I was at a school district wide meeting where teachers and parents came together for some frank conversation. A group of teachers representing multiple grade levels and subject matters presented to us (parents) a Teachers’ Wish List… It was the top 10 things teachers wished more parents would do at home to support their (the teachers’) efforts in the classroom. Now of course, standard things like checking homework folders daily, reading to your child and/or making them read every day and getting involved in school activities were among the things wished for. However one big wish that was consistently talked about and at the very top of their list was the wish that parents would teach, reinforce and model specific kinds of skills that would lead to their students’ academic success.
These skills included:
Perseverance – the ability to continue working on something until it is completed. To struggle through an issue, or problem without giving up, until a solution is reached… to not give up when it gets hard!
Discipline – to have a “stick to it” kind of attitude that is reinforced by gaining and maintaining control of ones thoughts and actions. To be able to stick to a schedule, complete a task and maintain a responsibility.
Tolerance – to have a fair and unbiased attitude towards others’ whose opinions, practices, ethnicity and culture are different than your own. Having the ability to appreciate our differences and a willingness to learn about the lives of others.
Graciousness and Appreciation – To understand that in all things there is beauty and having the ability to be thankful for the many benefits and blessings you have. To give thanks for the kindness shown to you by others.
Team Work – being able to work with others on a team to complete an assignment or project; even when you don’t like the team members you are working with.
And lastly… Listening and Following Directions – being able to hear and understand instructions and completing an assigned task in the manner described in the directions.
Wow! It rang so true! All I could say was AMEN!! But not because I had that same wish when I was teaching, (but now that I think back on it… yes, it would have been nice to have my parents reinforce those skills with their kids.) I said AMEN because as a workforce development professional who works with adult job seekers I see the same critical need! What those teachers were describing are known as “Soft Skills” in a business setting and are extremely important to master if you want to be a successful employee (or entrepreneur) in the work place.
According to Kate Lorenz of AOL Jobs, Soft Skills are defined as a “cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with.” Ms. Lorenz continues, “Companies value soft skills because research suggests and experience shows that they (soft skills) can be just as important an indicator of job performance as hard skills.” (Hard Skills being those specialized skills you learn in order to perform the tasks of your occupation.)
So, when you are working with your child to make him or her a better student; you are also preparing them for future success in the work place by teaching them skills that are sought after by employers. Many employers today are complaining that they see an alarming high number of job seekers that have good academic training and hard/technical skills, but lack the appropriate “people” (or soft) skills that are needed for success in the position.
Think about it… these are the same kind of skills that we were taught in the home and community. It used to be that activities like going to church (or any place of worship) weekly; attending the afterschool community center or even just something as simple as spending time with “Grandma” or “Uncle Bobby” would be enough to give most kids the soft skills training they needed.
However, now it seems that this training has become the responsibility of the school; which adds to already overly burdened teachers and administrators who have too much to do with too little time and resources to do it. (Not to mention the standardized testing nonsense that has overtaken the entire educational industry. But that’s another story, for another posting.)
Keep in mind that many school districts do offer a form of soft skills training in the form of character education. Broadly speaking, character education can be described as the teaching of children in various “life skills” that will help them develop into moral, civic minded, well mannered, healthy and socially acceptable people.
Check with your school district to see if a character education program is offered as part of you’re the school’s curriculum. If not, then maybe you should advocate for one to be put into your school. Learning and adopting these soft skills early in your child’s life will not only help them academically while they are in school, but they will also turn into valuable work place skills that will be critical later in your child’s professional life.
Remember though… what I ALWAYS say, “YOU are your child’s first and most influential teacher.” So when you are doing your lesson planning, be sure to include some “soft skills” development in your curriculum!
Below are some resources to get you started….