Evolving Education Practices in Soft Skills

When I got out of college, I had most of the necessary technical chops, but it hadn’t really prepared me for working in teams. We hadn’t had any specific training on how to work with others effectively. I needed to develop my interpersonal skills.

Fortunately, many schools are evolving their education plans to help develop these crucial skills. This is an important shift to prepare up-and-comers for working in the real world, where knowing how to collaborate and deal with different viewpoints and opinions effectively is required.

Soft Skills Development at Atomic

Over the past few years, Atomic has taken some great steps to help develop soft skills. Our Atomic Accelerator program was created to help fill the gaps for new employees joining us directly out of school. Along with teaching practical skills for developing software, it also guides new graduates in becoming good team members and developing valuable leadership and communication skills.

After seeing how effective the Accelerator program is, we realized that soft skill education would be valuable to all of our makers. Therefore, we added the Leadership Fundamentals course, led by Jesse Hill, who was also runs the Atomic Accelerator program.

The Leadership Fundamentals course is designed to fill in those gaps. Atoms who take it will gain skills that they can use to enrich relationships, improve effectiveness, create opportunities, and build confidence and a sense of purpose.

The course is part of our overall commitment to building a team of makers who are also great consultants, and a company where everyone is empowered to participate.

An Early Start on Soft Skills

My daughters switched schools this year, and they are now in fifth and eighth grade. We had been unhappy with the education and culture at their previous school, which they had both been attending since preschool. In our search, we were looking for a place that better prepared them for the diverse and challenging times of the fast-paced world where we live.

We were lucky enough to win the Schools of Choice lottery so our kids could join the Forest Hills school district on the outskirts of Grand Rapids. The school has some excellent initiatives in the works to help our kids develop empathy and other soft skills, and they are very much in line with similar initiatives here at Atomic.

“Homeroom” has Evolved into C.R.E.W

Forest Hills Northern Middle School has evolved the first session of the day, formerly known as homeroom, into something they call C.R.E.W. The four topics of focus in C.R.E.W. cover these areas:

C – Connect

Connecting and engaging with each other and our community is more important than ever. The eighth graders started off the year with a canoe trip to get to know each other and work together as a team. They will also have additional activities through the year to learn how to nurture teamwork and connectedness before they move on to other more traditional classes to round out the day.

R – Respect

Having respect for one another is essential to create an inclusive and successful community. Our kids will learn how to respect the many different backgrounds that we all come from. Northern is a significantly diverse school, integrating kids from many cultural, economic, and spiritual backgrounds. It’s evident from the moment you walk into the school and see the national flags from 44 different countries. A new flag is put up each time they welcome a student from a different country of birth. What an amazing way to welcome these children and remind the students and faculty of diverse makeup of their school community!

E – Empathize

Empathy with one another is required in order to build strong bonds and facilitate cohesive and effective teaming. At Forest Hills Northern, the kids will learn about different cultures, religions, and beliefs. We are all different, and in order to work effectively together (even when we don’t agree on everything), we must accept our differences and cherish this diversity.

W – Work

Hard work is necessary in order to make progress toward any goal. Our kids will be reminded of this fact and that they must give of themselves in order to conquer the many challenges that lie ahead of them throughout their lives and careers.

Learning to “Lead the Way”

My eighth-grade daughter has chosen to take an exciting elective class called “Lead the Way.” This class has grown out of the Global Learning Initiative (GLI) program:

The Forest Hills Global Learners Initiative (GLI) has grown and evolved over the years through the combined efforts and dedication of staff, students, parents, and community members. Forest Hills Public Schools, under the leadership of Superintendent Dan Behm, in collaboration with a consultant and wide range of district representatives, recognized the importance of creating an inclusive and equitable environment in which all learners can grow and learn. Our students need to expand their knowledge, understanding and empathy for the global society in which we live.

The class itself focuses on critical areas to help teach our kids how to be effective, empathetic, and passionate leaders. The description of the class in the curriculum guide gives a great overview:

If you are interested in learning how to make a difference in your world, your school, and your community, this class is for you! Sponsored by the school district’s Global Learner’s Initiative, the LTW (Lead the Way) – GLI class will explore leadership for global citizens and intolerance from a social science perspective in order to further the mission of respect for all people and future success in a global society. Instruction will incorporate leadership skills and styles, service learning and volunteerism to expand the spirit and practice of inclusion and open-mindedness for the participants and for our entire school. All activities organized by the students (community service and global awareness projects, dances, spirit weeks, etc.) are designed to progressively put student learning into action!

Our daughters are both very passionate about civil rights and equal treatment for all people. We are so excited that this class is available to help them learn and take actions to help grow and improve our society!

Nurturing Soft Skills

My wife and I are beyond thrilled with the kids’ new school, as well as the principles that are guiding the school, teachers, and students. We love the fact that the development of soft skills is being brought to the forefront in their education before they even get to high school.

There is so much competition in today’s workplace and the world we all live in. We are grateful that their education system is adapting to our current realities in the world, and that their education is equipping them with the expertise in communication, empathy, and kindness every organization, business and community needs to thrive!