63 Days ’til 40: Educational Building Blocks

20 Dec


As many of you know, I have been thinking a lot about education lately. I find myself continuing to ponder systemic questions at all levels, from elementary building blocks to the immense pressure placed on high school students. I have stated on many occasions, in many ways, how I feel about education – and my concerns that educators of today are not providing our students with the tools they will need tomorrow. We begin to empower our students with these tools from the moment they walk into our schools – even in preschool.

There are traditional skills that have always been considered the building blocks, or foundation of traditional education. This includes skills such as: understanding number sense, phonemic awareness, etc. We work hard to build in our children the basics of “reading, writing and arithmetic.” While the way in which we teach these concepts may have shifted over the years, the basic knowledge base remains remarkably similar.

I wonder, however, if we are missing the boat. Where are the social skills in this equation? Are we working to build character in our children? Are we teaching them the values of honesty, integrity, respect, and caring? Do we understand that teaching a child how to make a friend is as valuable (or, perhaps, even more valuable) than learning to add and subtract numbers?

I find it is easier to understand the value of these skills when we realize how devastating it is for a child to NOT have these skills. Educators must continue to question if we are giving our students the skills and tools necessary to be successful in this world. Sometimes these tools coordinate with our traditional educational system and sometimes they clash considerably. I believe if schools focus on educating the whole child we will be able to find the balance of teaching traditional skills and coupling those lessons with opportunities to develop valuable life skills.

Today, 63 days ’til 40, I am reminded that the educational building blocks of today are more than academics, they focus on the entire child and the child’s well-being.



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14 responses to “63 Days ’til 40: Educational Building Blocks

  1. doubleinvert

    December 20, 2012 at 00:19

    I’ve been out of school for a while, but I think that “skills” like honesty and integrity were taught. These lessons were taught primarily through the threats of failing a class if we cheated. Likewise, respect was taught inasmuch as student were to unconditionally respect the teachers and staff. It was a one-way street. Respect was not shown to us in return.

    Ultimately, I felt like I wasn’t really taught how to find the information. Memorization rather than learning seemed to be the process that was emphasized. Test scores were the goal.

    And, my parents sent me to private Catholic schools. You’d think that the life skills you mentioned would have been taught at such institutions. Maybe they were and I didn’t get it at the time. But it seemed the focus was grades and test scores, as opposed to how to function with others and the practical applications of education.


    • 400daystil40

      December 20, 2012 at 09:35

      Yes, they were taught, and they are taught – you bring up such a critical point that I share a lot! Education is no longer a base of knowledge system (meaning teach students to memorize and regurgitate facts) – we are know in an age where students need to gather, synthesize, and apply knowledge – which are the skills you say you did not get… yet that is exactly what we need to equip our students with…. some schools understand this, others are so focused on test scores that they may understand, but they do not do anything to address the issues.

  2. Another Thousand Words

    December 20, 2012 at 01:24

    It used to be the parents who taught the non-academic things, 400…now, unfortunately, that seems to have become another task for the teachers…somewhat unfair, I feel. If a teacher has to spend so much of her day attempting to keep students ‘ruly’, how can she/he possibly devote any more than minimum time to academic subjects? As I understand, this is ‘de rigeur’ here in Chicago public schools (I’ve spoken with only a small number of both educators and parents)…at the end of the day, frustration sets in, because so little has been accomplished. I find it sad, and very detrimental to society as a whole, that many parents choose to leave their duty of ‘child-rearing’ up to the child’s teacher! There is so much more I could write here, but time is short…and I’m certain you understand my point of view?

    • 400daystil40

      December 20, 2012 at 09:08

      Your point is something we regularly discuss at our school site. I am not sure what the answers are, I just know that we have to get ourselves back on track – soon!

  3. walkwiththerabbi

    December 20, 2012 at 05:19

    It’s my personal conviction, that part of the solution, so that we don’t have another Newtown Conn. incident, lies in what is being caught and taught at the elementary levels, things like the importance of valuing and honoring ALL life. We all have a role to play! What say ye? It’s another aspect of starting over, of challenging old ways, that I refer to in “The Walk” (

    • 400daystil40

      December 20, 2012 at 09:07

      Yes, I agree with you – and, as another reader pointed, out, is is a community responsibility to teach these values, NOT just a responsibility for the schools!

  4. Betsy Andrews Etchart

    December 20, 2012 at 16:03

    Your point is so important. I did not learn until after college the importance of social intelligence and skills. I was too busy in my comfort zone, my head in my books, and no one ever asked me, “but why do you only have one friend?” I keep this in mind as my preschoolers enter the world. I think their Montessori school does a better job than most, but guidance at home is key, too.

    • 400daystil40

      December 23, 2012 at 00:21

      Yes, I agree with you completely! You also bring up a very good point… some of us are on an educational track and really do not realize that we are short friends and social skills until after we are already in the “real world” – which is too late!

  5. Sid Dunnebacke

    December 20, 2012 at 20:00

    This hits home for me – one sentence in particular – and I’m hoping and trusting that the staff at our school is as mindful of such things, while hoping that I can fulfill my responsibilities in that realm as well as I can (or more!). Thank you!

  6. Lani Longshore

    December 20, 2012 at 20:36

    Children learn values from their teachers, parents, peers and role models just by observing what is cherished and what is dismissed. That has never changed. What has changed is the number of competing voices for the curriculum. Teachers can’t train the next generation of an obedient workforce at the same time as they are empowering children to think for themselves, but both are demanded by the community. Parents need to agree among themselves what sort of education is best for the community, then work with the teachers, and ignore those who have a less noble agenda.

    • 400daystil40

      December 23, 2012 at 00:20

      Ah, such a good point! Yes, so many curricular demands are drowning the teachers at our school!

  7. behrfacts

    January 28, 2013 at 13:21

    I’ve been organising an informal local group to try and discuss interesting education issues on a termly basis and the first topic that we went for (only had 1 meeting so far but next due in February) was ‘how can education we make our children happy?’ Of course this is a huge subject with a range of opinions but we took it seriously for about a couple of hours and came up with some principles and action points. I am not at liberty to share these yet as the group needs to agree on this at its next meeting, but suffice to say that we all feel that we are contributing in a small way to progress in education in our part of the world. This is what matters. A community working in harmony on a common goal.

    • 400daystil40

      January 28, 2013 at 23:41

      That is wonderful! I was actually wanting to research schools in the UK and what is and is not working as with the new free schools that are being created at the moment it may be a wonderful time to work to create a school that better addresses all of the needs of the student.


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