Remember, “This is not your Father’s Buick?” Educators, in collaboration with community leaders areletting the public know, “This is not your Father’s School!”
In comparing school to small business, new ideas are incubated and reflected in the communities where they are located. As superintendents, we attend Rotary and Chamber meetings, and we have Business Advisory Councils to help link us to the needs of our communities. We listen to what businesses say they need and our board members help guide us to better reflect those needs.
We know businesses want our students to learn to work together. We hear them when they say they need problem solvers. We know that attendance is a high priority for employment. We develop strategies to teach our students the importance of all of these characteristics. Course offerings have been expanded to better meet the needs of our students.
State policymakers are trying to solve the problem with one-size-fits all strategies that rarely work. Local educational leaders have grown weary of these failed approaches and are striking out on our own to listen to our local stakeholders. We our empowering our students to solve real world problems. We are no longer just asking them to read about problems and study them, but giving them challenges that need to be solved. They are developing solutions and at the same time they are learning to read, write, calculate, and use scientific principles. They are developing a social awareness that can impact their community and the world at large. This approach is Project Based Learning (PBL).
PBL is more than just group work. It prepares students to work collaboratively to solve real problems that exist in the world. We want our students’ brains to develop beyond memorization and warehousing facts.Educators are asking students to develop their synapsis to think as problem solvers. This benefits the students and it better prepares them to be attributes to society.
We continue to incentivize attendance and push our students to recognize that being present is important. It takes the whole group to solve the challenge and it is more difficult if students do not contribute during the school day. Just like at work, if you do not want to take work home, you need to be present at work.
Teaching students through PBL is in response to what business leaders say they appreciate. We also offer courses in aeronautical engineering to meet a need that is evident with Wright Patterson Air Force Base in our region. We offer robotics in the middle school and high school because manufacturing is a major sector of the Dayton area economy. We offer engineering and coding to better prepare for the jobs that the Dayton area is working to attract. We prepare students for the health fields knowing there is shortage of healthcare workers in the area.
Reach out to your school and get involved. See how responsive schools are to the needs of our future. We are not chalkboards and students in straight rows. Instead, students are using technology to create and makerspaces to collaborate and solve problems. The jobs of the future have changed and schools are listening to business leaders and adapting to their needs to make our students more marketable.
Tony Thomas is superintendent of Northmont City Schools. Reach Tony Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org
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