Year in Review: Hopkins 2017

Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed started this past summer as superintendent of Hopkins Public Schools.

Cognitive agility. Fortitude. Curiosity. Technical fluency. Critical thinking. Empathy. Teaming with diverse others. Solving complex problems. Determination. Analytics and diagnostics. Value of failure. Communication. Hunger to learn. Deep self-knowledge.

These are the skills of the future. Some of us have referred to these qualities as “soft skills.” The reality is that there is nothing soft about these skills. They truly should be called “hard skills,” as they are difficult to teach and sometimes hard to master. While knowing complex content is still important, accumulating content for information’s sake is no longer easily transferable to a job. What’s becoming far more vital is acquiring and mastering these sophisticated skills that will position a young person for success in the future workplace. Our children, the world’s future employees, need less content and more skill.

So what should schools and places of learning look like in 2030? How do we help students compete with smart machines? How do we prepare our students to navigate the global connectedness generated by technology? In Hopkins, our teachers realize they are no longer the sole purveyors of knowledge and information. Technology is leveraged as a tool to provide students with learning platforms that help them analyze, diagnose, work in teams, think critically and create. We have the courage to face our new learning horizon. To chart a new course for moving our students into a future of learning that looks vastly different from how most of us experienced school requires us to examine the traditions we must uphold and those we should release. I have spent a lot of time visiting our Hopkins classrooms and paying attention to the amazing skill sets of our teachers. I know we have the skill, bravery and capacity to evolve into a new way of teaching and learning.

Social-emotional learning — a pathway to high academic achievement

As we look at evolving our teaching practices, it’s important to acknowledge the facts that are well-established. Children are social beings. Research from the 1940s tells us that students have several layers of need that must be met before they can successfully master complex and rigorous content. Maslow, an American psychologist who was best known for creating the hierarchy triangle of need, depicts this: students’ physiological needs (food, shelter, clothing) and social-emotional needs (belonging, love, esteem) must be met before they can effectively reach their full potential in a learning environment. A strong teacher-student relationship precedes effective learning.

That is why, in Hopkins, I have asked all staff to build relationships before building brains. We will get to complex skill development faster if we prioritize quality teacher-to-student and student-to-student relationships. In Hopkins, social and emotional learning is a priority. We will work diligently to equip our teachers to build a culture of respect and dialogue, one that acknowledges students’ relational needs as a building block to stronger academic achievement. Our students are depending on us to make the right teaching shifts as we all make our way into a bright future.

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