With that in mind, should schools focus solely on academic success and interventions, or should teachers be freed to build community and creativity in their classrooms? Without the thrill of learning and without the appreciation for details, will our students ever push themselves to learn throughout their lifetimes?
We know that people who treat others with respect, people who successfully communicate with other people - whether peers, authority figures, or strangers - will be well-liked, well-received, and possibly well off. Hey, who couldn't use more friends, more respect, and more fun?
While the test scores may not currently reflect success, perhaps that's because we've focused solely on test scores and academic interventions for so long, and we have failed to consider the idea that character education and basic manners are what make the man (or in our case, the students). If more emphasis is placed on these area, test scores will definitely follow (as long as we don't entirely ignore academics). We know this is true.
I am ready for my school's students to be known in the community, not for high test scores, but for being the kindest, most communicative students in Joplin, Missouri. When our students transfer to other schools, I want the teachers at those schools to know, from the students' behavior that they came from Cecil Floyd. I want teachers to wonder what we do that's different. I want cashiers to recognize their respectful demeanor in the stores. I want parents to marvel at the positive behaviors as they transfer into the home.
We spoke to this during yesterday's Cecil Floyd Leadership meeting, and hopefully some greater emphasis will be placed on this area in the near future.
We often hear how the home life for many of our patrons is less than desirable. Kids live in poverty. Kids are shuffled from parent to parent in divorce situations. Parents struggle to make ends meet. Time wanes, and before we know it kids become adults, and cycles perpetuate.
We often hear that we can't do anything about the home situation. Teachers often wring their hands trying to find a way to get parents interested, a way to get parents involved, a way to get parents to support the school, a way to get parents to help. Teachers inherently want to do everything they can for their students, and when they don't get the support from moms and dads, they are frustrated. We throw our hands up in the air in helplessness.
But I don't always accept that premise. I don't always believe that we can't positively affect home life. I believe that we can help those families by overcoming the patterns. We absolutely affect the home life of the future. Our present students will be the heads of their own families sooner than we'd like to imagine. They will be the parents...and they will continue to cycle through the hunger, the poverty, and the neglect that can plague the educational setting.
We can no longer allow current home lives to dictate the future of the children in those families. Students must be made to understand that they can overcome, of you will, the struggles experienced by their own parents. These situations do not have to be heredity. They do not show up in the patterns of a DNA strand. These situations can be pieced through, and our students can emerge on the other side as stronger, brighter, and more charismatic.
That can happen when we explicitly teach simple manners. And that means more than just telling each other thank you and excuse me. It means we need to role play and practice reacting to situations that may or may not be favorable to us. Is there a better way to react when a person bumps you in the line at WalMart? How do we respond to disagreeable political messages on Facebook? Should you hold the door open for the person behind you? What do you say when someone passes you on the sidewalk?
Traditionally, these may not be the focus in a public school. But we must never allow 21st Century skills to exclude behaviors that can get us the jobs in the first place, the skills that keep us in the favor of our employers, and the skills that cause people around us smile.
Our society can focus on computers and robotics, and we'll certainly be interested in involving ourselves in the development and changes in those areas, but a socially inept engineer is
We know this: that our efforts in this area will not be in vain when we are determined to make a difference in our world.