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21st Century Skills - Competencies without a Classroom Podcast - Episode 9 Recap

“Sometimes we don’t give our kids credit, but if we get out of their way, it’s pretty cool what they can do.”

In the ninth #21for21 episode of Competencies without a Classroom we sit down with our first administrator of the season to see what they have to say about 21st-century skills. Meet Ryan Scott - girl dad, dog dad, podcast host, and assistant principal at a high school in Kentucky.

Ryan spent 10 years teaching in kindergarten to fifth-grade classes. He notes that kindergarten was his favourite because it was where a teacher could lay the foundations of all of the core competencies.

What can you borrow from Ryan for your classroom to help teach 21st-century skills?

In his experience teaching kindergarten, Ryan notes that it was evident that a lot of kids had trouble paying attention, they were never taught how. Even as adults, some of us struggle with this. To lay the foundation, Ryan created the daily ‘Attention Challenge’.

The challenge goes as follows: Ryan’s class would meet each morning on the classroom floor, he would then start a timer - beginning with 30 seconds. For this time period, he would challenge his class to keep their eyes and ears on him. If they were able to do so, they would win a prize/incentive. Every week, Ryan’s class would increase the challenge’s time, all the way up until they reach the student’s age. By the end of the year, Ryan’s students were able to pay attention for five whole minutes without struggle.

Ryan also notes his belief that empathy is an incredibly important 21st-century skill to develop. At his current high school, he takes pride in his English department’s efforts to teach this skill. As a graduation requirement, the school’s senior-level students are required to complete a legacy project. Each student must come up with a service project within their community. In doing so, his students walk away with a better understanding of practicing empathy and can be proud of the work they have contributed to their communities.

From attention to empathy and collaboration - Ryan continuously puts his efforts towards developing 21st-century skills in his students, one competency at a time.

As Ryan mentions, “the world only changes if someone has a big idea”.

Reflection Prompts for Your Students

Use the prompts below to have your students reflect on what they heard in the episode and consider how Ryan’s advice can be applied to them.

  1. In this episode, Ryan shares that the world needs more collaboration. Damian shares the quote “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. Think about the group/collaborative work you have done in class. What did your group/partner do well together?
  2. How can you improve on and become a better team member moving forward?
  3. Empathy is a vital 21st-century skill. Where do you feel empathy is missing in your classroom/community? How are you working to ensure you are practicing empathy with your classmates and in your community? What does it truly mean to put yourself in someone else’s shoes?
  4. If you were to put together a legacy project, quite like the students at Ryan’s school, what would you do? How can you contribute to your community in a meaningful way?

Yearning for more? You’re in luck! We’ll be speaking to educators all month long about #21for21 and the development of 21st-century skills in the classroom. Join the fun and head over to to sign up for episode recaps, lesson plans, and chances to win some awesome prizes.


Did we mention something in this episode that you're struggling to find? Not to worry, all of the listed resources are linked below.

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Portrait of a Graduate, Competency-Based Education (CBE)
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