Michigan’s Teacher of the Year Cracks the Code on the Secret to Success in Education

After reading an article in our local Detroit Free Press, my husband, Brian, was inspired to write the following.


– Susan


Identifying the Problem

We have to be in a growth mind-set,” said Michigan Teacher of the Year Garry Abud. “This is not a fixed world. It’s about moving forward.”

michigan education reform

Gary Abud

Gary Abud’s words are simple but profound. He recognizes that the educational process goes beyond state assessments or grades on a report card. Rather, it’s about developing the individual and giving them the skills they need to succeed now and into the future.

Mr. Abud goes on to say, “Students often approach the classroom as they might a bank transaction, seeing a teacher as a ‘bank of knowledge – and I’m here to make a withdrawal.’”

Why do students treat their teachers like banks, simply trying to make withdrawals of knowledge? Could it be because our education system creates more and more standards and benchmarks the same way the U.S. Treasury prints more and more money?

Our whole system is designed to have students memorize huge amounts of content – drinking water from a fire hose. How could that possibly work? It doesn’t. When we don’t give our students the tools to collect, process, and evaluate the massive amount of information we present to them on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that they can’t retain it in the long term.

Applying Information, Not Collecting It

As Mr. Abud says in his interview with the Detroit Free Press, “the world today isn’t about collecting information; it’s about applying it.” So how do educators make the transition from a transactional, fixed mind-set focused on content, to a growth mind-set focused on curiosity, problem-solving, and critical thinking?

Study skills.

Time management, note-taking, reading for information, organization… these are some of the skills students need to make the transition from transactional learners to life-long learners. These skills bring them immediate success in school and also lead to career success in the future.

A Path to Success

When I was a high school teacher, students always asked me, “Is college harder than high school?” The answer answer, “yes or no,” all depends on your study skills.

What I would tell them is that with strong study skills, college is simply a faster version of the same process as high school: collecting, processing, and evaluating information. With the right systems in place, college is easy and more fun because you get to manage more of your learning process than before.

But if current study habits rely on parent and teacher “nagging,” “cramming,” and other “band-aids,” the increased workload in college will probably be crippling.

In 2009, Ohio State University published a study confirming the importance of study skills. They determined that average high school students would be 600% more likely to graduate college if they have taken a study skills class. 600%!

This momentum doesn’t stop with college either. When students prepare to enter the workforce, they tend to focus their resumes on their technical knowledge and skills. While technical skills are important they’re generally not what lands the student the job in the interview.

In our competitive work environment, it’s not uncommon to have hundreds of people interviewing for a handful of positions. These hundreds of applicant have very similar technical skills because they all took essentially the same college classes and worked in similarly related internships. So what is the difference between the person who is ultimately hired and the other 99 that are not?

Again, study skills.

Study skills? Well, as we transition from school to the work force we refer to study skills as “soft skills.”

In a survey performed by the Stanford Research Institute and the Carnegie Mellon Foundation of over 500 CEOs, 75% of the skills that the CEOs credited for their career success were soft skills, not technical skills. That means the very same study skills that will make you successful in middle and high school will allow you to flourish in college, will land you your first job out of college, and will propel you up the career ladder.

Make it a Priority

So, whether you are working to be the next Teacher of the Year or you want to give your child the gift of life-long success, you need to make study skills the priority.

If you’re waiting for somebody else in your school to take the lead or hoping that schools will “figure this out” for themselves, then stop right now!

You have the opportunity to start fixing the broken educational cycle of ever-increasing content right now. Not sure how to get started? It’s easy…

Click here to learn more about the SOAR® Study Skills classroom curriculum.

– Brian


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