Isle of Wight diving into deeper learning

Published 12:56 pm Saturday, August 27, 2016

Throughout all the skits, corny jokes and excitement of the convocation on Friday morning, Isle of Wight County Schools wove a serious message about their aim to raise the standard of education.

For their part, Carrsville Elementary School faculty and staff dressed for a day at the seashore, complete with beachwear and lifeguards. One woman announced she was going to swim in the sea of SOL Assessments, but was warned against the dangers. Nonetheless, in she went and soon found herself drowning. Thankfully, the lifeguards pulled her to safety and shouted, “It doesn’t have to be this way!”

This “way” being a conformity to the method of teaching what students need for those tests.

Instead, the school division wants to prepare them for college and life through exploring what they call “deeper learning.”

Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said, “Our vision is to creative an environment for students to enable them to discover their own unique gifts and opportunities. Our job is to enhance. Multiple choice questions on tests don’t translate to life.”

The path to a greater way of learning can be accomplished through the Five Cs: creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and even citizenship.

Thornton’s excited about the journey ahead.

“We want you to be creative. The reason we are going to be so successful is you,” he told the audience.

The guest speaker for the occasion was educator and author Jay McTighe, who began by asking three questions: “How can students learn deeply; how will we know if students have learned deeply; and how shall we teach deep learning?”

It’s important to understand big ideas, concepts and processes, he said, and be able to apply the learning to new situations; transferring them to the students, for example.

“The Five Cs are about transfer,” McTighe said.

Dick Holland of Farmers Bank, a longtime supporter of county schools, told a story about a student who didn’t do well in school until finally getting a teacher who showed compassion, dedication and determination that he could learn. Ultimately, Holland said, the young man went on to graduate from high school, college and medical school, informing the teacher along the way. Later, he invited her to his wedding, asking that she sit in the place where his late mother would have been for him.

“In some students’ lives, you may be the only one who cares, who understands,” Holland said.