The exercise used resources produced by the Tennessee Department of Education with Battelle for Kids, a national nonprofit organization involved in improving education. The exercise also gave board members a chance to evaluate how they felt the school system was doing in preparing students for life after graduation.
Discussion was led by Debby Torres and Cathy Goodman, who have led the exercise for and collected responses from teachers in the Cleveland City Schools.
Torres opened the exercise by asking for a description of the “school of yesterday.”
Evelyn Rockholt said classrooms were more structured in the past than today. Dr. Murl Dirksen said the focus of school in the past was to teach reading and writing.
Discussion soon turned to the differences between schools in the past and today’s classroom.
“Kids today do not learn the way we do,” Rockholt said.
Today, teachers have to engage students, Dirksen said. The board also discussed the idea that in today’s global world, memorization of all available information is not possible, though it is important for students to be able access information from trusted sources.
The school system has also taken on more issues that in the past were not deemed something the school should deal with, according to Robinson.
Today’s workers will have many more jobs, possibly careers, than those in the past. Participants said schools are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet even exist.
“We’re educating for the unknown,” Tom Cloud said, after reading a statement that today’s students will use not-yet-developed technologies to solve not-yet-discovered problems.
However, Rockholt said some jobs will always be in demand, such as plumbers.
While talking about the future, Goodman asked the board to determine characteristics needed for success after graduation. Such characteristics include communication skills on a number of levels, the ability to work in a group and critical thinking.
“If you were in charge of designing Tennessee’s classroom and curriculum for the future, what would it look like?” Goodman asked the board during the exercise.
Rockholt emphasized small class size, while Robinson mentioned technology.
At the end of the exercise, the board was asked to rate (on a scale of one to 10) Cleveland City Schools’ success in helping children possess the skills necessary to be successful after graduation. Board members were also given a card to write down an action they could do to make that goal possible.