Alpha Life Skills in Practice

“Students learn life skills” is the third promise that Alpha makes to parents. We believe that students who learn life skills build the confidence to chart their own path through life. Alpha students learn these skills through a project-based curriculum, where they tackle real-life projects both individually and in group workshops. We orient our life skills curriculum around skills that are specific, teachable, and measurable. When students learn concrete skills through fun projects, they build the more integrated, holistic qualities like leadership and adaptability along the way.

Our list of life skills is fluid — it’s always growing and adapting to a changing world. But we do have a set of skills that we consider essential. We define each essential skill from three perspectives. First, we identify the conventional thinking about the skill that limits traditional schools. We call this the Bad Old Way. Second, we explain the Alpha View on the skill. Finally, we apply our core principle that students can do anything. We call that the Edge.

Giving and seeking feedback that is honest and useful.

  • Bad Old Way: Don’t be honest; tell people platitudes so you don’t hurt feelings.
  • Alpha View: Feedback is crucial to improvement. If you care about people, you have to give them feedback.
  • Edge: Students can take harsh feedback and they also know how to give feedback to others to help peers grow, critique the world around them, and challenge authority with results.

Using computer science and engineering to solve problems.

  • Bad Old Way: If Computer Science is taught, it is strictly academic, focused on learning languages and test preparation.
  • Alpha View: Modern problems are solved with computer science. Therefore, students need to have fundamental computer science knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge.
  • Edge: Computer Science can be entirely self-taught through adaptive applications while using challenging projects as tests to pass/proof of knowledge.

The process of developing your reputation through the presentation of your skills, experiences and personality.

  • Bad Old Way: Not taught in K-12 schools.
  • Alpha View: Having a strong, authentic personal brand on the internet can attract people to your work and lead to serendipitous opportunities.
  • Edge: Learning to build an online brand is already an essential skill in our interconnected society. Alpha students learn how to create and leverage personal brands that rival those of adults.

Writing to an audience other than a teacher.

  • Bad Old Way: Learn to write at length, in academic style, on boring topics.
  • Alpha View: Short is best. Be clear, simple, concise. Write about topics you love. Write paragraphs every day, not ten-page papers every quarter. Write for your audience, not your teacher.
  • Edge: Students can write well, adapt their writing for any medium, and are constantly rewriting. Strangers not only want to read work done by Alpha students — they can’t wait for more.

Developing deep knowledge in a topic or industry.

  • Bad Old Way: The teacher is the expert. Children have to wait until they are adults to be subject matter experts.
  • Alpha View: Students can and must become experts.
  • Edge: Students know what it means to be an expert, and they become so proficient and knowledgeable that they can hold their own against anyone, at any level, in a given subject.

Knowing how to use social media to learn and connect.

  • Bad Old Way: Don’t bully, stay off social media, don’t be on your phone.
  • Alpha View: Social media is a part of life and students need to know how to manage it rather than be scared off of it.
  • Edge: Students know social media etiquette and engage in platforms in ways that elevate the conversation and push the medium forward.

Being able to engage in deep, high-intensity work.

  • Bad Old Way: Students are often told to focus but never taught how to focus.
  • Alpha View: Students can learn 5x better if they are focused. We teach them the value of intense focus and give them tools to develop and manage it.
  • Edge: Students can not only focus, but they can push themselves to execute at speeds they previously thought impossible, even when outside distractions arise.

Knowing how to design a learning plan, finding the best resources, and executing the plan using technology.

  • Bad Old Way: Teachers force feed the curriculum and one must go to “class” to learn.
  • Alpha View: There is no curriculum in real life (school is a modern concept). You must figure things out for yourself. You can learn how to teach yourself. The internet flattened/democratized access to information (as libraries did before that).
  • Edge: Students can use technology to self-educate and publish their work. No teachers needed.

Managing your own money.

  • Bad Old Way: Never taught in school.
  • Alpha View: Learn how money works , how to spend money, and how to invest.
  • Edge: Students have a clear idea of the value of money, explicit financial goals, and an established pattern of money management well before they’ve earned their first working dollar.

Rational thinking and knowing your circle of competence.

  • Bad Old Way: Despite RQ being the biggest failure point for all highly educated/high-IQ people, it is never directly taught in school.
  • Alpha View: RQ is 100% teachable.
  • Edge: Alpha students think probabilistically, understand logical fallacies and biases, and act rationally in the face of even the most volatile environments. Alpha students know where their knowledge ends and how to ask good questions.

Presenting in front of an audience.

  • Bad Old Way: You have to join the debate club or take a speech class to get any reps in public speaking.
  • Alpha View: We combine adaptive software, a curriculum that emphasizes storytelling and genuine interest, and external audiences to create the world’s best speakers. Students learn how to tailor and present information for relative audiences.
  • Edge: Students not only learn how to excel at public speaking, but they become sought-after to present at conferences, other schools, and performance spaces.

The process of problem solving that starts with understanding the customer’s needs.

  • Bad Old Way: Not taught in K-12 schools.
  • Alpha View: Many of the problems we encounter in society are, to some extent, design problems. Using design thinking helps us create better products and experiences for others. It helps us empathize.
  • Edge: Alpha students are makers and doers. We expect them to actively design the future while keeping other people in mind.

For more information, please visit our blog post on life skills.

K-12 private school serving students in Austin, Texas. We are a community that believes that success lies in hard work and innovation. www.go-alpha.org

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