Whether you are an astronaut or an accountant, interpersonal skills are crucial to success. NASA has its mental health guidelines, and local schools try various approaches to fostering good mental health and interpersonal skills.
Next fall, Columbia Heights High School is launching a ninth grade leadership academy. The course will teach writing skill development but also draw on material on emotional intelligence, Arthur Costa’s Habits of Mind and Sean Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens.
At a time when a school success is judged by math and reading scores, this required class is not focused on the traditional content areas. Principal Andrew Beaton said the school would still focus on academics.
“But as a school and a district, we are not going to be defined by a test score,” he said. “It [testing] is something that we have to do. We think it is important. We also value the arts, family and community involvement, service and leadership. All of those things go together when we look at how we will develop kids to be good people, good citizens, good leaders.”
English teacher Paul Sackaroff has been testing the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens in one ninth-grade class this year. (The habits include such things as: Be proactive, Begin with the end in mind, and Think win-win.) Students are not learning English in the Shakespearean sense, but they are learning about the human condition, he said. They are learning life skills: how to interact, how to treat each other, get along in groups and keep their word.
Principal Beaton said secondary schools sometimes don’t pay enough attention to the whole child. They do it in elementary school, naturally, he said. They look at the academics, but also social development. “Really, it shouldn’t end in secondary [school],” he said. “It is something that adolescents need.”
Scott Russell is a journalist. He wrote for the Southwest Journal and Skyway News (now the Downtown Journal) in Minneapolis from 1999-2005. He also wrote for The Capital Times, a Madison Wisconsin daily, from 1993-1999.
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