The Important Lessons to Teach

March 12, 2010

So I've become a Guy Kawasaki fan. It all started when I was searching for commencement day speeches for the students on the speech and debate team to compete with.That's when I found "Hindsight."

It's a speech that has tremendous impact on me and on those who choose to compete with it, because they spend 9 weeks memorizing, analyzing, and embodying the pieces that they have chosen. His speech is a pretty cool place for a kid who doesn't know his place yet in this world -- like most middle schoolers -- to hang out in.

Anyway, I've been following him on Twitter as well (@guykawasaki), and occasionally the jewel comes my way that harkens back to those good 'ole "Hindsight" days -- days of great insight and straightforwardness that comes with the eloquence of Kawasaki. One of his jewels? A post titled, Ten Things to Learn This School Year.

Kawasaki generated his list like this: He thought about what his preconceptions of important skills were before he entered the workforce. Then he reflected on the skills he felt were important since entering the workforce.

Here's an annotated version of his list for your skimming pleasure:

  • How to talk to your boss.
  • How to survive a meeting that's poorly run.
  • How to run a meeting.
  • How to figure out anything on your own.
  • How to negotiate.
  • How to have a conversation.
  • How to explain something in thirty seconds.
  • How to write a one-page report.
  • How to write a five-sentence email.
  • How to get along with co-workers.

So I'm thinking, many teachers already know how important these skills are to teach. But these skills are treated as underground, black-market standards that we have to fit in between lessons, outlines, and bubbling.

If only testing companies could discover a way to make some money assessing these all-important skills, we'd be so much better off in education. At least the forced standards would be inline with the standards required of life.

But what would those assessments look like? Is there a way to create a multiple-choice standardized assessment on collaboration? Or flexibility?

These are the questions that education ought to be answering, not whether or not current practices assess well enough. It's clear that they do not. After all, being able to answer the following question correctly does not a critical-thinker make:

What sound does a cow make?

A. Moo

B. Meep

C. Low

D. Cud

(Correct answer: "low" for all you urbanites out there.)

Keep fitting in those all-important lessons. You may not be hitting the standards as they exist on tests, but you'll be preparing students for the tests of real life.

What important life lessons have students in your classroom had the opportunity to learn lately? We look forward to your comments!

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  • 6-8 Middle School

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