Today Matters » Destination: Life!

Destination: Life!

November 16, 2018

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
In the world of school, there’s plenty of dialogue surrounding whether schools are doing a good job of ensuring that students are “college- or career-ready.” I think the whole conversation is too narrow, rather, we should be more focused on preparing students for life than specifically for college or careers. Could we just use the phrase “Life-Ready” instead?
College, vocational school, the trades, military, or a multitude of other options exist. But is this the goal? To fit into a specific path, trajectory, and shape? School days aside, life can throw many twists and turns at us, even when we think we’ve got a handle on our chosen path. As the adults, knowing what we know about this adventure we call life, are we are preparing our students to live it, live it successfully, live it to the fullest? Are we modeling behavior that helps them become good, decent, contributing members of our society? Beyond test scores and grades, are we ensuring they are ready for whatever is thrown their way?
I know the goal for my six children is that they can live on their own, manage their finances, find work that they enjoy and work that inspires them to do it throughout their lifetimes, while cultivating fulfilling relationships, and offering themselves in the service of others. I’m not so sure I received any of that training in college. But these skills, amongst a myriad of others, help young people make it successfully through life.
What do students need to know so that they are ready for life? Is it simply to read, write, and solve math problems? I would argue that there are many other skills that need to be addressed if our children hope to be successful, independent, valuable, contributing members of society. What of the “soft skills” we hear so much about? Adaptability. Empathy. Flexibility. Tenacity. Creativity. These skills must not be lost as we raise our children to be adults.
In a study conducted by Google and reported out in the Washington Post (December 2017), Google analyzed their own employees against their own promotion data. They dubbed the study “Project Oxygen” with the most important skills to include:
  • Being a good coach
  • Communicating and listening well
  • Possessing insights into others (including others’ different values and points of view)
  • Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues
  • Being a good critical thinker and problem solver
  • Making connections across complex ideas

Further, Google found in another internal study called “Project Aristotle,” that qualities such as equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence were characteristics shared by their top teams. So, where should children learn these important skills? More than what will get them in the door to college or a career; but what will make them high-functioning members of dynamic teams? And further, high-functioning human beings in life?
Our students should experience and grow the seeds of these soft skills within their educational community, surrounded and nurtured by their parents, teachers, schools, and larger local community. That’s us! If we don’t instill these qualities in our young people, before they’re older and more rigid, we’re robbing them of potential skills needed later in their life to be successful. Of course academics are vitally important; but equally so, are the skills needed to be “Life-Ready.”