Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Beyond Academic Proficiency

Thomas R. Hoerr the Formative Five—Fostering Grit, Empathy, and Other Success Skills Every Student Needs

It's Christmas Day, and the meal has been served, and the presents have been all unwrapped. We are all snug and content and in various states of stillness. The only audible sound is from the neighbor boys and dog next door--and they are joyfully loud. Squeals, shouts, and barks are clearly heard as they run and play their imaginary games. Their noise reminds me of the 394 students who attend our Title I elementary school. I worry. Where are they today, and are they too enjoying the company of friends and family gathered around their holiday traditions. Will their lives be full and happy to carry on these annual festivities?

At our school, are all working incredibly hard to ensure they have the knowledge and skills needed to venture into future opportunities and responsibilities. We are relentlessly focused on their reading achievement and celebrating their effort as they reach their self-selected goals and showing ownership and pride in their own learning. We are supporting their decisions to repair the harm and restore the relationships as they experience conflict with others. The learning culture has shifted, and it feels hopeful.

Although, after reading Thomas R. Hoerr’s book The Formative Five, Fostering Grit, Empathy, and other Success Skills Every Student Needs I was reminded there are many more essential skills to teach beyond academic proficiencies. Hoerr shares; “Social and emotional skills matter just as much in determining life satisfaction and success as traditional intelligence” (p. 7).   Hoerr promotes the responsibility we have as educators to move beyond just standardize achievement instruction. We also need to strategically teach those essential skills that are necessary to develop and cultivate social mindsets as our students grow toward adulthood.

Hoerr admits narrowing down the social and emotional skills needed for success in relationships, and the workforce was not a simple task. He used his research and the thinking of many well respected educational authors and informative academics to emphasize his five selections; empathy, self-control, integrity, embracing diversity, and grit.  Here are their words.

Jessica Lahey, (2014) author of The Gift of Failure wrote, “In order to be truly empathetic, children need to learn more than simple perspective-taking; they need to know how to value, respect, and understand another person’s view, even when they don’t agree with them.”

Charles Duhigg (2012) in the book The Power of Habit, “Willpower is a learnable skill, something that can be taught the same way kids learn to do math and say thank you’” (p.134).

First Lady Michelle Obama highlighted the importance of integrity when she said, “We learned about honesty and integrity—that the truth matters . . . that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules . . . and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square” (Cassidy, 2012).

Embracing Diversity
Jacqueline Woodson, author of books for children and young adults said, “Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through the world together.”

Brené Brown (2015), author of the book Rising Strong shared, “There can be no innovation, learning, or creativity without failure” (p. xxv). “Grit gives us the courage to take risks and to fail because we know that failure is a necessary ingredient in ultimate success.”

At the passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015, the push to measure academic progress and the success of individual schools with just standardized test scores is changing. There are other vital skills needed for our children’s success now and as they grow and make life altering choices. Hoerr’s Formative Five gives parents and educators a new perspective on the additional skills needed for student’s future success in a global society.

Hoerr recently was interview on ASCD Learn, Teach, Lead, Radio by Rachel George, an ASCD Emerging Leader. You can hear his passion for this important shift in education first hand on this podcast. The joyful noise of student learning in every classroom should include instruction around social and emotional skills, to prepared our students for a bright and promising future. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ascd-learn-teach-lead-radio/id1093613867?mt=2&i=1000378747810

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