Normally in the past school was just getting started when the first Federal holiday, Labor Day, rolls around but not this year. In fact, we are in our fifth week of the first nine weeks and Labor Day is a much needed respite from the heat, the toil, and the excitement from starting on August 1 with students.
Labor Day, a national holiday recognizing the social and economic importance of the American workforce, was first celebrated in 1894 as a result of the Haymarket Riots in 1886…a serious incident with significant loss of life in Chicago involving laborers advocating for an eight-hour work day and the police.
Although the Haymarket Riots were not initially successful, the incident provided increased awareness between labor and business (management). Fast forward eight years and we have the establishment of a holiday dedicated solely to the importance of the worker.
Fast forward to 2023, today, we still recognize Labor Day but I think we have lost sight of its meaning, its purpose, its praise of the everyday worker. Too often now students want jobs without labor. They pursue jobs with a high reward-low risk mentality; however, one thing public education teaches is hard work is the best antidote to unemployment.
I have to give props to the South Carolina Department of Education for their document Profile of the South Carolina graduate. This guide serves as those necessary requirements to be a successful graduate. The skills are broken down into knowledge, skills and life and career characteristics.
I want to focus on the area where many students seem to have the largest deficit: “Life and Career Characteristics.” This category includes:
Some things in life are best taught at home, and if home is unable, then maybe via a club, team, or some other family surrogate.
Integrity is a one-word term for five key characteristics--following a set of values, being honest, helping others, leading by example, and taking responsibility. If there is an excuse, there is often a lapse in integrity. Integrity does not mean you won’t make mistakes; it just means you try really hard to learn from and not repeat them.
Self-direction is making your own decisions and organizing your own work rather than being told what to do by other people: I like to think of this as initiative.
Global perspective is seeing and understanding how any situation impacts or relates to people around you. It is a focus away from self-interest and a focus on the greater good.
Perseverance is persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. If this generation has an Achilles Heel, I say this is it. We live in such a world of high speed, immediate connectivity, instant gratification that students often give up before they get started. It is here we teachers attempt to focus on a “Growth” mindset and not a “Fixed” one. People are not naturally born to quit. This is something we learn and often have reinforced by helicopter parents. A little failure and knee-scraping can do a body good.
Work Ethic is a nice glob of skills we used to get on the back of our report cards when I was a child. It is the ability to be dependable, reliable, trustworthy, dedicated, positive, goal-oriented, motivated, committed, loyal and self-starter. I always remember my mom and dad telling me “You may not always get an A on the front of your report card but you can always earn the 1 (the highest score) on the back of it.” Sometimes I think it would be a good idea to bring back the old character and behavior assessments we had when I was a student.
Interpersonal skills involve reading the signals others send and interpreting them accurately in order to form effective responses. Individuals show their interpersonal skills all the time simply by interacting with others. I find it amazing how disconnected we are with those closest to us. Now, the cell phone is our closest friend. Students can be at a football game and talking with each other while sitting in the same row. This is another weak area we must work on.
So there you have it…the effective skills necessary to be a good worker, an effective citizen, and a decent member of the human race.
Schools work hard to provide the content, the skills, and the life characteristics needed to navigate an ever increasingly complex world. Again, I reiterate, these life skills are best and first learned at home; however, we are often drawing on a deficit because our national leaders don’t demonstrate them and the social and popular culture often promote behaviors not in sync with what is really needed.
Alvin Toffler said, “The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read; it will be the person who does not know how to learn.”
Educating a student is a community obligation. Remember, little eyes are watching you.
Happy Labor Day!
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