About a month ago I received this report from the Herman Group entitled “New Skills Demanded from Tomorrow’s Workers.” Because we are a secondary school, we can often lose sight of the fact that our mission is to prepare students to thrive not only in a collegiate setting, but also “beyond.” While “beyond” is a fairly broad portrayal of our mission, we believe that there are skills and competencies that will serve students well throughout the course of their lives. In reflecting on the skills outlined in the Herman Trend Report, here are some of the ways in which we are addressing the demands for these skills:
Digital Skills: Our 1-to-1 laptop program in grades 9-12 encourages the use of technology as a resource rather than a crutch. On a daily basis students use technology to conduct and assimilate research, to record and archive course materials for later review, and to communicate and collaborate with classmates and teachers. Not only this, but teachers model the effective use of digital technologies through digitally interactive lessons, reverse instruction (see “flipped classrooms“), or digital recording technologies such as Mimio Teach and smart pens.
Agile Thinking Skills: Much has been written in recent years about the relationship between creativity (i.e. “divergent thinking”) and innovation. By offering students a variety of visual and performing arts courses, we seek to cultivate agile and innovative thinking skills. Additionally, our teachers work to move themselves from the center of the classroom, and instead encourage depth over breadth of knowledge. Almost anyone can memorize facts; only people who are challenged to do so can think critically about them.
Interpersonal and Communication Skills: We believe wholeheartedly in discussion as a way of teaching. Learning how to articulate your thoughts and feelings while interacting with the thoughts and feelings of others is a cornerstone to the Harkness Method, which is used in all of our humanities classes and can be found in all of our classes at some level.
Global Operating Skills: I particularly like the phrasing of this skill. While it is easy to equate global citizenship with global service, I believe global service is a part of global citizenship. In addition to encouraging knowledge of, and interaction with, the global community through our relationship with organizations such a Students Shoulder to Shoulder, we have defined global citizenship through the intellectual, emotional, and ethical lenses of our mission statement and are striving to incorporate these definitions in the context of all of our courses.
Two recent faculty reads speak to the skills addressed in this report and have informed our thinking as we seek to prepare students “to thrive in a collegiate setting and beyond”. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink and Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner. I recommend them both. Additionally, if you haven’t yet seen Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk on creativity and schools, it is worth spending the time to watch it.