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The Important Lessons to Teach

Heather Wolpert-Gawron

ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA
Related Tags: Assessment, 6-8 Middle School
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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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Heather Wolpert-Gawron

ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA

Comments (11) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Sybrina's picture
Former Classroom Mathematics Teacher and Math Coach

The Top Ten list reminded me of the importance of teaching 21st century skills. Many times people think of 21st century skills as being solely technologically based.

However, it seems to me that technology merely provides new tools to foster engagement, communication, collaboration, and creativity. Mr. Kawasaki and Dr. Todd remind us that we owe it to our students to provide them with opportunities to develop and cultivate these life skills while in the safe confines of a student-centered learning enviroment.

Victor H. Rojas's picture

Facilitating learning is the process of helping students to explore, learn and change. It involves attention to learning that is directly achieved through reflection on daily experiences. Facilitators should teach learning strategies, make suggestions and offer insights in order to help members of groups engage in productive discussion, and empower their life skills.

Heather Wolpert-Gawron's picture
Heather Wolpert-Gawron
ELA Teacher, Middle School, Curriculum Coordinator TOSA

...and what a shame that the new National Standards don't reflect what we are learning should be these unspoken standards. I am a supporter of common standards. I believe in their intention and ideal. But they new national standards that have recently been released for comment don't mirror those important skills listed above.

Is it just that we can't test them easily, so they aren't made a priority? Or are the folks who create them so stuck in the tar of yesteryear that they can't break themselves free to create a new set of 2020 standards to help drive the test creations?

Tail wagging the dog.

Thanks, everyone for your comments. I find myself nodding with thought with each entry.

-Heather Wolpert-Gawron

LPS's picture
Cross Categorical/self-contained - Teacher

The best education I got was in using common sense. I have observed typical students and they are unable play together in a cooperative way. Everything is about fighting for their position and power. I went to an alternative highschool because I got really bored in traditional classrooms and created chaos for the "fun" of it. I excelled with honors in the alternative program that was based on life skills. I went to college, raised 2 kids, overcame all odds, not necessarily in that order. The saying about I learned everything I needed to know in Kindergarten applies.

Rain's picture

This list is of high value to me. Well, I've alwasy wanted my classes to be very helpful in life. In my opinion it is not knowledge that is most important but skills. In this list skills are enumerated. Well, I see that some of them can be developed only at work. But there are lots where teachers can help. You know students like to play games, they like to act. Such tasks develop their individuality. You can find some interesting articles about the role of acting skills in the work of a teacher at pdf search . Besides, teacher can teach students to speak your mind in 1 minute or to write a report.

Sandy's picture

Chrysalis School Montana I am a regular reader of this blog. Being a teacher, this blog has helped me a lot in improving my teaching skills. This post too is really a useful one for all those in teaching field. I too have heard about Kawasaki but this is the first time I am hearing about his great thoughts. I have read the list of the ten things to be learned and it is really brilliant. It's a true fact that all those ten things are really important in a teacher's career. These days the assessment through tests is really lacking quality. In my opinion it's a true fact that the forced standards would be in line with the standards required of life. So we all have to work on it.

Tina Figgler's picture

[quote]Teachers that engage students through debates, group projects, presentations, etc., work on theses skills already. To many times, teachers believe they need to provide all the knowledge the student will need (secondary mostly), but students need to discover. They need to be supported if they make a mistake. The teacher becomes a facilitator and not a dictator.[/quote]

I completely agree with you! The difference between a teacher and an inspiration leader has to do with teaching life skills in every way possible, not just by the book. I find that my students learn more (and remember it!) when they come to the conclusion independently. A little nudge and encouragement can go a long way. I like to teach life skills in my class that can be used for any job they choose to pursue, whether it be a health insurance for individuals broker or am architect.

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