Will your school stand up?
Does your child go to a good school? How do you know? If you follow the common wisdom, you can tell by the test scores. School systems are required to post the test scores of each individual school within the system. Real estate values go up or down based on the posted scores. Families agree to privately transport to the schools with good scores and/or make up reasons why their children need to go to the schools with better scores.
But are we chasing the wrong pots of gold? Is there really lifetime success at the end of these rainbows? The answer is probably not.
Sure, learning to read, write and do arithmetic are very important skills that will lead to vocational success but they won’t work alone.
In fact, a strong school stands on four legs not just one. Like a table that is unbalanced unless there are 4 legs of equal length and strength, so a good school needs to provide skills in four areas equally.
It is easy to argue that a good school does a good job of teaching academic skills. A really good school teaches those skills in multiple ways, matching the teaching style to the learning style of the children. The teachers teach kids how to problem solve and apply old learning to new situations. There is minimal emphasis on memorization and repeating answers to problems that someone else has solved.
No table stands on one leg. And no good school does either. There are three other legs that good schools provide for their students.
At some point in time, the expectation is that children will leave school, be it after high school, college or grad school and look for productive employment. This means that ALL students need vocational and soft job skills to be able to thrive in the world of employment. One of the most important of those skills is the ability to work in a diverse workplace. The United States is becoming more and more diverse. Already white students are less than half of the students in public schools. The workplace will soon follow. Kids need to know that a big part of keeping a job is showing up and showing up on time. It is being respectful to supervision and being able to problem solve and work collaboratively. We are not teaching those skills and we need to.
You may have noticed lately that folks are lacking in social skills as well. Saying please and thank you seems to be a lost art. Yet those simple words can oil many a sticky situation. Just yesterday I saw a car cut off an ambulance with its siren on. That is an instance of poor social skills taken to a life-threatening extreme. We know more about communicating in code via text, than we know about talking to each other.
Doesn’t matter where we go or what we do, we take ourselves with us- 24/7. Most of all we need to learn to accept and like ourselves just as we are, without the “if only”. As in I would be a better person, “if only”. Each of us is the only version of ourselves. We each need to learn to love the person we are, to put on our own oxygen mask on first. Teachers can be a huge help in teaching our children while they are small, before the world beats the joy out of them, that each of the children is a really special person and deserves to be celebrated.
That’s it. Four legs to the table, academic, vocational, social and emotional. As with any sturdy table the legs need to be of equal length and equally strong to create a sturdy balanced table. So it is with schools. Don’t be fooled by the shell game that teaches us that only test scores count. Because when all school is said and done- we each need all four legs for our table