Fulkerson: ‘Shake’ to help students with soft skills (Feb. 4, 2016)

The students at Blytheville Elementary School may be several years away from the academic challenges of college and beyond, but to Jon Fulkerson those students are never too young to begin sharpening up on what many colleges and careers would call a most important factor in success for adults - “soft skills.” He believes that improvement on those skills may rest in the simple ability to shake hands.

BES is implementing what Fulkerson, the school’s assistant principal, stated is a “fantastic new program” for all students in the third through fifth grades called “The Amazing Shake.” One common problem in schools throughout the country is a lack of certain social skills necessary for college and career growth, Fulkerson stated. “We’ve taken a cue from world-renown educator Ron Clark, who designed and implemented this program in his school in Atlanta”, he said.

Fulkerson explained that the elementary students will watch a series of custom-made videos that will feature him, fourth grade student Allexys Lamb and often a few other “guest star” students to demonstrate the different social skills needed. “Allexys wrote a letter to Principal Chanda Walker before the holiday break with some wonderful suggestions on how Blytheville Elementary School could improve as a whole”, he said. “We were so impressed with her drive and passion, and her goals were so closely aligned with the program itself that we wanted to make her an integral part of our training phase.”

The training for “The Amazing Shake”, Fulkerson went on to say, begins simply with students being shown how to shake hands properly, make good eye contact and speak plainly when students introduce themselves to someone else. “It goes further to include such skills as how students should give and receive compliments, how students can start and keep a conversation going, how to politely agree or disagree with an opinion and how to be a good listener,” he stated. Fulkerson said that the students will practice with each other, with faculty and staff and work to get very good at all these life skills.

A four-round competition will begin in early May in which students will compete to be the winner of “The Amazing Shake”. Fulkerson said that all of the nearly 500 students at BES will compete in Round One, where they’ll simply demonstrate their handshaking, eye-contact and introduction skills. Students who meet a certain score or higher will progress to Round Two, and then to Round Three. “We wanted to make each round accessible to as many students as possible. So instead of just taking a certain number of students to the next round, all those that score at a certain level of proficiency will progress,” said Walker.

Finally, the top 10 scores from Round Three will progress to the final round, and Fulkerson said those scores will remain top-secret. “These students will participate in a very challenging, but highly exciting final competition to showcase their talents and skills on every level of ‘The Shake,’” Fulkerson continued. “This is an effort to give students the skills necessary to enter both higher education and a career field,” he added. “We believe it will also give our students a chance to show their best qualities, and give them motivation to make our school an even better and more vibrant place in which to learn.”