Our vision for Isle of Wight County Schools is to create a learning environment that will enable every child to discover his or her unique gifts and talents. Our mission as educators is to enhance and expand on each child’s gifts and talents to ensure every child is college, career, and life ready. This is simple and to the point. Somehow legislators, administrators, and teachers over the last 20 years seemed to have lost their way. If you ask most of these well intentioned groups of people, they will probably tell you the purpose of education is to teach students cognitive and social skills, prepare students to be contributing citizens, build character, assist students in self-discovery, inspire students and prepare students for productive careers. If we look closely in most schools, do the classroom experiences match the purpose? Most schools struggle with getting past the teaching of cognitive skills.
Let’s discuss why this is happening and whether can we make a change here in Isle of Wight. The cognitive skills are defined by the Standards of Learning and accessed by the SOL tests. Therefore, we understand how to do this and how to measure the progress. When we start to address the other areas such as building character and self-discovery, we start asking ourselves, “How do we do that, and how do we know if we are making progress?” This is why we frequently have these goals in our priorities but we often do not take the time to incorporate them into our curriculum and common language.
How will we ensure that every child has the opportunity to discover his or her unique gifts or talents? The answer is: it has to become more than a slogan; it has to become integral to the culture in our schools. Students need time to explore and discover. For this to happen, schools have to look at their practices that are in direct conflict with self-discovery for students. Far too often school divisions articulate a vision for their schools, but, when the rubber hits the road, the way students are taught and evaluated demonstrates a priority to meticulously cover the specified content in a skill and drill type format. This leaves no room for self-discovery, communication skills, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and citizenship.
We will continue to provide training for teachers, administrators, and support staff to prepare them for opening new doors for our students. Teachers will be free to teach the Standards of Learning in innovative ways that will give students an opportunity to explore, discover, and create. I was inspired this summer by our staff’s commitment to improve instruction for our students during the training sessions held on deeper learning. After walking through all of our schools these first few weeks, I am more convinced that Isle of Wight County Schools will fulfill our promise to our students. Our teachers’ willingness to take risks and fail is a great model for our students. If we do not let our students take risks, explore, and fail, then they will not discover who they are or how far they can go. As we journey down this path, please get involved and ask questions. We are definitely stronger when we all collaborate and communicate with each other.
Every Child, Every Day.