One of the most powerful educational tenets today is the concept of essential skills and mindsets first presented by Ted Dintersmith, author of What Schools Could Be and the driving force behind Most Likely to Succeed. In our modern era, many traditional skills remain critical, such as reading, writing, and number sense. Students practice these core skills -- and many more -- every day at James River.
As we move deeper into the 21st century, our teachers think seriously about Dintersmith’s concept of essential skills and mindsets and how they will impact our students’ lives today, tomorrow, and beyond. More and more focus is being placed on broader, “softer” skills like problem-solving, critical analysis, and collaboration. Like core skills, these mindsets -- learning habits, if you will -- continue to flourish and grow at JRDS.
I was reminded of the power of collaboration -- and how it is part of our daily school life -- when the middle school choir, band, and orchestra performed for the whole school at recent Friday assemblies. Is there a better example of the critical importance of collaboration than performing a complex piece of music with peers? We see students practicing collaborative skills on the athletic fields and in the classrooms, and it remains a centerpiece of our education.
I was recently reading an article relating Dintersmith’s PEAK (Purpose, Essential skills, student Agency, and deep, retained Knowledge). In that article, another essential skill was emphasized -- character. Of course we can all agree that character is an essential skill for students, but I think the James River community knew the value of character education long before its inclusion in today’s newly articulated essential skills. No matter the future of education, I expect -- and hope -- that good character is the centerpiece. I am certain it will continue to be at James River Day School. We are ahead of the curve!