The New Three R’s of Education: Resourcefulness, Responsibility, and Respect
By Jill Jenkins
Formerly, education focused on the three “R’s”: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, but since the expectation of the world has become more complicated the demands on education have also become more complicated. Students are not only expected to read complex texts from a variety of genres, but respond in a variety of well composed essays and apply a variety of mathematical methods to determine the answers to story problems. Furthermore, students must successfully apply technology to every discipline and be able to code, decipher code, create webpages, presentations, podcast to name just a few. What are the most important skills students should develop in school? The new three R’s of education are Resourcefulness, Responsibility, and Respect.
Technology is changing the world at an incredible pace. Careers that are important today will not exist in twenty years. How do we prepare students for a world that is unknown to us? During the industrial revolution, society was changing equally as fast. The people who succeeded learned to be resourceful. They continually changed their view, challenging all that they knew, and pushing technology by experimenting and learning from others. By encouraging students to explore and experiment, teachers can provide students with opportunities to use resources and depend on themselves instead of adults. How do we do this? Project based education provides students with the most opportunity to become independent learners, to depend on themselves instead of the teacher. Students who learn to solve problems and find solutions to simple obstacles make them more useful in the workplace. For example, if a student does not have access to a computer at home and learns to access resources in the public library or arranges to work before or after school with his educator, he will be more adept to looking outside the box when he is facing challenges in the real world. Learning to be Resourceful will empower students to succeed in a changing world.
Responsibility is the second key ingredient to becoming a successful person. No one ever achieved anything without hard work and accepting the responsibility of his/her own actions. When parents and teachers do not help students accept consequences for the decisions they make, students never learn to accept responsibility for their adult lives. When a teen makes poor choice is allowed to escape punishment because of “affluenza,” he does not become productive member of society. Instead his growth is retarded. Parents or teachers who enable students by helping them skirt responsibility are not helping them. Teachers who only use classroom sets of books because some students forget to bring their books to class regularly are enabling students just like the attorney who argues that his young client does not know right from wrong because of his parents' wealth. Teaching students that their are both negative and positive consequences for their decisions helps them become more successful adults. Delegating authority with students is another way to teach responsibility. For some specific ideas please see my blog entry;Teaching Responsibility: Delegating Authority and Rewarding Good Behavior -delegating.html. Successful individuals make responsible decisions because they understand that “no man is an island.” When they behave immorally, others suffer. As a result, it is important for each student to understand that he is part of a society and his actions not only affect him, but everyone. Therefore, learning to be a productive responsible member of that society is inherently good. Again, project based education allows student to learn to meet deadlines in multi-step processes. A student learns to be responsible for his work instead of depending on teachers to provide all of the learning activities. Furthermore, a student is more actively engaged in his/her own learning, so he/she increases his/her academic learning as well as his/her sense of responsibility.
Finally, students need to understand the important of Respect. The world is melting pot of different ethnicities, religions and races. Showing respect and dignity to others is the only way that anything is going to get accomplished. Regardless of an individual’s social-economic group, sexual orientation, race, religion, or belief system, he/she must learn to work co-operatively with others. Manners and kind speech is the first step to accomplishing this. Educators need to require that students treat each other with respect and dignity. Teachers must treat all students with respect and dignity because students learn from models. Students who are required to create projects in groups that are diverse are more likely to show respect in the workplace which may be more diverse than their school. However, teachers need to actively observe and interact to ensure that students treat each other respectfully. When my daughter was in fifth grade, one of the students in her class suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. The teacher was a young novice who did not teach the other students to show empathy for this disorder. As a result, the students began moving her personal objects, knocking her books on the floor, and otherwise harassing this young lady to watch her reaction. Finally when the parent of this child threatened to remove this child from the school, the principal intervened. If this teacher had explained to the other students about this child’s disability, the students might have learned to treat her with empathy. When I taught at a school with high functioning autistic students, before placing a student in our class, the school psychologist met with the student and described the strange sounds and behavior this student might display and why he couldn’t help these behaviors. My students treated this man with respect. Whenever they expressed frustration with one of his anti-social behavior, I reminded them of his disability. The experience was a good learning experience for all involved. Teaching students about cultural and ethnic differences can help them not only show more empathy and acceptance, but avoid behaviors that might be considered disrespectful. Learning to respect others will help students work successfully in a diverse population.