Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Putting Students First: Encouraging well-rounded students

A classroom at Riviera Elementary School in Kelseyville, Calif., in October 2018. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – Our local schools have a responsibility to teach students more than reading, writing and arithmetic.

In today’s complex world, students need to know how to get along with others and translate book learning into practical skills.

At Kelseyville Unified, we are dedicated to helping students become well-rounded individuals.

One of the challenges of any school district is to provide opportunities that appeal to a wide variety of interests. I’m really proud of the programs and offerings at our schools. Whether students are athletes or artists, future farmers or aspiring mechanics, we provide experiences to engage and educate them.

At our elementary schools, our youngest students begin to learn how to get along with others simply by being in a classroom environment. These lessons are reinforced for those who choose to play extracurricular basketball in the fourth and fifth grade.

Being part of a team teaches students important life lessons. Students learn that being a great athlete isn’t enough – to succeed they must work with and depend on others.

They also learn how to handle disappointment. Not everyone’s going to win. That’s life. The question is, how do they respond when they lose?

Teaching students good sportsmanship – how to be graceful winners and losers – helps them enjoy the experience and focus on what matters. Winning is fun, no doubt, but the outcome of the game it not as important as how the game is played.

At the middle school, even more opportunities for life lessons arise. One of the best ways to learn anything is to struggle to figure it out. Working through the discomfort of not knowing an answer and working with others to solve a problem are skills that will help in future schooling and in life.

At Mountain Vista Middle School, the kids who participate in the robotics program are faced with just these sorts of challenges and it’s amazing to watch them overcome them.

Middle schoolers can also challenge themselves with athletics and the arts. It’s one thing to read about the rules of the game or see a musical score. It’s a very different thing to play the game or instrument. Putting book learning into motion helps students gain an appreciation for the hard work required to master a skill.

At the high school, the learning opportunities continue to expand. Our Career Technical Education offerings help students bridge the gap between seeing and doing, between watching a video of a welder, for example, and figuring out how to get two pieces of metal to stay together without burning the place down.

This is one reason I’m so grateful for the community support that allowed us to use bond funding to create a new shop at the high school. Hands-on learning takes students from understanding a concept to being able to apply it in the real world. For anyone who has tried to follow instructions when assembly is required or follow along as an expert on the Internet makes some artistic craft, we know things aren’t always as easy as they look.

By offering classes and extracurricular activities that allow students to discover how much work goes into mastering a skill, or learning the value of collaborating with others, we help prepare them for the real world. By exposing students to experiences that require overcoming disappointment, we help them build resilience. They find out that life goes on if they don’t make the team or get the lead in the play.

For some students, a traditional classroom approach doesn’t work well. For them, we offer an independent study/homeschooling option through the Kelseyville Learning Academy, or KLA.

At KLA, competitive athletes can dedicate the time required to reach their athletic potential, while still getting a great academic education, for example. Basically, no matter what their interests or abilities, students can get what they need at Kelseyville Unified School District.

In today’s society, there’s a huge focus on academics, which is great. However, sometimes, I think we forget about the importance of our skilled tradespeople. Our society would fall apart pretty fast without plumbers, contractors, farmers, and mechanics.

So, whether students join the mountain biking club, play in the mariachi band, run for student government, learn to fix a carburetor or practice planting a vine, they gain skills that will help them become more well-rounded people, people who can work with others and appreciate the contribution of their fellow citizens.

Dave McQueen is superintendent of Kelseyville Unified School District.

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