Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 15 2013

Can/should schools teach character? (in which I ask big questions and love my MTLD).

Inside every classroom, hung up in every common space, and (for all intents and purposes) forged into the hearts of all students at my school are our 7 Non-Cognitive Skills. Things like gratitude, optimism, curiosity, social intelligence. Why do we have them? Our college graduation data is pretty rough. Our kids may or may not be academically prepared for college – the jury’s still out on that one – but are definitely NOT prepared interpersonal-wise for college. This happens for a variety of reasons. Some of it is culture shock. Kids at my school go to school with kids exactly like them for almost their entire educational experience. When they get to college it’s a whole different story. And there are of course family factors, and peer factors, and all sorts of other things that contribute to college persistence (or lack thereof). My school has decided to focus on non-cognitive skills/habits as a way to better empower students to succeed to AND THROUGH college.

I guess that’s one thing to note…that my school focuses on this because it will help our kids succeed in college. It has never been said to me that we’re focusing on this because we want our kids to be good people. Something to think about right there.

Which leads me into the broader point(s). Should we be focusing on this? Is it effective? Is it time well-spent? Is it appropriate for us to be doing this? All sorts of things to consider. Even if we can somehow impact students’ character skills/habits, is that what we should be doing?

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting piece on this where it asks: can social intelligence be taught? As always, there are no real firm conclusions, but it’s a conversation that’s certainly worth having.


In other news, I had coffee with my MTLD today. I’m happy with my life right now, but my level of stress/time management is unsustainable and I know that things can’t continue this way. She whipped out a piece of paper, wrote down all my worries (not all school-related), then together we created an action plan to literally cross things off my stress list. I lucked out – both my MTLD and my Instructional Coach are beyond incredible. I feel infinitely challenged but also infinitely supported in my role as a first-year teacher; I think thats’ the best combination there is.

I write this having just come home from a night spent country dancing. My TFA roommate and I decided to actually attempt to have a life and it was wonderful. It was one of the first times I’ve felt like not just a 21-year-old-girl-trying-to-be-a-teacher but an actual person, a real and whole and complete person, in so long. This needs to happen more.

We start Unit 2 (we’re reading Freakonomics) on Monday. I’m getting paid to teach kids about social science and research methodology and race and class and author’s methodology and argument analysis. Life is good.

One Response

  1. jgourrier

    Make it all count…
    (Refreshing Read)

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Journeys, challenges, & writings of a first-year teacher.

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