By: Philip Devine
As the Leadership Shelby class of 2016-2017 filed into the room to start the day at Central Office, one thing was clear: this was not the educational environment of the past. For most of us, the public school experience was one of fitting into a box and conforming to the standards. Everyone was expected to learn at the same pace, learn using the same methods, and process information the same way. After high school, it was on to college or vocational training.
However, what we learned throughout the day as we visited multiple schools in the Shelby County School District painted a different picture:
- How best to get involved as parents in your child’s education (continue to be present in their education past elementary school, attend the Parent Academy, and volunteer in the Parent-Teacher Organization).
- How the ELL program (English Language Learners) is meeting students where they are, and contributing to their academic success.
- How the Big Picture Learning Academy is providing exposure to different career paths for students through partnership-based internships with local businesses.
- How to prepare our kids for kindergarten (kids learn the most from birth to four years old; as parents, take advantage of that time to prepare them).
From the beautifully rebuilt Southside Elementary, to the growing diversity of our county (over 30% of students are Hispanic), it’s clear that Dr. Niehof and the leadership team of the Shelby County School District are taking a forward-leaning, progressive approach to prepare the next generation of students.
What used to be a system designed to prepare students for factory work in the early 20th century has now been adapted to fit today’s rapidly changing times. As Superintendent Dr. Niehof explained at the closing session: “Technology is a tool, but not the destination.” Instead of being forced into the proverbial “box,” the emphasis is on individual based learning, with computers and tablets an integral part of the learning experience. Students and teachers interact the way many companies do now; with instant messaging, online collaborative spaces, and feedback based on multiple iterations of work.
If there’s one thing to get excited about, it’s the Shelby County School District, and how the kids of today, will be ready for the challenges of tomorrow.
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