District lets students, teachers explore ‘real life’

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – It was the first-ever experiment in encouraging Middletown youth to think about their future careers and it worked, according to both school and parents.

Last Tuesday, Middletown Schools had its students and school families choose among a menu of career or other areas of interest instead of attending classes.

Dubbed the district’s first “Personalized Learning Day,” the goal was to allow time and encourage students, often with the help of their parents and others, to explore future possibilities in the workforce.

“Middletown Schools’ curriculum team designed a personalized learning experience for roughly 6,000 students and 700 staff members,” said Debbie Houser, the district’s assistant superintendent. “This year we added three additional professional development days for staff which gave us an opportunity to provide a day for student choice.”

Doing a virtual meeting with the Middletown football coach or having lunch with the school resource officers are just some examples of what students got the chance to do instead of just sitting in a classroom.

“Multiple families visited Midpointe Library and some even took a trip to the US Air Force Museum (Dayton) and so much more,” Houser said.

The continuing evolution of learning calls for such innovations, including broadening the real-world experiences of teachers so they can better relay to students what is needed for them to succeed, said Middletown Schools Spokeswoman Elizabeth Beadle.

“All Middletown staff members are learning about workforce skills and what that looks like for our students and their futures,” said Beadle.

“The days of ‘sit and get’ education is going by the wayside and that is true for teachers too. Middletown is making sure our staff members are getting outside the buildings on professional development days. “

“On Tuesday we had teachers travel to the Middletown Municipal Airport, the Cincinnati library, and attend a physical education class taught by one of our gym teachers. We’re putting the joy back into the education profession by doing what teachers love to do – learn, ”she said.

Heather Magill, who has three children in the city schools, said they all enjoyed and learned from the unique experiences. Magill’s 14-year-old son had arranged for his first job interview with the local Kroger and walked away employed as a bagger. Her oldest son was interested in a possible career as a wildlife officer and spent the day shadowing an officer at a local park.

“At first I did question it (Personalized Learning Day) because I didn’t want them to be wasting their time. But now that they did it and how much they talked about it afterward … I know it was really a cool concept, ”she said.

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