©Carl Kieck 2017
Professional Skills start at home, in the bosom of the family ... By Carl J. Kieck:
Your highly prized ‘Professional Skills’ originate much earlier in life when they may be called something different, i.e. rather unassumingly ‘Basic Life Skills’ … By an Educator (Carl Kieck) who agrees that these skills matter as suggested by a recent article in The Sun (in the UK).
• Thumbnail Summary: Professional Skills start at home, in the family, spending time with parents & grandparents, and other family members, where they are first called something quite different. If you wish to wax pedagogical, we may refer to these as basic or fundamental ‘Life Skills’:
An article entitled “MISSING OUT: Millions of kids can’t do basic life skills like sewing and cooking as mums are too busy to teach them”, that appeared in the popular press (UK’s The Sun) last week (February 20, 2017) resonated unexpectedly for me with so many observations that are normally made in the world of education once the formalities of putting together a new curriculum for secondary - or particularly primary level - are over (Please see full reference below for details of the article)*.
If you’re not aware of the fact and don’t have any educators in your family or circle of friends, you need to know that they often remark that they wish the parents of their charges would be more involved in their lives and the totality of their education, perhaps rather referred to as ‘learning’ in this case. Teachers were never intended to act as complete replacements or substitutes to the properly pre-destined role(s) of parents, or other members of the extended family.
Acquiring Basic Life Skills precedes any of the more familiar educational or academic skills that teachers are expected to establish and hone during your children’s years in formal school education. If you wanted to be more pedantic, you could refer to an online source like that posted by Macmillan English on the Internet, for an understanding of what we’re talking about:
Life skills are the skills we need to deal effectively with the challenges in everyday life, whether at school, at work or in our personal lives. (http://www.macmillanenglish.com/life-skills/what-are-life-skills/)
Although sweeping and a tad generalised, the definition is actually spot on in terms of communicating an understanding that Life Skills are somehow more basic, therefore ‘pre-determinate’ - if you’ll allow my inclination for academic phraseology. These skills encompass, for example, an emergent, later explicitly academic skills set consisting of elements like doing a presentation or writing an essay. Life Skills, in other words, enable the acquisition of those skills that are directly related to school, college, professional life, even everyday personal existence.
The article in The Sun is based on a recent survey undertaken by Addis Housewares in which the company, after claiming to have talked to 2, 000 mothers of children (ages over two), concluded that at least 50% or so of them in our frenetic age don’t have enough time left to teach them ‘basic life skills’. In what I’ve already written above, I’ve indicated indirectly that apart from the role fulfilled by mothers, when we talk about putting into place this foundation that I think most teachers would like to see when they work with children, we need to think beyond one parent’s role. Not only do we need to talk about Dad too, ideally we need to see time and place given, and commitments made, to and by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
As anyone who has lived in a somewhat more normalised society knows, say outside of the tedious post-religious, metropolitan model we’re constantly over-exposed to in the Mainstream Media (MSM), extended family offer incomparable opportunities for the acquisition of Life Skills to the young, far broader and richer than anything contained in the still very interesting (and mostly relevant) list delivered by the Addis research survey. It would be a mistake to see the list as definitive in any way, however it bears some illuminating discussion to be usefully applicable to our times and challenges.
The inclusion of any list in a Life Skills discussion should be open, determined by such factors as availability of time, expertise on hand, and of course, not least of all, creativity, imagination and daring. Nevertheless, from a teacher’s perspective, keeping in mind that we are the ones that desire to have these fundamentals in place in the first place, I would like to pick on a few of these items, with that ‘picking’ meant in a most positive way of course:
‘Handwriting’ is an area that continues to hold potentially great horror for educators, for all ages and levels that your children will reach and learn at in life. Believe it or not, handwriting is a very common problem even in College where it is inconceivable that the ability to write legibly will disappear soon, for outside of weekly or term assignments (sometimes optionally word-processed), exams and tests may predominantly always have to be hand written, even more so in the cyber-age where plagiarism (or other forms of cheating) may transpire easily by merely hitting a button.
‘Letter Writing’, moreover, appears suitably enough in the top ten, whether intentionally or not isn’t clear. Nonetheless, if you haven’t taught writing, you may not realise that this rather unassuming, traditional and to far too many, too ‘old-fashioned to bother about’ genre is considered by many a seasoned writing instructor to be where everything starts. Take it from me, the ability to get a reasonably good letter organised and together, saying effectively what it’s meant to say, is a not only a good predictor of academic ability and success, it’s a fundamental Life Skill. Having the blueprint of an effective letter already inculcated at an early stage in life, will enable successful communication in emails, on professional networking platforms, and in other more advanced forms of writing when the time comes. In what I've seen over the years, those developmental continuities are quite obvious, especially if you work with a student over a number of years.
