Mindful

It’s becoming more and more clear that the key to a child’s success is learning a wide variety of skills—including non-academic skills, like communication, compassion, and empathy. But what do we call these skills?

To answer this question, NPR has created a glossary that summarizes 7 key skills as well as the language around them. The confusion over what language to use—soft skills? 21st century skills? growth mindset?—comes from the fact that these skills are gaining recognition due to emerging evidence that non-academic, social, and emotional skills really make a difference in a child’s life.

See the full glossary here.

One key skill that we’d add to their list is “emotional intelligence”: the ability to understand your own emotions and recognize the emotions of others. Daniel Goleman and Peter M. Senge use it when talking about their successful model for creating a caring classroom. This is a learning environment that emphasizes “building empathy into the classroom setting, and developing emotional intelligence[, which] is key to success inside and outside of the classroom.”

For example, in Madison schools, preschoolers are being taught the “Kindness Curriculum,” which focuses on social and emotional learning, emotion regulation, and pro-social skills. Tthe preschoolers who took the Kindness Curriculum scored higher on tests of attention and social competence than children who didn’t receive the curriculum.

More recently, three Jefferson County Public Schools will begin teaching “compassion classes.” The superintendent says that the new curriculum is “really about building capacity within our students to self-regulate and make great choices,” which will “foundationally cause them to be able to achieve more.”

No matter what they’re called—you can take your pick from NPR’s list— these non-academic skills are increasingly becoming some of the most important ingredients in nurturing a successful child.

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