Being pushy and presumptious may work all right north of the Mason Dixon line, maybe even in urban America generally, but there are still a whole lot of rural Americans.
I assume you mean Malcolm Gladwell's book right? I see the point but I think it begs the question:
Gladwell makes a lot of conclusions and has gotten a lot of cachet in recent years, but this doesn't mean that we should assume that being pushy makes you successful and happy, though it might bring you great renown in the world or great wealth. I don't mean to say that demanding your way or being a self-advocate isn't a valuable skill sometimes, but consistently pushy and demanding people, no matter how "successful," are still pushy and demanding people.
Personally, I'd rather work with/hang out with the overly modest guy.
Effective social skill that students are rarely taught: self-advocacy.
If you read Malcolm McDowell's book Outliers, you'll see that he finds an outlier in attitude among super-successful people. Quite simply, it's demanding to be heard. It's the difference, Not only that, but demanding to get one's own way. Some people call it pushiness or presumptuousness, but it goes a long way in the modern, competitive worlds of business, education, law, medicine. Heads of departments and industry like students who know what they want and won't take "no" for an answer. It's the difference, according to McDowell's study of geniuses, between Christopher Langan (overly modest) and J. Robert Oppenheimer (self-assured physicist).
Students must be taught to not be afraid to advocate, even demand, for themselves. Studies have shown there is a great disparity among the social classes in this regard: single-parent kids, inner-city kids, non-native speakers, and rural kids do not speak up for themselves as much as the kids whose parents and teachers instill this kind of self-advocacy.
I totally agree that modeling is one of the most effective strategies that a teacher can use to express the importance of proper social skills. Another technique that I use quite frequently is the same that ask966 uses. When a student says something inappropriate like "that's retarded" or "that's gay" we will openly talk about how that can be hurtful to others. We also discuss what we can say that is more appropriate. I think both techniques are very useful for any group.
I find it pretty interesting that a school will decide to give students extra time to socialize. When we sit down and look at how much students learn from their peers (good and bad) and how important it is to them to have friends and maintain relationships, it would seem that allowing them to have time to socialize could be very valuable. Obviously you don't want to have kids fighting and hurting each other, but on some level, I think it might be great to lengthen pass periods so that kids would have more time to be social and to work out some of the energy that they have penned up from being stuck in classrooms all day.
I tend to think that the most important way we can "teach" social skills is to model them as best we can in our interactions with our students as well as our colleagues. There are times that I actually try to emphasize certain ones and talk to my students about them, but generally I just figure that I need to make sure that I am respecting my students and conveying an attitude of respect towards my peers and co-workers as well. As someone mentioned previously, teachable moments also pop up every once in a while and we certainly discuss the behavior of characters in stories, etc., but I am hesitant to suggest to my students how they ought to act.
Except I get rather intense about how students ought to treat substitute teachers. I can't stand the way they are generally so disrespectful and nasty to them so I make that one a point throughout the year.
Usually, I get a bit frustrated with social skills instruction / character education at the high school level (I'm a high school English teacher), but as ask996 mentioned, I DO use opportunities within the classroom as opportunities for character education. I even have to remind students not to use derogatory remarks towards homosexual students, regardless of what popular culture deems appropriate. I even have to remind them of manners (e.g. "Sally, texting is against the school rules because it can be used as a tool of cheating, AND it comes across as being extremely rude.") These opportunities present themselves even throughout the regular school day, and at the high school level, I don't think it's necessary to have an additional social skills curriculum.
In my high school classroom, I use teachable moments. As an English teacher, I’m very conscientious about the use of labels and words. For example when my students say, “That’s retarded,” I address the hurtfulness of using that word as a negative label. We also frequently discuss words like “freaking” and how they are not appropriate because it is a substitute for the f-bomb as my kids call it.
I think we fall down on teaching social skills within the educational system. However, given mandatory curriculum that we must teach it is difficult to give the general social education that many of our students need. In an effort to teach some social skills I try to "walk the walk". I use please, thank you, your very kind, and other form of verbal social graces. When I first started teaching in an urban schools, other teachers told me that if you did these thing the kids would not respect you. I have found the exact opposite. I have had great luck in having few discipline issues with many of my students and was told by a particular student that he respected me because I treated him with respect.
I also have a policy of not discussing other students or teachers in my room. I tell the students that it is not appropriate or productive to speak about another unless you wish to say something positive. If my students have a real issue I suggest they speak to that person or someone else such as the counselor or AP.
At my school they recently started a social instruction program to teach teens how to get along better. They have some group sessions among teens that have trouble with fighting and bullying. There has also been an extended part of our day added so that the students will have some social interaction time built into their day. In the past the students had no extra time to socialize.
As a special education teacher, I work on social skills formally through objectives aimed at helping many of my students to increase their social skills. Goals range from learning when to greet others to how to respond in a peer pressure situation.
We choose specific character qualities that we want the children to concentrate on and develop. Our school is K-8 grade. We use stories, essays, plays, and occasionally some projects to reinforce the concept. Then we send postcards to certain children's homes that have definitely showed the character quality.