Tony Wagner is an educator’s educator and should be the hero of every parent whose child is going through the American education system. A former high school teacher, K – 8 principal, and university professor in education, Mr. Wagner is now an Expert in Residence at Harvard’s Innovation Lab and makes it his business to speak about what kids need in order to find the greatest levels of success as adults. His topics include what he refers to as Seven Survival Skills that will help children and adolescents achieve their goals once they grow and, eventually, reach the business world.
He first discusses critical thinking and problem solving skills. Similar to this point is what I used to tell my sixth grade students when they were searching for answers for the weekly social studies questionnaire I provided: You don’t have to know the answer yourself; you have to know how to find the answer. Neither teachers, nor a company’s leaders, have all the answers; students need strong analytic skills, be willing to test their assumptions, and not take things at face value.
Being willing and able to collaborate is also important. Gone will be the days of saying, Can I work with a different group? Individuals will need to lead by influencing and inspiring others to step up to work toward the challenges provided. Often it is very difficult to find people who are capable of leading in this way.
Also, having the ability to adapt and learn new skills seems to be much more important than actually possessing specific technical skills. Clay Parker, President of Chemical Management at BOC Edwards verifies this point, saying that, the first four years he was with the company, reorganization took place every year due to the business’s changing needs. Therefore, it was essential that those hired were flexible enough to met the company’s often-modified requirements. Additionally, Mark Maddox, a Human Resources Manager, notes that some jobs also look for self-directed people who take initiative; companies need individuals who, when they see a problem, will step up to find creative solutions to difficult problems.
Certainly, strong and effective written and oral communication remain essential skills, as does the ability to access and analyze information. These require high levels of cognition, along with knowing how to block-out superfluous information; this is especially important in our fast-paced world with an overload of information that continuously bombards us with minutiae from all over the world.
Finally, curiosity and imagination remain on the list for essential characteristics of employees, whether the employees are a boss or lower-level worker. Being able to look at something and wonder “what if” has huge benefits for companies. And then, being able to take those thoughts a step further and imagine the possibilities…priceless.
Does your child’s school focus on these skills? Does his school hit a few of these goals, but not all? Now might be a time to consider how your child can begin to develop the traits, or strengthen them, outside of the school arena. After all, as parents who hopefully partner with the school at every possible time, a team approach just might provide the best of both worlds when parents and school join forces for the betterment of the child.
Let me know what you think.