Interviewing David Ares (Head of Arts at Ifield community college), having conducted a few interviews before meeting David. We had a conversation on issues that have risen across other sectors concerning soft skills.
*The answers have been paraphrased for contextual purposes.
Is there a cultural difference in schools. Students, who exhibit excellent soft skills in the playground?
Careful observation of the playground, most of which are grouped into patches either by Age, Culture, Religion, Sex or Common interest. The children who have the natural ability to transcend one particular group have also developed the ability to adapt to a new environment and learn quickly what the values of that environment are. As a result, they can contribute but are also more adaptable to life outside the school environment.
It could be argued that the lack of soft skills can be seen with the rise of mental health issues within the schooling system with issues such as depression and anxiety, students are not given adequate guidance on how they can handle their daily ups and downs of their emotions in general.
Ikenna - Through one of the sessions at the youth club and following on from a conversation with one of the young people who stated "being happy was boring" something I am still struggling to understand myself especially as no explanation for the statement was offered.
What is the role of the environment, Offline and Online?
The environment is not pushing for the development of the younger generation or creating a stimulus that allows them to build a sense of community into the broader community and does not raise their aspiration beyond academic success. With the lack of intrinsic motivation, there is no spark in imagination and higher aspiration beyond the surrounding environment. Growing up now as a teenager, what is the definition of success and is it measured by how much money they can acquire? This can be seen in the popularity of the youtube stars and Instagram influencers, the image being painted in their head through the exposure of pop culture through social media, television and various other outlets they frequently tune into.
This has increased the screen time of this generation with the glossy feel of life on the internet, and the way images are portrayed, influencers appear to be more important than they are is having an effect on the younger generation. This is by either making individuals feel motivated by what they see or by feeling depressed due to their incapability's of creating a similar life for themselves.
The cultural norm is the feeling of inclusion and the buzz we get of notification, a dopamine rush has taken over the younger generations life, and it no longer matters if it is positive or negative information, but that red notification sign is now a catalyst to this behaviour, and this is causing a chemical imbalance in their brains leading to an adverse effect which we are still not fully aware of.
With the internet, the situation has escalated as children are not only abusing each other in the classroom but also abusing each other online. The impact of this is the lasting effect of the information which is forever stored on the net, which is easily accessible and available for children to revisit. This will lead to a recurring experience making it difficult for them to move on as they are only a few clicks away from reliving that experience again.
What is the role of critical thinking, and how are students being taught too critically think?
The abundance of information at students fingertips, they do not have time to think deeply about the problem at hand but will quickly go on Google to find facts and figures in order to support their beliefs without thinking about the quality of the source of information. Amplified by the fact that teachers are working under so much stress, allows little or no room for a student to fail and learn from their failures.
The fear of failure placed on teachers by the system is forcing them to focus on students passing by only giving the students the content that is beneficial to the test and not necessarily to improve their awareness of self or environment.
This fear of failure is passed onto the students subconsciously resulting in them not being able to push past those boundaries that they are capable of. The amount of content that students need to learn has been increasing, but the teaching time has more or less reduced due to the amount of admin work that is expected. As academics, this reduces the amount of time teachers have available to them for researching new knowledge and keeping up to date with previous information.
Therefore, many teachers are having a hard time understanding how to categorise soft skills making it difficult to implement when the area that is covered by soft skill is large. Thus, schools need to pick one or two attributes that can be easily implemented and monitored for improvements.