I found the following list of personal traits a while ago while internet surfing at currclick.com. The traits speak to the ‘human’ part of our existence:
It’s an impressive list — a list that speaks to some of the most important things we value about ourselves as compassionate and competent people — traits that we hope are imparted to our children. As a parent, I want my own children to have these traits — to be proficient in these characteristics so that as adults they can thrive and be happy in our increasingly fast-paced and, some would say, depersonalized world.
Take another look at the list — a closer look — but this time tell me which traits are actually assessed in schools by having all students take a standardized assessment or exam. I’ll wait — go back and take a look.
No … you didn’t go back and read them again … I’ll wait for you to finish.
If you couldn’t find a single trait that where all students are assessed in BC using a standardized assessment you’re correct … NONE OF THEM. Not ONE of these really important traits is evaluated using a provincial standardized assessment, or any standardized assessment for that matter.
Some things just can’t be measured with a standardized assessment. Nor would we really want to try. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t critical traits that we work to grow in our students. But, they are sometimes overlooked when we see how society sometimes measures school success.
We need to continually find ways to grow student capacity in traits like empathy, courage and kindness. I would argue that these traits are JUST as important, if not MORE important, than the things that ARE measured by standardized assessments.
Academic success in areas like reading and numeracy are important to student success, but so are empathy, resilience and self-esteem.
Let me ask you a couple of questions about your school experience:
- What are some of your fondest memories of school?
- Where did you feel the most success?
I bet that you’re not thinking about any particular lesson or unit of study. I’m pretty confident that your fondest memory isn’t about the Mole Concept from Chemistry class — and I taught Chemistry. My bet is you’re probably thinking about things like:
that amazing play or musical;
- the awesome sports team you were on;
- the cool computer program that you created in IT;
- those practical skills that you learned in your automotive program;
- the band trip over Spring Break;
- the cool science fair exhibit you designed, built and explained.
What do all of these have in common? They all are examples of being highly engaged in a way that make learning relevant, fun, collaborative and worth a ton of your time and effort.
Now go back and take another look at that list of traits I posted at the beginning of this blog. See how many of those traits fit nicely into your fondest memories? Go ahead — I’ll wait again. I bet many of those traits can be linked to those memories.
School improvement needs to focus its energies on those opportunities that help build character — build students as strong, engaged, compassionate and respectful people. We need to continue creating opportunities to instill Grit, Resilience, Self-esteem, Courage, Effort, Ingenuity, Kindness and Empathy — and many of those other traits listed above.
If we continue to focus on THOSE traits, we WILL see overall improved student success in all kinds of areas including those that are sometimes used as measuring sticks for school success — things like graduation rates and post-secondary transition rates.
The actual secret to a better education system is in finding ways to make us better people