#dojoChatEU: Future-Proofing our Learners

This week’s ClassDojo chat was called Future Proofing our Learners. As usual, I’ll be taking a look at the questions and giving my own opinions where I can. This week’s chat was led by a teacher who goes by the Twitter handle macfloss.

Q1. The Scottish Curriculum states that all learners are entitled to develop Skills for Learning, Skills for Life & Skills for Work. What’s your top skill for each?

Wow, a tough question to get started… My top skill for learning has to be to not be afraid to make mistakes, that is to take risks and try different things. I think I’d probably repeat that for the other two areas too. There are lots of skills I think we need for learning, life and work and embracing risk has to be up there as one of the most important skills to be able to take on. This means letting go of control sometimes. If I was allowed to have a second skill, I’d choose resilience. I’m no expert on the Scottish curriculum but I’m glad to say in Ireland, there is flexibility in our curriculum to take risks and try things out as it is flexible. Resilience isn’t specifically mentioned but the government have released guidelines on well-being recently, which is something, albeit a tick-the-box exercise.

Q2. Skills for learning are essential to what we do. What are your main focuses in class and how do you promote them?

Most people who responded to this would correlate to my own feelings of creating a “fail safe” classroom, where it’s ok to make mistakes, try different things and take risks.

Q3. In preparing our learners for the future, why is it so important that we incorporate Social Skills into our teaching?

There’s very little point in knowing lots of things without having the necessary social skills to use them! Unfortunately, we can no longer take for granted that children are being taught social skills at home. We’re living in a world of constantly being busy and speaking to each other, manners and other social norms are becoming lost in it all. Sadly, schools seem to be taking on the types of skills that would have been naturally done at home back in our day such as playing, speaking, etc. It’s a sad thing but it’s the way things seem to be.

Q4. How can we encourage the development of Social Skills outside the classroom?

I’m not sure we can. We have very little control of what happens when children are outside the confines of the school but I guess we can try and give tasks that would encourage social skills. Examples might be to do projects at home or to do practical jobs for homework. It’s a tough one. As this is a ClassDojo chat, some people suggested using ClassStory to engage with parents to give families something to chat about at home.

Q5. Of the skills you have acquired on your own learning journey, which have been the most useful?

I have to say Emotional Intelligence was a game changer for me. It explained to me why I do what I do and why others do what they do too! It helped me to become more assertive, even though I find it hard and I often go back to the skills to see how I’m faring. My knowledge of these 15 skills have really added to my life.

Q6. Skills for work encompasses a myriad of possibilities, what are your top 3?

I often think about the role of a teacher and the skills they need. I compare it to being like an actor in a theatre where all the audience are forced to be there and only some of them want to be there. You have to remain on stage for 5 hours a day and constantly be entertaining. After the show, nobody claps and neither do their chauffeurs (in fact some of them spend most of their days giving out about your laziness while they spend all day in coffee shops…but I digress!) With this in mind, one of the biggest skills one needs is self-awareness. You need to know how you are really doing because no one is really going to tell you unless you’re really bad. I think the ability to be creative is another very important skill for a teacher and it’s one that can’t be taken for granted. Finally, in my top 3, it is the ability to take risks and lose control. As the question says, there’s a myriad of skills needed in the work of a teacher and these are three that I think are useful to have.

Q8. Is it possible to future-proof our learners?

I think we can to a point but, as Lord David Puttnam reminds us, most of the jobs that our pupils will be doing do not yet exist. We can only provide the skills we think they will need. We’re probably right in what they are but who knows? I feel if we can give our children good social skills, emotional intelligence skills and creative thinking skills, we’re on to a good thing. I also think we need to provide them with a culture where they can take risks, work together and make mistakes without feeling bad.  Finally, and this might be obvious, we need to remove the obstacles that impede this culture. In Ireland, standardised testing from Micra-Ts to Leaving Cert need to be scrapped.


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