Are success skills really that successful? Is it hurting our students?

Rebecca Rentz

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Have you ever been put into resource because of a success skill? Did it make you really bitter about it and wished success skills didn’t exist? I hate to break it to you, but that’s the wrong approach. Yes, the success skills system is broken, but they themselves aren’t the problem. They’re not being utilized the way they were intended to be.

“I think the problem is [success skills] are successful for students who want them to be successful,” said teacher Andrew Douglass. Success skills were supposed to be a motivator, to encourage students to do their work on time, be productive, etc. The way they’re being used right now isn’t making that goal a reality. Instead, students see dropped success skills not as a motivator, but as a punishment.

Students complain about being “put into resource” by their teachers without realizing that it was really their own choices that caused them to have to get up 40 minutes earlier every morning. The student body’s perception of success skills is in part what is causing their ineffectiveness.

Success skills were intended to improve employability of Pewaukee High School students and graduates. After all, “real world” careers are more than just being able to do calculus or write a literary essay.

“In most jobs, there’s no relearn-redo opportunity. You definitely cannot turn anything in late,” said Douglass. But that’s not how most teachers use them. Success skills were never intended to be a bargaining technique, or a threat, but that’s how they’re used far too often. “I believe most teachers just use it to try and convince students to behave,” said sophomore Alexis Rebholtz. “They need a change in order to actually motivate students to do better work.”

Ryan Demers, a teacher who was instrumental in the creation of success skills, agrees that something needs to change. “What I am not impressed with is the multiple stories that all sound similar: my success skills are lowered because I forgot a pencil/laptop/had to go to the bathroom. Now, we are dealing with a six week penalty. Does the action fit the crime?” said Demers.

Teachers need to stop using success skills as a tactic to force students in line, and students need to stop blaming success skills and their teachers for getting put into resource. “We need to do better. We need to work on motivation, helping students understand why are we doing this,” said Douglass. “Way too many kids think that this is a punishment, and it’s an opportunity to learn now, when there aren’t really any consequences.” The system can only work when students stop complaining and teachers stop manipulating.