Patrick MacLaughlin » A Letter to Parents

A Letter to Parents

Dear Parents or Guardians of My Students,


     I would like to introduce myself, explain the two purposes of my class, and request your support. My name is Patrick MacLaughlin, and I teach the AP Psychology class in which your son or daughter is enrolled. The most obvious purpose of my class is to increase my students’ knowledge of psychology. While mastering this knowledge is very important, my class has a second purpose I also want you to understand.


     While the possession of knowledge is necessary for success in both college and the workplace, it is not as important as the set of skills, characteristics, and attitudes that help people to manage their time, work well with others, solve problems, and behave in an ethical manner. These essential abilities are known as transferable skills because they can be developed in one environment (e.g., the high school classroom) and then transferred to future environments (e.g., college and the workplace) where their presence will be needed to produce success. 


     Many students fail to bring these transferable skills to the workplace. This failure is referred to as the “skills gap,” whose meaning is captured in the following quote from a report by Adecco Group, the world’s largest staffing firm. “Forty-four percent of the executives we surveyed think Americans are lacking transferable skills such as communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. Thus, while candidates may look good ‘on paper,’ they don’t know how to effectively work within a team or in an office” (Adecco, 2018). But how can we overcome this skills gap?  An answer to this question can be found in a report titled “Rising to the Challenge: Views on High School Graduates’ Preparedness for College and Careers,” which states, “The research suggests that providing real academic challenge for high school students and communicating with them about what is needed for future success helps to better prepare grads for the road ahead” (Achieve, 2015). 


     The success of my students—both now and in the future—is very important to me, not only because I personally want them to succeed, but because the mission statement of our school district clearly specifies that “the Norwin School District prepares students to become productive & responsible citizens in an ever-changing global society.”  Many of the transferable skills that students need to succeed in college (see "Why Your Freshman Year In College Will NOT Be 13th Grade") are the same as those that will help them succeed on-the-job (e.g., time management, teamwork, honesty, and responsibility). That is why I require my students to take the responsibility to hand in their assignments on time, collaborate effectively on group projects, avoid plagiarism, and read my class syllabus to know when assignments are due. The lessons they learn as they develop these transferable skills will not always be easy and the consequences they experience on their way to mastering these skills may sometimes cause them to describe me as "demanding". But I am willing to bear this title—and to bear it proudly—as I know this will lead them to success; not only on the AP Psychology exam, but in their future as well!


     Thank you for reading this letter and thank you for the support I hope you will provide me this semester. We both want your child to succeed, not only in my class this semester, but also in the future as a successful college student and/or a productive member of the workforce. We can make this happen if we work together.


Sincerely yours,


Mr. Patrick M. MacLaughlin