Book Smarts

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints’ Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

I have important news for parents and students.  Pay very close attention!  Schools do not give awards for intelligence.  Because this is so very important to understand I’m going to rephrase.  No matter how high a child’s intelligence may be, no award is given by schools to recognize that fact.  While many schools may use certain tests to determine the I.Q. or “school ability index” of their students, no report card grade or other “prize” is awarded for this number.

Schools reward students for skillful work.  A very simple schematic of the schooling-to-job process looks like this:  learn the skill, practice the skill, use the skill.  It is critically important that each phase of this simple program receive equal weight.  At the earliest levels of schooling, students are learning fundamental skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.  That’s why we find “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” to be so enchanting.  Truth be told, the math, science, and humanities components of the skill level are nearly complete by the end of fifth grade!  All of the remaining work in schools is expanding and sharpening those skills.  Near the end of high school, and certainly in college and post-graduate work, those early skills are being applied in much the same way that problem-solving events occur in the workplace.

Let’s go back to the premise that schools reward students for skillful work.  This is the foundation upon which all report cards, transcripts, awards of merit, and academic honor societies are based.  A student who only follows the program set forth by her teachers is going to be successful according to report card standards.  The smart use of the skills, the creative problem-solving methods, and the cleverness which one approaches tasks, is a different subject altogether.

Teachers and Parents, I urge you to share this newsflash with the students.  Industry, hard work, following directions, and performing requisite scholarly tasks are the ingredients for good grades.  Sir William Osler, a man I admire for many reasons, put it this way:  “The master-word WORK looms large in meaning.  It is the open-sesame to every portal, the great equalizer in the world, and the true philosopher’s stone that transmutes all the base metal of humanity into gold.”

Source: Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

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