The Secret Skills for Future Success

GoldenAccording to the 2017 PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, Americans overwhelmingly want schools to teach children non-academic skills, like how to be cooperative, respectful of others and persistent problem-solvers – placing more importance on that type of learning than even on how students perform on standardized tests.

A strong academic record is certainly important, but it’s been my experience that academic record is not the only indicator of our students’ future success.  Employers have also found out that personal traits may be more important than academic record. The traits that seem to be the secret to career success are:

  • Attitude – Having a positive can-do approach to everything.  Confidence can be tough for students especially after a rough semester or a transition from one level to another.
  • Teamwork – Being able to work with others and feeling comfortable entrusting others to perform as they should. (This is tough for some of our top students especially as it relates to our CPM Mathematics program.)
  • Communication Skills – This is the ability to connect with others in a variety of situations.  Surprisingly it’s not so much the ability to write or give presentations, but having a genuine ability to relate to others.  In a day of electronic technologies, our students have limited appreciation of what real human communications is all about.
  • Work Ethic – This is the ability and discipline to put forth effort to achieve.  This is something that all of our students have been developing.
  • Problem Solving Skills – Students are getting a heavy dose of math and science, but problem solving skills relate more to the ability to see problems where others don’t, to deal with ambiguous information, to formulate an analysis approach, and to use the analysis to arrive at a decision.  A lot of problem solving is based on intuition and judgment.  Students can have this skill but may not perceive themselves to be strong in math.
  • Consistency – Consistent performance is valued more than bursts of outstanding performance and occasional lapses of performance.
  • Continuous Learning – Students need to have a passion for developing themselves outside of what they are being taught.  Every great leader that I’ve known has a continuing desire to learn.
  • Supporting Others – Success in any endeavor is rarely a singular activity.  Students need to help each other and be willing to seek out help from others.  

I hope that you will see our teachers have purposely embedded opportunities for students to develop these traits as your student goes through our schools.  These traits don’t develop organically.  Students, teachers and families need to be conscious of a need to develop these traits and take advantage of the opportunities provided to do so.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Standard

Please be a champion for kids

RoxHappy Monday!  Worthington was off school last Monday to celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  Angie Adrean (our Chief Academic Officer) and I were able to attend the City of Worthington’s Community Celebration.  It was a great opportunity to see our Worthington students perform and to reflect on the meaning of the day.

Worthington Academy and Phoenix Middle School Principal Adham Schirg reflected on the day in his communication with families.  I thought Adham’s words were poignant and worth sharing broadly:

“Teaching and learning about the Civil Rights Movement has always been a passion of mine.  It was my favorite unit of study as both a student and teacher.  Learning about influential figures and key events excited my interest and curiosity.  People like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Rosa Parks and events such as Brown vs Board of Education and The Little Rock Nine, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have influenced the course of American social history.

In addition to learning about the 1960’s and the Civil Rights Movement, my parents experienced it firsthand.  I was always able to pick their brain about their personal experiences which brought this era to life in ways that other historical eras could not be understood.  I think the tragedy, triumph and shaping of the American experience during the Civil Rights era attracted me to it.

Since I left the classroom several years ago, I have not been able to teach this unit of study.  However, it always resonates throughout my professional life.  Reflecting, I now understand I can never understand what many people experienced during this era of history.  I have never been discriminated against because of the color of my skin, my gender, or sexual orientation.  However, many of the people in my life had these experiences and continue to experience them.

The question I now have is how do I serve people experiencing social injustice in their lives?  Earlier this year, a colleague expressed his desire to be a champion for all kids.  He said ‘every person needs a champion, especially kids’.  I agree with this sentiment.  Every person needs a champion, an advocate, a mentor and an empathetic ear.  Try to understand before being understood and then fight for each other, especially the most vulnerable.  Reflecting on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and the transformational lessons of our collective past, please be a champion for our kids, our community, and the most vulnerable.  They all deserve it and it will be worth it!”

#ItsWorthIt

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Standard

Words Matter

WordsMatterI graduated from college with a guy named Jim back in 1995.  From 1995 until 2009 I knew nothing about Jim’s life.  We had no contact with one another and went our separate ways.  Sometime around 2009 Mark Zuckerberg somehow realized Jim and I had previous connections and we became Facebook friends.  Jim lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his family and is a college professor. We haven’t spoken since 1995 but I enjoy his posts on Facebook as we often see the world similarly.

Thus this weekend when I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed I read Jim’s post and it hit me “like a ton of bricks.”  Here’s what Jim’s post said:

“My Kindergarten teacher told me I was fat.

My First Grade teacher told me I could be the President.

I remember both moments like they were yesterday.”

#WordsMatter #TeachersMatter #TeachTheChildrenWell

The post was followed by several other Facebook friends commenting on things that they remember being said to them in school.  This struck me as something we can all relate to.  Five second comments made to children often stick with them for the rest of their life.  Certainly not every comment does.  But for some reason in our self-consciousness some comments both positive and negative stick with us and some 40 years later we can remember them like the comments were spoken yesterday.

As a school district my greatest hope is that everyone associated with Worthington Schools is making comments that stick with our students that help them see a positive future for themselves.  My hope and my expectation is that we take our words seriously and that we’re very careful not to share messages that stick with students in a negative way.  Sounds simple, it’s not. We never know what will stick with a person and what will fade away over time.

Jim’s words reminded me that what we say has an impact.  Our goal in Worthington Schools will be for that impact to make a long-term positive difference in the life of the children we work with.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Standard

Possibilities

2018Happy New Year!  I recently heard a story about a kindergarten teacher, Miss Jones.  I read an interview a reporter had done with her. At the time Miss Jones was in her 90’s.  The interview was in her assisted living apartment where she was surrounded by drawings that she had made of her kindergarten classes over her 50-year career.  She loved to remember the children she had taught.

Miss Jones was an artist.  It had been her custom to draw a montage of each class.  She explained her approach this way: “I try to capture more than just a likeness of each child.  My drawings reflect my vision of them as individuals.  The drawings reflect hope.  You’ll see that I’m not specific in my caricatures.  For example, I don’t picture them as firemen, teachers, or athletes.  What I try to capture are the qualities that make each of them special.  These are the qualities that they will have forever.”

“I try to reflect these qualities in their eyes, in the expressions on their face, in the positioning of their mouth, and in other ways that seem important to me.  I don’t have a model for my drawings.  I just draw what seems important to me. What I’m doing is drawing possibilities.”

I have long thought about her use of the word possibilities.  Possibilities are about hope for the future.  They are developed from thoughtful observations of what might be.  They are not meant to be a “design” of what should be.  They are not meant to be an accurate portrait of the way things are.  Possibilities are subtle in their presentation.  They are not meant to be a roadmap.  But there is something real about them. Miss Jones’ drawings sprang from the hope she saw in each child.  Over time possibilities will take shape, but for now, they are simply developing.

Our role in education is developing possibilities.  There are so many incredible possibilities in this new year! Only time will tell how the possibilities unfold.  Let’s make 2018 a great year in Worthington!

  • Trent Bowers, Superintendent
Standard