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Medford students can tell their ‘Story’

Blackboard illustration.
Parents and students will fill out surveys on their school experiences to help district craft new curriculum

Ask a few Medford students who they’d like to be, and the answers vary.

A large animal veterinarian, says one. An officer in the military, says another. How about a university student? Or simply, a good friend.

Through the “Story of a Student” project, the district hopes to elicit answers like these from interviews parents conduct with their children. School officials also hope parents reverse the conversation and share their dreams of what students can become.

That information from those talks will be submitted to the district in the form of an online survey.

“Help us write our Story of a Student,” Bret Champion, superintendent of the Medford School District, said in a Facebook video introducing the initiative.

In an interview earlier this week, the superintendent explained in more detail what he hoped would come of the project and how it works.

After the survey closes in December, a small team from the district will review the results.

“We’ll cull through and look for the themes that emerge — I promise you, there will be themes in there like ‘resilience’ and ‘grit,’” Champion said. “We’ll bring those things out to the public and then use some process to highlight those that are most critical and that will be memorialized in our ‘Story of a Student.’”

Those responses will, in turn, help the district refine its curriculum.

“As we’re building a curriculum [and] layering on there that we want our kids to be able to be resilient — well, what does that mean?” Champion said. “What does that mean we need to do in school differently rather than just give a worksheet? How do we have our kids struggle through a problem-solving story versus just showing them exactly how to do things? Because that’s not how you build resilience.”

Champion noted the responses from “Story of a Student” will come as the district is “about to start writing” curriculum.

“It is going to be so helpful to have this document be part of that as we begin whatever our reading curriculum is going to look like, because it will come from our community,” he said.

The superintendent said the district has never taken on a project like this before, but others across the country have. A Google search shows school districts in states such as Ohio and Massachusetts have engaged in “Portrait of a Learner” initiatives.

Champion, himself a parent, thought about having conversations along the lines of “Story of a Student” with his kids when they were growing up, but there was not a lot of free time to do it.

“We would have this nebulous idea of who we want our kids to be, but we were so caught up in the day-to-day raising of them that we didn’t necessarily have that conversation,” Champion said. “This (Story of a Student project) allows for that conversation to get out of the weeds of going to basketball practice or drama rehearsal and say, ‘What are we doing here?’”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.