Finally, all of the above also applies to a far lesser extent to ‘Writing Cards’, which also appears on the list. Perhaps this may be seen as an area where the arts of successful correspondence may find further expression. I would rather like to see writing in this case integrated with card design and ‘artistry’. In many cultures, such as the Japanese, outstanding paper design skills constitute a supportive route snaking all the way back to more openly scholastic or academic ones.
Although a lot more could be said fruitfully about the role of Life Skills in ensuring educational and professional success in life, it is in terms of areas such as our very neglected ‘social’ and ‘personal’ skills in modern society, where we have to tarry a while, before leaving off, at least for now. Moreover, elsewhere in the article (in The Sun), there are few more statements that I would like to refer to here, by way of introduction:
It’s stated that, “Six in 10 people polled said they wished they’d learnt more skills from their own mums”. This closely correlates with a sentiment that, as an educator, you encounter almost in all children that you work with. In fact, when your children do their presentations and write their essays, their references to their parents – and other family members – are almost without exception positive. They would desperately like to spend more time with their parents, increasingly with their dads who are often portrayed as complete absentees from their lives owing to work (i.e. not only time their mums, the focus of the Addis survey). And they would like to use that time doing meaningful things with them.
In the precious time that they spend with their parents, they want to create memories that they can take with them throughout the journey of life. This is a key element, by the way, of learning, facilitating thereby retention of knowledge and skills. I would like to suggest that engaging in learning/transferring of Life Skills would be an ideal way for contemporary children to spend more time with their parents. This is, additionally, a marvelous chance to socialise (including acquiring awide range of social skills) and to become acquainted with the values, morality and beliefs of your own culture, the basis upon which your children will engage with the world and other cultures later in life.
In light of the previous point, I was thus happy to encounter the following sentence in the article: The most important types of skills for mums to pass down are cooking, followed by being able to look after your money and moral values. By all means, this stimulating yet arbitrary syntactical combination of the most important skills, as discovered through the survey, rightly deserves a heartening smile. Who, in their right mind, would ever place cooking skills, financial savvy and moral values in the same thought process, not to mention same breath? But that’s exactly the point.
There are many fundamental truths and wisdoms that teachers are not supposed to communicate to your children. And here’s why you need to do this instead. It’s in the bosom of the preferably extended family with its own unique culture and values, that they should receive instruction - on taking care of pets, checking vehicles’ mechanical functioning, planning for meals, reading a recipe, writing letters to sick relatives, changing a light bulb, but also finding out how to engage with the holy scriptures of your faith, how to welcome the religious teachers of that faith to your home and family, as well as how to worship and pray in accordance with its traditions.
All of this is necessary in order for your treasured morality and values to find expression in how your children engage with others, not only when they pursue formal learning opportunities outside the home, when older, but for those values furthermore to infuse the spirit in which their relationships are conducted, in their personal lives, but also in their professional ones.
Although this is only at best a very cursory and introductory discussion of the meaning of the concept of Life Skills, it’s one that I hope you’ve found useful and will be able to embroider on in your own thoughts and deliberations with friends, colleagues and family.
*Note: I have undertaken a brief overview of other media reports referring to and discussing the Addis Life Skills Survey (including the original Survey itself), but for the sake of context and ultimately electing one representative example, therefore working within the constraints of the desideratum of brevity, have limited reference to The Sun’s reportage and reaction only in my own article. Other reactions may be found quite easily on the Internet
• Macmillan English. 2017. What are Life Skills? [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.macmillanenglish.com/life-skills/what-are-life-skills/
• Pemberton. B. 2017. MISSING OUT: Millions of kids can’t do basic life skills like sewing and cooking as mums are too busy to teach them. The Sun, 20 February 2017. [ONLINE] Available at: www.thesun.co.uk /living /2906934/millions-kids-basic-life-skills-sewing-cooking-mums-busy/
[Accessed on 20 February 2017].
About the Author, Carl J. Kieck:
• Carl J. Kieck is an Independent Social and Educational Researcher & Consultant whose work has a distinctly wide, comparative international perspective. • He also works as a part-time academic tutor, teacher and lecturer in both public and private educational institutions, internationally.
• He is contactable via the following platforms:
Professional Website: CarlKieck.com
Social Media Commentary: @CarlKieck (Via GAB.ai)
©Carl Kieck 2017