skills
  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Time management
  • Ability to work with others and independently
  • Emotional intelligence
After identifying what I thought to be the “essential” education, I thought about the curriculum at my middle school. While the things I listed above aren’t explicitly stated in the curriculum, I think that they are skills that should be embedded in every content area, at every grade level, in every assignment or project. I feel like many teachers do this already without explicitly trying, but maybe that should change. Maybe we should be trying? I am a member of our school’s Academic Support Team. This team meets with teams on a weekly basis to identify common academic needs occurring within the team and then identify resources and tools to support those identified needs. In the first few weeks of attending these meetings, its overwhelmingly clear that our students are lacking some basic student skills. Particularly time management and problem solving. As we are looking at ways to address this, I’m finding it challenging to “teach” time management or “teach” decision making skills. 
So here is my question to the group – how do you teach those skills if students are lacking in those areas? While I stated that I felt they were skills that needed to be embedded rather than a standalone lesson (which I feel wouldn’t be too beneficial), what do you do with the students that haven’t grasped those skills yet? It’s not like math where you can simply recover adding fractions if the student didn’t get it the first time. 

6 Replies to “Essential Education”

  1. I agree with your list of "life skills" that are essential to learning. These are all important skills for students to acquire if they are to be self-reliant learners. There are certainly things that teachers can do to encourage these skills, such as modeling the skills, embedding these skills in classroom procedures, and by identifying students who need more structured support and providing that support.

  2. Wow, you are easy to please. Another thing that I think is essential to learning is to create a sense of wonder and curiosity about learning. Sometimes I think we structure learningdo much that curiosity is taken out of the equation.

  3. Love this list! Problem-solving is such an essential skill because it transcends all aspects of a student's educational career and more importantly their life. Decision making, communicating, working with others or working well independently all tie into being an effective problem solver. I think in some ways it is hard to balance "teaching" these skills in a classroom because they are not necessarily something you can teach; it has to be something they use. Embedding them across the curriculum is a great idea. Like Mr. T wrote, modeling these skills and giving students opportunities to use them in the classroom are a good place to start. I also agree that sometimes (and I am guilty) we structure our classrooms too much. I am in such a rush (and it is a legit rush because it is a full curriculum) to get through all my material that I don't always provide enough opportunities for students to practice these skills, and almost more importantly, enough time to work through the consequences when they are lacking.

  4. I agree with Melissa (cyberteacherresources) when she states: "[problem solving skills] are not necessarily something you can teach; it has to be something [students] use."

    Every year, I try to make my class more constructivist–turn more of the decision and structure over to my students. This is no easy feat as to do this I must be an extremely skill facilitator and guide. I need to hold them accountable for demonstrating learning, I must set clear expectations of what skills and/or knowledge I need them to demonstrate, and I must provide resources that allow EVERY unique student to access the content and skills.

    It feels impossible as I type it out now. And I think that is why we resort to the highly structured classroom and lesson plan from our pre-service teaching training. If we just plan for every eventuality and script out every step, we can ensure the deadline and content of our "product."

    But that's the opposite of life. Life doesn't often provide a clear vision of the end product while also mapping out the steps along the way. We either have one or the other or neither! Sometimes just a vague sense that we should be pursuing an idea or grinding out a task. So to prepare our students for life, we need to make school and the learning process mirror life just a little bit more. Less scripted, more space to explore. Less recipe and more freedom to produce a product that reflects our own unique approach and perspective.

    So I'm not being very concrete here, but I'm starting with the philosophy I try to embody more and more in my classroom. There's much more to explore here…maybe I'll turn it into my own post for this week ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I think, as librarians, we naturally tend to think in terms of "life skills." At the secondary level, many of us do not have a separate curriculum because our instruction is embedded into the content areas. In addition, we don't really have content, so the actual information sometimes becomes a secondary goal in our teaching. Some of the "life skills" you mention are the only means to acquiring and processing information. They are truly "essential."

    Teaching these skills is not something that can be done in isolation – in one grade level, in one classroom, in one lesson. There must be a communal effort to provide opportunities for students to explicitly practice and master these skills in various environments for various reasons. Students do NEED these skills to survive and succeed in today's society.

    The educational response should be classroom practices that not only allow for students to use these skills but also require the students to pursue and define their own paths to constructing meaning.

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