Dear Friends in Ward 7:
These kids today…
This is often the first thing that you will hear from business owners and employers when asked about how the public education system can better prepare students for the future.
Businesses want to hire well educated, motivated, hard working critical thinkers – but business owners tell me that finding new graduates with those qualities can be very difficult.
Instead, I hear all kinds of complaints that we are graduating students with an over inflated sense of entitlement and an unwillingness to start at an entry level position and work up the ladder.
As we move towards an increasingly globalized economy, we are not doing our students any favours by perpetuating the illusion that you can be successful without hard work.
In the following article, I will share some of my ideas for how we could better prepare our students for a successful future.
Public School Trustee Candidate
Ward 7 Hamilton Central Mountain
Constructive Criticism Is Essential To Growth
The first thing we need to address right from the elementary level is the idea that all criticism is bad.
Instead, we need to make sure that children learn to accept constructive criticism as an essential part of the learning process.
As a professional photographer, I often participate in critiques of my work. Sure, it can be tough to have your work criticized, but it is the only way that you can learn what to do better the next time.
The reciprocal point is that we also have to teach children how to give effective constructive criticism. It should be OK to say that you don’t like something, as long as you can back it up with a valid reason why.
The fact is that in the workforce nobody is going to sugarcoat criticism, so the better we prepare students to deal with it the better they will adapt to life after school.
Communication Is The Most Important Skill We Can Teach Our Students
It seems like today’s students are losing even the very basics of effective communication skills.
I can’t tell you how many times I have received emails from young people looking for a job that have no punctuation, poor grammar, texting abbreviations and usually a few spelling mistakes.
If someone can’t even be bothered to capitalize the first word of a sentence and put a period at the end, why on earth would I consider them for a job?
But the problems in teaching effective communication that I see go much deeper than just effective writing skills.
As a society, we we seem to be losing our ability to communicate with each other face to face. The ability to read and interpret the emotions and subtle body language of the people we interact with on a daily basis.
In my industry (healthcare) this is especially important, but it is also a critical skill across all industries.
As in introvert myself, I understand how difficult it can be to have to learn to interact in a social setting.
But the fact is, the workforce is a social setting, and those students who master the art of effective communication will be the students who will be the first to succeed.
Hard Work Is The Only Road To Success
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts in life.
We must do a much better job of teaching our students that hard work and perseverance will lead to success.
In the public education system, this starts with a much stricter approach to deadlines and grading.
If your work is not complete – there is a consequence. If you work hard – there is a reward.
We Must Emphasize Practical Technology
I do not believe that teaching students to Google for answers on an iPad is introducing practical technology into the classroom.
I teach students how to use a multimillion dollar linear accelerator to treat cancer – that is practical technology in the classroom.
I would like to see a new emphasis on practical technology in the classroom such as teaching students to write computer code, designing and building robots and machines, manufacturing 3D printed components, studying energy efficiency and building science, growing their own food, studying food supplies and just in time delivery and many other practical technologies relevant to the real world.
It is one thing to teach students how to use technology, is a much deeper level of learning if we teach students how technology works.
We Must Re-Focus On The Trades
I believe that cutting shop class and home economics was one of the biggest mistakes we ever made in the public education system.
Having said that, it is not realistic to bring back the saws and sewing machines – the necessary facilities simply no longer exist.
However, we can do a much better job to re-focus the public education system on the trades as a viable career path.
Not everyone is made to sit at a desk and we are really failing a large population of our students when we continuously push post-seconday education and a desk job as their only viable career path.
The fact is, a career in the trades can be very well paying and rewarding and in many cases the tradesmen (and women) I know are often much more successful in the long term than their post-secondary graduate friends.
Businesses around the world are desperate for motivated, skilled tradeswomen (and men) so lets prepare our students for the world they will eventually be living in.
What do you think?
If you are a business owner, I would love to hear from you.
What challenges do you face in hiring new graduates?
What could the public school board do to help new graduates be better prepared for the workforce?
Please leave me a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!
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