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Why The Term ‘Soft Skills’ Should Be Abolished (IMO)…

As children return to school and the wider world, some will sail in their learning, ooze ‘bouncebackability’ and weather the storm of transition with ease.
Others will struggle-with learning, with friendships, with anxiety- and become increasingly aware of the huge variances between themselves and their peers.
Enter the toxic world of ‘self-other’ comparisons; I can’t do what s/he can do, I’m not as good as so-and-so, that kid is so much better at this than me….

But there is a big difference betweenI can’t do it”, and “I can’t do it, YET”.

I’ve been talking a lot about Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset recently, and have been reminded how easily ‘resilience’ and the like tend to fall into the basket of ‘soft skills’.
‘Soft’ implies not particularly important or valuable but; in our testing-obsessed system; really means ‘not very easy to measure’.
And so it becomes the work of ‘golden time’ and assemblies.

IMO, the term ‘soft skills’ should be abolished; There is nothing ‘soft’ about trying, failing, risking failure, getting back up to try again; often for no immediate gain, often to fail again, often to be reminded of how much better others are at this than you.

When are we going to start even seeing these competencies actively cultivated in our kids’ education, let alone prioritised as the most important skillset they will ever need?
Because they are deeply important for the learning environment; Whether a child is learning friendship skills or quantum physics, the one thing that will switch them on and keep them tuned in is the belief that they can; The feeling they are a competent human being, capable of growth and change, that the effort-and the learning, actually-is worthwhile.

And herein lies the power of ‘yet’…

Not I can’t’, but ‘I can’t, yet’
Not ’I don’t know’, but I don’t know, yet’
Not ‘I’m not good enough’, but ‘I’m not good enough, yet’

For a year, life has been teaching this generation of children that they’re pretty powerless; They’ve been disabled from their autonomy, decision-making power and sense of personal agency…

Instead of disempowering them further with these ‘not good enough’ messages; gaps, holes, ‘lost’ learning; that are driving the catch-up agenda, now is the time to embrace ‘essential competencies’, not ‘soft skills’.

We’ve had a very stark and very REAL reminder about how truly important it is that every child strives to be the brainiest kid in the class, or gets full marks in the spelling tests, or can their memorise times-tables.
What we need to be doing is nurturing a generation of adaptable, courageous, resilient children who believe in the power of ‘yet’.

So build them up! Strengthen their personal power, and make sure that ‘I CAN’ beliefs; I can try, I can learn, I can develop, I can cope, I can thrive; are programmed into the deepest part of their brains!


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