As the Director of Learning Design and Innovation at Woodward Academy, one of my roles is to lead the development and alignment of the curriculum PreK-12. I enjoy working with teachers and departments as we further define and refine this process to enhance the student experience. In addition to the academic goals, enduring understandings, content, and skills, we work to integrate essential “soft skills” throughout our curriculum.
The development of global competencies, media, and digital literacies, as well as critical thinking and problem solving, are examples of the types of mindsets and “soft skills” that are important to develop in our students today. Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning is another important set of skills that can contribute to a child’s long-term success.
The American Journal of Public Health published a comprehensive 20-year study1 of 800 children from kindergarten through their mid-20’s. They found a strong correlation between a child’s social skills in kindergarten and how well they were doing in adulthood.
It is interesting to find that children who were helpful, willing to share, play well with others and deal well with their emotions were more likely to have graduated college and have a full-time job by age 25. On the other hand, children who were constantly taking someone’s toys, having problems resolving conflicts, listening, and breaking things were more likely to have substance abuse problems and run-ins with police.
Even though there is a strong correlation to grades and test scores with future earning potential, we now realize that social-emotional success is also extremely important. The great news is that social-emotional skills can be learned and I am excited to be working on an initiative at Woodward Academy that is consolidating our efforts in this area.
We are coordinating our efforts with our leadership in areas of school counseling, Responsive Classroom elements, character development and mindfulness with the SEE Learning (Social Emotional and Ethical Learning) currently being developed by Emory University. This program is designed to provide a comprehensive education in which character cultivation and ethical discernment are supported through experiential learning strategies and rooted in an inclusive approach of common sense, collective experience, and scientific research.
We believe that when teachers embed “soft skills” such as interpersonal awareness, compassion, self-regulation, and relationship skills into the daily classroom they are greatly increasing the likelihood of their students’ success both in the classroom and beyond. People with domain expertise coupled with strong character and relational skills are the most attractive candidates in the job market. (For more on how to do this at home, read chapter 6 – Rebel with a Cause – in Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.)
I agree with Martin Luther King Jr. who once said “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education.
1Jones, Damon E, et al. “Early Social-Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness.” American Journal of Public Health, Nov 10, 2015, 8 Oct. 2015.