It’s a blessing to work at a school that emphasizes the “whole-child approach” to education. At whole-child-oriented schools, students enjoy learning, and there are higher academic scores, lower dropout rates, and more long-term success among graduates.
The “whole child” principles comprise three simple concepts:
- Every child deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
- Every child is already a whole person—a mental, physical, emotional, and social being—with ongoing needs in each of these areas.
- Both the individual and the greater good are best served when everyone is encouraged to make the most of his or her natural strengths, while setting personal goals and considering the needs of others.
Whether or not your own school emphasizes whole-child education, you can employ the same principles in your classroom.
Academics Aren’t Everything
High test scores and recess/art lessons/soft skills aren’t a matter of “either/or,” but of “both/and.” It’s false logic (however popular among educators) that says poor academic performance is best remedied by making students work longer and harder on academics while ignoring everything else: all work and no play still makes students (and teachers) dull-witted, chronically bored, and uncooperative. Hopefully your school makes room for free time and outdoor recess; but even if it doesn’t, you can provide stand-up-and-stretch breaks, art- and game-oriented lessons, and “free periods” for individual reading/drawing/daydreaming.
Help Your Students Become Team Players
It’s fine to let individuals progress through curricula at their own best speeds; but don’t divide the class into groups labeled “slow learners” and “fast learners.” And definitely never say to a struggling student, “Why can’t you do as well as everyone else/so-and-so in the next row?” You don’t want an “us/them” atmosphere that generates contempt and resentment, so give everyone opportunity to contribute to their fullest.
- Look for everyone’s individual strengths and talents (not just those related to academics), and encourage each child to use their own abilities regularly in class.
- Rather than holding up better performers as superior examples, show them how to help others and ask for help in their own weaker areas.
- Assign regular group projects that require the combining of individual contributions to achieve end goals. Rotate group members (or put the whole class on one “team”) so everyone has frequent opportunities to work with everyone else.
Teach the Value of “Failing Forward”
Pushing for 100 percent scores generates a fear of failure that keeps children trapped at existing competency levels, when they could be shooting for the stars and charting trial-and-error paths toward ever greater goals. Emphasize the value of dreaming and perseverance: study the lives of famous achievers and how they succeeded through repeated “try, try again.”
Let Them Teach You
You are also a multifaceted whole person with much to learn, so don’t get caught in the “teacher knows everything” trap. Don’t forbid students to disagree with you or offer different ideas: encourage it, while requiring them to explain their reasoning and put their ideas to the test. Everyone will learn a great deal more this way—including you, as you accumulate new ideas for making your classes ever more whole-child-oriented and effective!
WE TEACH THE WHOLE CHILD
We at Shady Oak Primary are committed to the whole-child approach, firmly believing that guiding youngsters to be well-rounded members of society is more important than achieving any grade-oriented goal. If you’re looking for a private school where children thrive and are valued as individuals, contact us to learn more about our program.
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!