Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff

What’s missing?

I’ve been hearing this more and more from friends both at work and at other schools: students are missing [skill].

Sometimes that skill is something that used to be taught, but given the COVID changes, just slipped through the cracks as content was watered down due to hybrid or online teaching. Sometimes it’s a “soft skill” that got missed because of lockdowns and social distancing. And sometimes it’s a skill (or topic) that simply has been dropped at an earlier educational level that the ones above haven’t realized wasn’t taught or was replaced.

Here’s an easy example: basic civics. About 10 years ago, a very smart, politically engaged student and I were talking about the upcoming elections. Senator Clinton had been named Secretary of State, and Rep. Gillibrand was appointed to serve in her place; per New York rules, Senator Gillibrand then had to be elected to fill the remainder of Clinton’s term. So that was one Senate race on the ballot. However, it was also Sen. Schumer’s year to be on the ballot – making this an unusual year with two Senate seats on the ballot. I mentioned how odd this was, and the student was surprised because they didn’t know how long a Senate term way, or that they rotated. This felt to me like basic information that students should learn in middle school. Apparently there’s no where in that school’s curriculum where this is taught, and I think the same is true for every school in which I’ve worked.

Here’s another example: note taking. Perhaps because of COVID and distance learning, teachers in lower grades have not taught how to take notes well. Or at all. Students have had their class notes handed to them by teachers, and listening while taking notes or taking notes from a textbook or reading is a skill they just don’t have. We’re about to go into Research Season, and I worry that these students won’t be able to take notes (or recognize how to read a document or book and pull out the important ideas). Some of the teachers do work on this, in a controlled way in class. This is something that needs to be taught, and retaught, and reretaught from an early age.

A librarian at another school said that students haven’t been taught to engage with the arguments made in a monograph or article, that they just cherry pick them for facts that prove their pre-determined thesis. I can’t completely disagree based on what I see my students doing. It’s a skill they’ll need in their next academic institution, but after that? I don’t know.

What I do know is that it feels as though there are a lot of these types of skills that students need — or needed in the past — that are missing. And I agree with my librarian friend: until we, as an institution, do some deep thinking about what students need now (versus what we’ve always taught) and have the conversation about vertical skills curriculum alignment (the ensure those skills are being taught, by whom and when they’re being reinforced), we’re probably not doing our jobs as educators.

Which leads to a number of other questions I’m still mulling over. Like, what is our job as an eductor? I’ll let you know when those thoughts are less chaotic. For now, I’m just trying to survive Research Season… just like my students (and colleagues).

1 thought on “What’s missing?”

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