A thirteen year old boy recently convinced the head and teachers of Haute Vallée School to virtually let him run the school for a day. His idea was to provide a taster of what the digital community can offer young learners by creating a Digital Learning Day. If you examine his route to achieving this, you can witness a skill set far in advance of most adults.
He found that the American Education Board had already created something similar so he contacted them and asked if he could use their logo. They said yes.
He created a comprehensive business plan that was pitched to the head and staff. Part of that was to reschedule the staff timetable to accommodate staff helping him. It was crucial he had commitment from all concerned.
He created, among his peers, a group of helpers. He found sponsors and presenters. He engaged with the media. The day was a success not just for him, but for all involved. Pupils and staff felt engaged, connected and inspired.
The Haute Vallée experience was a shining example of what our students can achieve, and it reminded me of a workshop held recently with private sector representatives to look at the difference between what we deliver in education and what employers look for when they are recruiting.
Employers told us that they want something they call ‘soft skills’. Soft skills are not light or gentle at all, they are a particular set of attributes we wish everybody showed some talent in. They are the behaviours and attributes that will promote success in the workplace.
A recent study by McDonald’s identifies the top five skills as:
- communication and interpersonal skills
- time and self-management
- decision-making and initiative taking
- taking responsibility
Added up, they create a competent, confident individual who is able to listen and can communicate clearly, someone who can handle conflict, accept responsibility, handle criticism, turn up on time, respect their colleagues and be fully rounded in their approach to work.
When we examined what our students have been doing, it became obvious that a high level of the skills are evident, but perhaps students do not realise they possess them or appreciate their value.
Look at that list again and question what our Haute Vallée student and his fellow pupils did, what skills they exhibited to achieve such an outstanding result; more deeply, the subtleties of negotiation and the mature nuances he exhibited in collaborating with adults were amazing.
If you closely examine what was involved, every element of soft skills was touched at some point, but if you had asked those involved what soft skills they had used, they would be hard pressed to tell you.
So it’s not that they are lacking in those key attributes, it’s simply that they have not been clearly identified and understood or appreciated. You could argue that this young man and this event were exceptional, and you would be right, but it shows the changes being witnessed as the pedagogy of education advances. Soft skills are deeply embedded in our new curriculum.
On our part, there is still a great deal of work to be done to help identify and articulate the skills that are observed in schools daily and to connect what is being learned with what is being asked for in interviews. But equally, it is the role of all of us to appreciate and discover the talents that hide beneath the surface.