The Seven Essential Life Skills and Policy

Policymakers' path to educational excellence...

Policymakers’ path to educational excellence…

The 7 essential life skills outlined in the video below are nothing new. We have been talking about these skills for nearly a decade, when educators started to feel the need to prepare students for the “21st century.” Here are the skills:

  • Focus and self-control (this is the idea of attention and managing distractions)
  • Perspective taking
  • Communicating
  • Making connections
  • Critical thinking
  • Taking on challenges
  • Self-directed, engaged learning

Having come off a week of addressing the myriad of initiatives coming down the policy chute from our state department of education, I couldn’t help but watch this video and wonder why the things that consume such valuable (and scarce) time, money and energy have NO relationship to developing these qualities in our students. (Help me if I’m missing the connection.)

Take for instance our new state teacher evaluation system, deemed the “Teacher Effectiveness Model.” In theory, we all want to improve the quality of teaching in our classrooms. But is this the best way to do it – to discourage teachers from taking risks and embracing instruction that will provide students with opportunities to develop the “7 essential life skills”? To humiliate teachers with a performance rating that partially relies on the performance of students on standardized tests? (I won’t even begin to describe the time that is going to go into gathering the data for this new evaluation system.)

And then there are standardized tests – nothing but the cheapest, most efficient way to see what our students have “learned.” Find me a standardized test that even comes close to measuring the skills that are valued in the “real” world. Can anyone explain how the educational policy cesspool is supporting educators to provide learning opportunities for students to develop these skills and then assessment systems that fairly and accurate gauge progress. I’m afraid we have a long way to go.

The challenge of educational leadership in 2013 (and surely beyond) is to manage the never-ending mandates of policy while supporting those on the ground to do what needs to be done in the best interest of our students – to minimize the mandates, calm the hysteria over them, and still provide the best education grounded in what students truly need to know and be able to do for success. My concern is that our plates are overflowing with policy mandates. It seems the theory from policymakers these days is to throw as much as they possibly can at us so we have no time to do the important, innovative work. And then sanction us for doing a terrible job.

Check out the video and let me know what you’re thinking.


One comment on “The Seven Essential Life Skills and Policy

  1. Hey Randy,
    That list reminds me of a book I read years ago by Dr. Dorothy Rich. The book, Megaskills. Megaskills are the things Dr. Rich considered necessary for success in school and beyond. I believe that they are still quite relevant. Here they are:

    Confidence: feeling able to do it
    Motivation: wanting to do it
    Effort: being willing to work hard
    Responsibility: doing what’s right
    Initiative: moving into action
    Perseverance: completing what you start
    Caring: showing concern for others
    Teamwork: working with others
    Common Sense: using good judgment
    Problem Solving: putting what you know and what you can do into action
    Focus: concentrating with a goal in mind


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