Executive Skills – The Missing Link

Here’s an incredibly powerful article i would urge all parents and teachers to read.

Educational Leadership Article

As a teacher or a parent have you ever thrown your hands in the air and labeled a child ‘lazy’, ‘forgetful’, ‘careless’? My guess is that I won’t be the only reader for whom this brings back bad memories of our own childhood, our own education.

The skills listed under the ‘executive skills’ umbrella are so important in our adult lives. lacking them, or believing that being weak in them is ‘just how we are’ because of our childhood experiences can seriously impair adults’ abilities to fulfil their true potential in life. In worst case scenarios the years of school and college, formative years, can be turned in to a living hell for some unlucky children.

The article suggests that in all people these skills have the potential to keep building for at least the first two decades of life. However, there is an inevitability that in some children the mental facility to acquire these skills will come in to place at varying rates.

I was thinking as I read this article that certain aspects of our schools and homes can increase the risks for a child on this issue;
a) If our educators are completely focused on the ‘what’ to be learned – the syllabus etc., we fail to give adequate time to all students to help them develop these skills,
b) Then, educators need the acuity and focus to identify those students for whom further intervention and assistance is needed,
c) This is one area where parents and teachers need to make their working together really effective, and most certainly not indulge in secretiveness from each other or blame games,
d) Making school and/ or home too ‘loose’ and free in terms of rules, expectations of the child, routines and processes does not serve the child well. They need to know that getting it right on ‘Executive skills’ matters, but that while they’re learning there is as much help available to them as they need.

Fail to pay attention to these things and, I believe, we have to find ourselves culpable if we have a generation of young people who are disorganised, cannot meet deadlines, turn in shoddy work because of last-minutism and cannot be relied upon.

Ultimately, these ‘executive skills’ are skills of character. Few will survive without them and we do children a great disservice if we expect them to figure the skills out for themselves without overtly directing their learning. Like it or not, these skills might just matter more in the long term than algebra or how to write a haiku.

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4 Responses

  1. Parents need to trust their child’s teacher.. But, this is only possible if the teacher is convinced that educating a child is not only about studying books. It is also about being good human beings. Instead of attending a PTA meet just to know how a child is doing in school, I feel that parents should use this opportunity to understand better what they should do at home, to carry forward what their child is learning in school. Consistency in education, between what teachers and parents imbibe in a child, is what is important for a child’s upbringing.

  2. Very insightful post.

    The key takeaways from this article were:
    * organising (notebooks or clothes),
    * making plans (homework and assignments) and
    * breaking down (large jobs into smaller easy-to-handle jobs).

    I think most of us follow these basic rules to deal with our children’s assignments and other work. I don’t know whether we’ve ever thought of them as ‘executive skills’.
    Come to think of it, they are what we do at our work places.

    Moushumi

  3. Interesting point being made. But seem to suggest impractical recommendations. May suit UK/US setup but not in India.

    In the context of India, do you think, in a class of 35+ kids, a teachers would have willingness to pay that much attention to every kid?. Asking too much from a teacher who is already overstressed, less monitored, less mentored and less paid.

    Br
    Ashish

  4. Lovely take-outs from this opinion piece especially for parents. I think its far easier to label a child as lazy or slow than getting at the root of it, understanding the cause and rectifying it forever. We as parents and teachers should take it upon us that if a child does not pick up a thing or two, it fails us as teachers and parents who are guiding them. Its a reflection on us…and absolutely making children learn to handle situations is far greater education than what our textbooks offer…:)

    Warm regards,
    Deebba Ali

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