Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gearing Up for Deeper Learning: Convocation 2016

Welcome to the start of a new school year.  In a few days, students will return to classrooms and buildings where they will be greeted by several changes.  We are placing a focus on deeper learning throughout Isle of Wight County Schools, and moving away from teaching that is driven by SOL testing.  Our students will participate in more project-based learning opportunities with a focus on the five C’s:  collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking and citizenship.  These are the skills our students will need in order to be college, career and life ready.  

We are implementing a new reading program in Kindergarten through 2nd grade. Our goal is to have all third graders reading on grade level by 2020.  We have implemented Coding as a resource class in our elementary schools.  The middle and high schools have video and music studios for students to use for developing and showcasing their projects.  The high schools have new or expanded programs in Career and Technical Education such as Nursing and Manufacturing. Students will use laser cutters and 3D printers to bring their ideas to life.  These changes all focus on the needs of our students and preparing them to be successful in the real world.

Many teachers voluntarily gave up 8 days of their summer vacation to participate in professional development on project based learning.  They are eager to try new ideas to provide students with more opportunities for deeper learning. We need to keep in mind that many of us will struggle to move outside of our comfort zone.  Even though we may dislike the emphasis on determining student success through a standardized multiple-choice test, it’s what we know.  It’s what we’ve known for two decades.  Instructional Coaches will be assigned to each school to help support our teaching staff in this transition.

At this year’s Convocation, our Central Office team put on a skit that took us a little out of our comfort zone.  It was based on the TV show Hee Haw but with an Isle of Wight County twist.  (You can see a video of the skit below.)  One of the songs on our skit had a chorus about gloom, despair and agony.  I shared with the staff that moving to project based learning doesn’t have to be this way.  I know that it will be a journey that will take several years to implement.  It will also require significant training and support for our administration and teachers, but it is the right thing to do for our students.  A video of my remarks to the teachers and staff at Convocation can be found below.

I hope you will follow my blog throughout the year as I share updates on the exciting activities going on in our classrooms and the beautiful work being produced by our students.