View from SD73: In schools, basics continue to be key

The “basics” will always be taught. Years ago, when many of us went to school, classrooms were all about the “three Rs”: reading, writing and arithmetic. Some people today seem to pine for those days and want to see a return to this kind of teaching. The fact is, however, the “basics” have never left our classrooms and will continue to be a key part of the learning experience for all students.

Teachers have never lost sight of the importance of teaching children literacy and numeracy skills. The first priority of School District 73’s newly adopted five-year strategic plan reads: “Ensure every student acquires strong foundational skills and core competencies.” This priority reflects the facts that, as educators, we have long known and believed that teaching the basics is a critical part of every student’s education. The five-year plan also sets three key goals for this priority.

They are:

• Students will graduate with strong literacy and numeracy skills;

• Students will demonstrate growth in thinking, communication and personal social skills;

• Students will demonstrate proficiency in education, career and life planning.

If anything has changed, it’s what we now consider to be “basics.”

We use the words “strong foundational skills and core competencies” deliberately because they reflect the fact the skills our children need to acquire are changing. Our children face a different future than we did. The world they are growing up in offers new challenges and different realities than so many of us ever experienced. It is more technological. Social networks dominate. The internet, smartphones and Google has changed the way we access information and any fact is just a few keystrokes away.

To be successful in tomorrow’s world, children will require — in addition to strong numeracy and literacy ability — a host of other skills. They will need to be able to communicate more effectively than we did across many channels. They will need to be able to plan a career better and understand the steps they need to take to reach goals more efficiently.

The pathway to success has changed and students must take the responsibility now for taking the right steps. Teaching only the “3 Rs” is no longer enough. Math and reading will always be paramount skills, but “basics” now encompass so much more. Limiting our instruction to literacy and numeracy does a disservice to children when the obstacles they face are becoming larger.

Our challenge as educators today is to look ahead and anticipate what skills are needed by the next generation, which is why our strategic plan is so valuable. Our plan sets out a direction for the next five years, so that teachers know how to focus their effort in classrooms for the benefit of students.

We’ll keep a close eye on the goals we have set and watch to see whether our students realize the benefits. Inevitably, we will need to revisit the strategic plan and adjust it again to reflect new obstacles and challenges that emerge to confront next generations. Regardless, we will always teach the basics. Literacy and numeracy will always be a priority in our classrooms and will remain a key measure of student success. They are a key component of the strong foundational skills and core competencies our strategic plan promises to provide.

Joan Cowden was a teacher in School District 73 for 36 years and is serving her third term as a school trustee. View from SD73 is published in. Courtesy of Kamloops This Week.

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