Building skills for success often begins with recognising our strengths and acknowledging areas for growth. In doing this work with our pupils, we have not only identified useful tools for conversation and exploration but also an interesting opportunity to look and learn within ourselves.
In 2018 Skills Development Scotland published a key document, Skills 4.0: A Skills Model to Drive Scotland’s Future. At that time, St Andrew’s already had an overview that supported skills development across the schools, and teachers could evidence that including skills alongside a knowledge aspect when designing learning intentions was impacting progress. However, always seeking to improve and impressed by the breadth and depth of the ideas in the paper, we quickly moved to merge our skills progression with the meta-skills outlined in the document.
We maintained high expectations of how a skill should look, feel and sound at each stage and designed progressive pathways through Early, First and Second Levels. Lovingly designed and named by our pupils, our learning characters Focusing Flora, Adventurous Aggie, Curios Carol and Loving Larry were born.
By the start of session 20/21 these characters and their learning qualities were well established and needless to say these ‘timeless, higher order thinking skills that create adaptive learners and promote success whatever the future brings’¹ were needed far more than we could ever have imagined.
In October 2020 we surveyed our pupils asking them which learning character helped them the most. The results were interesting and I had wonderful discussions with the older pupils about why Flora was so influential. The children attributed her popularity to the importance of social justice and collaboration and noted that ‘without Flora you couldn’t really get much done nicely.’
These discussions prompted me to reflect upon my own learning character preference. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Aggie was a clear winner for me; leading, thinking critically and adapting quickly seemed to match my job description and also very much reflected my personal pass times of planning expeditions, traveling, skiing and writing. Not only did I recognise Aggie’s determination in myself but also felt familiar with her courage and openness.
The children asked me who then, if I felt comfortable with Aggie, did I need to get to know better. That was a far more challenging question to answer and, in the end, I decided all of them. So this year I have worked to become more like Curious Carlos and I have watched and learned from Mrs Finlayson as she tinkers and problem solves in the arts to find new solutions and share ideas. I learned from Mrs Brannan about the importance of storytelling, a skill demonstrated by Focusing Flora to make meaning and build community.
Finally, I continue to be inspired by each and everyone of the kids at St Andrew’s as they, often quite unconsciously, spread love – just like Larry – around our community. As we enter a new school year, I look forward to continuing to observe and to develop and practice my skills and to see these remarkable students building theirs.