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Supt. John Jarpe: Schools teach more than academics

Published 9:20pm Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Every single day you hear or read about the concerns with our public school students being prepared for college or careers. “College ready” is one of the new buzzword terms we use to make sure our students graduate and can tackle the rigors of freshman coursework. When we use those terms, we immediately think about academic preparation, and whether or not our young people have the knowledge, skills and experience to tackle the classes they’ll take in college. Virtual learning through online courses is an increasingly popular way to address academic concerns.

There are some other important questions we need to ask ourselves in terms of readiness for adult responsibilities. How prepared are our students to be self-starters? Do they have the work ethic and maturity to prioritize tasks and succeed? How are their people skills? Can they handle difficult people? Can they resist peer pressure and make good decisions? Can they work with others collaboratively and solve a tough problem?  Do they have a sense of social commitment and responsibility?

These are all questions that you cannot measure with an academic test or transcript. These are also not life skills you can teach online through some virtual classroom. Learning how to work with others, how to talk to and listen to new people, how to deal with relationships and how to win and lose together are not skills you can gain from sitting in front of a computer. You have to be with people in a place where it’s safe to make mistakes and learn from them and be a better person for it. That place is called school.

Think about the people you’ve all worked with who were not so successful at their jobs. Many times it was not a lack of competency or knowledge that made them less than productive. Sometimes it was poor attitudes; maybe a lack of communication skills; perhaps bad work attendance; or, they were not so much team players. Again, these are skills we can and should teach and instill in students in school classrooms, and they are not measured by ACT, SAT or GPA. You also cannot learn these skills over a computer at your kitchen table.

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