Educators, parents and members of the community gathered last night as Valparaiso Community Schools board of education hosted the first of many community discussions geared to forming a coalition for education. Many in attendance voiced the need for these discussions and were pleased at the transparency the board showed.
“We are here to take care of the kids and students in Valparaiso,” said superintendent Michael Berta. “We have a vested interest in what’s best for students, K to 12, in Valparaiso.”
Though concerns were raised regarding possible budget constraints for the district, board president Mark Maassel assured everyone in attendance that, “possible cuts cannot stop us from talking about what we need to do for our kids.”
Those involved in the discussion were challenged to think about how educators, parents and the community can help prepare students for an ever-changing world. What does it mean to teach and learn in the 21st Century?
“We can work together and come up with an answer today, and it could immediately change,” said board vice president James Jorgensen. “’Change’ is the word to define the 21st Century.”
Jorgensen presented a number of questions influencing the definitions of teaching and learning in this new age and noted that the topic was broad:
- Do children learn differently?
- What is the role of teachers?
- How does technology affect learning and teaching?
- How can curriculum change for a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all classroom?
- What role should facilities play?
Teachers and parents spent a good portion of this first meeting discussing their ideas of curriculum.
A healthy discussion of what teachers and parents felt defines curriculum brought up everything from state and national standards to “hidden curriculum” components such as study skills and citizenship. Indiana University Northwest sociology professor, and parent, Jack Bloom expressed the importance of teaching students “to think” while another local parent, Spencer Skinner, added that curriculum should be flexible for students not only in content but also methodology.
In addition, Dan Plath, president of Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, stated that children need more exposure to outdoor and environmental education. “Here in Valparaiso we see strong outdoor/environmental studies through extra-curriculars; however, we would like to see this integrated into the classroom more.”
All of these ideas of curriculum will be taken into consideration as educators, parents and the community come together to define learning and teaching in the 21st Century and, ultimately, help students prepare for the jobs of the future.
“Unless we are on the same page, we will just be spinning wheels,” said Berta. After all variances are addressed, discussions can move forward to bridge gaps or implement new ideas.
Valparaiso Community Schools will host another discussion meeting on Nov. 28, 2012 at 6 p.m. to continue talks on curriculum, teaching and learning in the 21st Century. A definite meeting place was not set. Parents, teachers and all members of the Valparaiso community are welcome to join in the conversation. To review items discussed at the first discussion meeting in detail, visit the board of education’s website at www.valpo.k12.in.us.