The Seven “Essential” Skills

What do you think about the seven essential skills? Olivia Crisafi ’22 (with some help from Elina Zhang ’24) wants to know.


Olivia Crisafi, Editor

In admissions interviews and brochures, campus tours, and student panels, the Academy boasts its Seven Essential Skills: thinking critically, collaborating effectively, communicating effectively, reading thoughtfully, analyzing information, acting as members of a community, and adapting to new situations and information. When seniors jump the wall in cap and gown, they are expected to have acquired these skills, which are touted as essential for academy graduates. 

This past winter while I sat in Precalculus and stared at the Seven Essentials Skills chart next to my classmates’ faces on Zoom, I realized the inherent irony of the skills. If I was asked to name all seven skills–or even just one–I’d have nothing, I didn’t even know they existed until this year. These thoughts sparked a question: do any Govs students know the Seven Essential Skills?

To see how essential these skills really are, I decided to speak to the people themselves. Equipped with voice memos and our smart cards, Elina and I set out to the newly renovated Student Center. After ordering a smoothie and some fries (of course) we set to work. 

“What do you think of the Seven Essential Skills?” 

“I have no idea,” responded a 9th grader whose pool game we interrupted.

“Oh, like the Buddhist teachings?” replied a sophomore lounging on the couches. (No. Those are the Four Noble Truths.)

“Is this a trick question?” responded another. 

“The what?” 

Elina and I expected students would be a bit more familiar with the guiding values of the Academy. Before returning to the library and reevaluating, we asked one last group playing ping pong their thoughts on our favorite seven skills. 

“Oh, the things on the posters? They’re cool.”

“Can you name one?” 

“Uhh, what? No, I don’t think so…” replied one, looking shocked. 

But while we might not exactly know the Seven Essential Skills, are we unconsciously using them? 

Recall your last project, might you have collaborated effectively (skill 1)? In your English class have you read thoughtfully (skill 2)? In your Science class have you analyzed information (skill 5)? 

Certainly, this past year we have all adapted to new situations (skill 7). For our international students, Covid brought the new challenge of midnight classes from their home countries. For our seniors, Covid brought a sudden end to their high school careers without the annual graduation traditions of the Academy. For our new students, Covid made an already new situation more complicated and scary. 

As a community, though, we rallied together and adapted: we moved to Zoom, we created a hybrid class model, and implemented community testing. While we went about our day-to-day lives, we all unknowingly developed our seven essential skills. In many ways, these skills were, in fact, essential. 

 As seniors look forward to a brand new graduation experience this coming week, juniors look ahead to becoming seniors, and the Govs community looks forward to a mostly normal fall (possibly without masks), we all have the opportunity to employ these seven skills we’ve learned.