With parents and teachers caught in the line of political firestorms and Secretary of Education Betsy Devos facing backlash for insisting on schools reopening at full stream despite the pandemic, the 2020 back-to-school year is tension tightening abnormal. The host of uncertainties fueled by Covid-19 has pressured school leaders and parents in unprecedented ways as they consider when and how to safely reopen schools. In addition to the dilemmas, research shows that 77% of students won’t have what they need to land a job or do well in college whether your student is homeschooling or attending class in person.
While many school districts, like Plano ISD in Texas, are adding structure to students’ virtual learning experience by making it mandatory that they log in to class on time and with the proper attire, they are still not getting essentials to prepare them for the job market, college, or life situations. What are they missing? Even with the most robust in-person or online curriculum, students won’t learn critical soft skills through his school.
According to a survey, 73 percent of employers said that it was “somewhat or very difficult” to find candidates who met their hiring criteria. Criteria such as effective listening skills, communication, and critical thinking were within the 70 percentile range of importance to landing the job.
I know that as parents you’re concern about the safety and health of your children while you work. You’re also concerned about them getting a quality education.
As a former educator in two of Texas’ exemplary school districts, and the mother of a daughter who taught school for over seven years, I know first hand how essential those soft skills are for not only getting a job but to succeed in college and to navigate the waters of life.
With the very real Covid19 rollercoaster ride that everyone is on and pressures to return to school in-person or lose funding, your concerns as a parent are compounded by the need to ensure your students’ readiness for life beyond school.
Critical thinking is one of the most valuable abilities one can have for life and work success. Effective thinking helps students understand themselves, others, and the environment in which they live or, if they are old enough, work. Students who have cross transferable traits like creative problem solving are shown to be more likely to successfully transfer from school to a job or college.
Soft skills are not complete without communication. The ability to communicate with impact is essential in any setting. When I facilitate corporate training about effective communication in the workplace, I teach it as not only a critical skill but an art. On jobs, more productivity is lost to ineffective communication than anything else.
In the context of personal and family life, communication is essential to maintain healthy relationships. During one of my I Love You, But I Can’t Stand You Right Now seminars, a tween girl came to me afterward and asked how to talk to her mother about when she could wear heels! Countless moms and their tween-teen daughters have attended my seminar to learn how to thrive during those challenging stages of their relationship.
So, while many schools are scheduled to start the 2020 school term virtually and others will offer a combination of face-to-face, as well as partial or half-day options, uncertainties and the absence of physical classroom instructions, will lead to swiss cheese type learning experiences. The holes in your student’s studies necessitate considerations beyond their school’s curriculum.
Educational and Covid19 ensued gaps in both learning, as well as readiness for life after school, can be addressed by taking the following steps:
1. Enhance Education
Hindsight shows that the initial post Covid19 virtual educational experience is no match for face-to-face learning. Without intentionally including them in lesson plans, human soft skills are lost during instructions which leave gaps in students’ education. Many educators have to attend special training about ways to incorporate soft skills like team building into their lessons. Even so, they fall short more often than not due to time constraints and school district limitations on content. The best way to overcome this learning gap is to supplement your student’s education with external educational opportunities like Strong Lives Today.
2. Manage Change
In addition to the important soft skills that I’ve discussed here, effectively dealing with change is another critical skill for life. Change is a continuous process that interrupts or disrupts the conditions of life leading to a new way of thinking and behaving. Change always presents the challenge of beginning something new, ceasing old ways, reducing something, or adding to it. I can think of no better relevant example of change than Covid19. You can help your student learn ways to deal with change by inquiring about back-to-school and other concerns that they have and assist them in developing a plan to address any obstacles.
3. Create An Atmosphere for Learning
Virtual learning has its obvious pros and cons. Unlike an in-person classroom, most spaces at home are not the best settings for learning. However, with a bit of attention to a designated area, an ideal space can be created for homeschooling or just the days that your student will be at home instead of school if you’ve chosen a hybrid type of educational experience. The most important factors for educational success at home are lighting, low noise, a functional desk, and seating which could be a flexible balance ball (doesn’t have to be a chair), and isolation. You can get some ideas about ways to create the perfect study environment here.
The Covid19 rollercoaster continues to present ongoing changes in the way that we think and get things done, including parenting. From what I’ve seen in my strong lives coaching and the masterclasses that I facilitate, the better prepared you are to deal with uncertainty, the easier it will be to adapt to “new normals” and thrive. Preparation begins with plans, and, planning is within reach.