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Three Lessons Every Student Should Learn in Elementary School

As principal of Eriksson Elementary School, I have had many wonderful conversations those within our school community. I have appreciate the partnerships I have formed with many parents when helping students learn some of life’s most important lessons. As an educator, it is hard to down-play the value of teaching students to communicate through reading, writing and speaking correctly, or the need for students to think logically through mathematical concepts. However, growing up as a student in Plymouth-Canton and having two parents who have instilled certain values in me as a child, I have identified three important lessons students should learn by the time they leave elementary school.

  1. Doing something right the first time takes a lot less time and energy than having to do it over again. As a child, there were many other things I enjoyed doing besides homework and chores. I was known from time to time to rush through what I was supposed to do to get to what I wanted to do. One example I remember from my youth was yard work. We lived on a large corner  lot, and my brothers and I took turns cutting the grass. On days I rushed through this job, I would leave small rows of grass between areas I cut. Now, these rows weren’t obvious, but if you looked carefully they were noticeable. Each time I left these rows, my father made me cut the lawn again. The same went for other chores and school work. His consistency regarding what he expected from me really taught me the value of doing things right the first time.
  2. Everyone doesn’t come in first all the time. Competition is a natural part of life. As adults, we see it all the time. In the business world companies bid for new accounts and only one company can win. In professional sport, only one team wins the championship each year. In fact, no matter how confident a person is in their own abilities, it is unrealistic for people to expect to win. So what do we want our students to learn about competition? I believe the important lesson is that everyone has talents, some are talents that are similar to those of other students, and others are unique onto themselves. It is these talents that make us distinctive. Some talents, like singing, are much more obvious to groups of people than a student’s ability to offer good advice to a friend who is sad. Talent shouldn’t be about winning and losing… it is more about a person’s recognition and appreciation for what makes them special. And no matter what the competition they are engaged in, they should always look to their own performance and improvement first… not the prize or place.

  3. It is not the mistakes people make that defines them, it is how they handle themselves when they make a mistake that reveals their character. As a school principal, I see students at their best and at their worst. One thing I have learned early in my career is that a big part of growing up is what I like to call, “trying on hats”. In our childhood, many of us have “tried on a hat that did not fit”. These choices may still be talked about at family gatherings. Like the time when I was five years old and I climbed up onto the roof of my grandparents’ garage with my older brother. The neighbor called my Grandma to let her know. Yes… bad choice. Ultimately, I expect every student at Eriksson to make mistakes. They are children, and that’s what children do. But when they make mistakes, a big part of our job as adults is to coach kids through the mistake in a manner that will help them take responsibility for what they have done. I talk to students about honesty, especially about what they have done that is wrong. We discuss the part of the problem they can control, so that they can think about a different choice in the future. When a student can avoid the temptation to be dishonest about their role in a problem, or steer clear of blaming another student for their choice in order to stay out of trouble, you know they have reached a certain maturity level. You know you can trust them, and you know they will learn from their mistake. It is clear that students who do not try to hide what they have done (no matter how tempting it might be) are of very strong character. Elementary students evolve to this point with the help and guidance of the adults around them. Many of our Frogs have gotten there. Others are on their way.

I can not tell you how proud I am to be an Eriksson Frog! We have terrific students, supportive parents, and a talented teaching staff who work tirelessly to provide our students the best possible education. The importance of a student’s ability to read, write and think mathematically has never been more important. However, it is the lessons I have described above that shape who we are, how we think about ourselves and how we interact with others.

With warmest wishes,

Kevin Learned

Principal, Eriksson Elementary