We teach kids

A friend of mine is a former math teacher. I often tease him about some of the characteristics that are considered to be stereotypical of math teachers. He is able to dish it out as well as he can take it – referencing some of the idiosyncrasies for me as a former English teacher. Secondary teachers often identify themselves with their content.

Elementary teachers don’t tend to categorize themselves in this manner. Elementary teachers teach skills first and content second. Because they teach multiple disciplines, they often identify with the grade levels they teach.

When asked, “What do you teach?” Very rarely is the response, “I teach kids.” But that is what it should be. In fact, the focus on content-only instruction would be a disservice to our students.

A recent article in the Journal Education Next explained: “…while teachers have notable effects on both test scores and non-cognitive skills, their impact on non-cognitive skills is 10 times more predictive of students’ longer-term success in high school than their impact on test scores.”

I would stretch this to say that these skills are also predictive of success after high school.

Education is constantly evolving. More and more we are asking teachers to teach non-cognitive skills or “non-academic” materials. In order to better serve our students and to comply with Kansas accreditation directives for teaching social, emotional and character development, USD 113 has been intentional in teaching these skills.

Our elementary schools have been using a curriculum called Second Step, and our secondary teachers have been focused on a high-return skill set called “Self-Regulation.” Second Step provides a wide variety of lessons including empathy, bullying prevention, social interaction, etc.

Self-Regulation consists of making a plan, monitoring that plan, making changes to stay on track, and reflecting on what worked. It is a formula to help students adjust behaviors and attain goals.

Teaching additional lessons has adjusted the focus for our teachers, but I think all would agree it has been worthwhile. The satisfaction of knowing that we are best preparing students for future success is what makes education a rewarding field.

Teaching content and subject matter is extremely important. Test scores do matter, but they are not the whole picture. In USD 113, our educators don’t just teach “stuff.” We teach kids. It is part of what we do to prepare kids and shape the future.

Todd Evans22 Posts

Todd Evans currently serves as Superintendent of Prairie Hills USD No. 113 in Kansas. USD No. 113 operates Pre-K through 12 schools in the communities of Sabetha, Wetmore and Axtell.

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