The Whole Child Blog

Klea Scharberg

Insights on Writing: A Core Skill

Writing: A Core Skill - ASCD Educational LeadershipWriting powerfully is a skill that teachers know every student needs to develop if he or she is to have the best chances in life. Yet, paradoxically, it's one of the skills that students most often resist practicing. The April 2014 issue of Educational Leadership examines the many ways to help students grow as writers. Articles in this issue look at some of the central skills involved in the complex act of writing—and how educators can get past students' too-common resistance to writing.

In her "Perspectives" column, Editor-in-Chief Marge Scherer notes the struggle teachers have between setting high expectations for students while also convincing them that writing can be a useful, a joy, and even an art. She asks,

"So how are teachers of all subjects going to meet the challenges of teaching students to be effective writers who don't hate to write? How are they going to prepare students to engage in all kinds of writing that they will need in the future—academic discourse, report writing, journalism, personal narrative, and even tweets? Today, social media of all kinds provide us outlets to share our personal ideas like never before. In the blogosphere, however, the highly structured five-paragraph essays rarely are those most clicked on. Come to think of it, which of your favorite books do you remember for their great sentence combinations? A new kind of literate writing is called for."

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Whole Child Symposium

What Do You Think We Need from Education?

As we continue our discussions on "Choosing Your Tomorrow Today" and "The Future of Schooling" as part of ASCD's Whole Child Symposium, let's add another question to ponder: What do you think we need from education?

In the United States, historically, the purpose of education has evolved according to the needs of society. Education's primary purpose has ranged from instructing youth in religious doctrine, to preparing them to live in a democracy, to assimilating immigrants into mainstream society, to preparing workers for the industrialized 20th century workplace.

And now, as educators prepare young people for their futures in a world that is rapidly changing, what is the goal? To create adults who can compete in a global economy? To create lifelong learners? To create emotionally healthy adults who can engage in meaningful relationships?

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Lora M. Hodges

High-Morale Schools: Readying Students to Take on the World

Post written by Lora M. Hodges for Northeast Foundation for Children/Responsive Classroom, a whole child partner organization.

Morale can be hard to define, but you know it when you see it. When you walk into a school and everything immediately feels calm, safe, respectful, rich with learning, you know you're standing in a school with high morale.

That's exactly how you'd feel if you were to walk in to one of the many schools in the nation using the research-based Responsive Classroom approach. You'd see and hear teachers showing patience, kindness, and respect toward each other and toward students. You'd observe engaging lessons in classrooms. Throughout the school you'd hear adults using positive language and drawing forth positive behaviors from students. You'd get the clear sense the adults like their jobs and the children want to be at school.

This is positive school culture. This is high morale. And this is indispensable to students' school success.

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Klea Scharberg

Throughout April: Getting Back to the Real Basics

Each day, as educators, we make decisions that make a difference in the lives of our learners, propelling them into the world as beacons of success and hope. All students deserve engaging and focused experiences that amplify their brains and hearts. Preparing learners to be creative, critically minded, and compassionate is our moral imperative. In this era of school reform, turn around, and educational change, it is easy to overlook the basics of why we educate and what we want for our children. These aren't the typical basics—reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic. Rather, these are the "real basics" of learning: developing a sense of belonging, instilling a sense of purpose, and expanding each child's potential for what the future may hold.

How do we get back to the "real basics" of education? Join us throughout April as we discuss the fundamental elements and habits that bring us together and set the stage for lasting, comprehensive—sustainable—school improvement? How do we assess where we have been, where we are now, where we want to go, and what strategies are necessary to get us there?

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ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Building Bridges to El Salvador: A Model Global Curriculum

Post written by Kerry Dunne and AnitaCristina Calcaterra

We are so proud of the Arlington, Massachusetts, global education unit of study on our sister city of Teosinte, El Salvador! But before you read about it from us, please let three of our 4th graders tell you what they have learned about Teosinte:


Arlington is a densely populated urban/suburban town bordering Cambridge, Mass. We house a diverse population that includes immigrants from all over the world, and our students range from children who have parents who are both professors to children who are non-literate, new arrival refugees. We would like to highlight our global education focused interdisciplinary initiative that could be replicated by any school or community with a sister city or partner school elsewhere in the world.

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Whole Child Symposium

Lines of Thinking From the 2014 ASCD Conference

Post written by Jeffrey Benson and originally published on his blog.

The ASCD Annual Conference took place in Los Angeles from March 14–17. It was consistently thrilling to be among a diverse group of 9,000 educators. Everyone had stories to tell, aspirations to share, and good work to do. You just had to sit down next to anyone and say, "Where are you from? What do you do?" and an hour later you had another colleague.

I heard competing narratives about our students and the schools they need. One narrative concerns poor kids of color who come to school from the earliest elementary years already behind in basic skills. They need schools structures and teachers who are strong enough and sensitive enough to stand with the kids, and who have a pedagogical skill set attuned to their students' particular needs—especially in reading, writing and the traumas of poverty. If we don't provide a more rigorous and high-end curriculum of health care and basic skills for these kids, they'll never catch up; the lack of resources to more predictably turn these communities around is further proof of the institutional racism we still must fight. There is much call from these communities for longer school days and longer school years to bridge all the gaps.

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Melanie Olmstead

Building Support for Teacher Leaders

Teachers are increasingly embracing leadership roles that allow them to use their skills and expertise outside of the classroom. Yet many schools are facing challenges in implementing distributed leadership models that empower teachers to become influencers and decision makers. ASCD's latest Policy Priorities examines teacher leadership and the obstacles practitioners face from the classroom to the central office in cultivating programs that expand and enhance professional growth and leadership.

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Klea Scharberg

Engage Students with Motivation 3.0

In this video, Daniel Pink talks to the Patterson Foundation about the need to upgrade our approach to motivation in schools. He uses the metaphor of an outdated computer operating system to characterize motivational practices that rely on punishments and rewards to elicit desired behavior. Although "carrots and sticks" motivation works well when the outcomes are simple tasks, this is not a suitable operating system for the complex, creative thinking required of 21st century students. Pink recommends upgrading to "motivation 3.0," or an operating system predicated on the principles of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

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Whole Child Symposium

A Whole Child Education for Every Child: The Grand Unifying Theory of Education

If our goal is a "whole child" education for every child, here are some essential questions: How should a modern school be managed and led in a world where the ground keeps constantly shifting? How can a single educator piece together a coherent vision of "school today:" management, leadership, curriculum, teaching, tools? Does "21st-century learning" have any real and special meaning? What's certain is that the schools we're striving to create today are not your father's (or your mother's) schools.

I am not a huge fan of posts that start with a number and proceed to a command: "83 Things You Must Do To Be The Teacher You Want to Be;" "Thirteen Cs Your School Can't Survive Without." In general I find these overwhelming, dispiriting, and ultimately pointless; add them all together and you wind up with an infinitude of impossibility and a guilt-trip headache. I have used this pitch a few times, and I'm rather sorry I did.

I find my thinking on education and learning fragmented enough without reducing its elements to lists. When I've actually tried to do this, I wind up with a mental construct that looks like the Strategic Directions to Hell, a road paved in bullet-points of noble intention.

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Whole Child Symposium

Don’t Settle for the Okey-Doke in a Third Narrative of American Education

An independent school leader and public school parent, Chris Thinnes (@CurtisCFEE) is the head of the Upper Elementary School and academic dean at the Curtis School in Los Angeles, Calif., and founding director of its Center for the Future of Elementary Education. He is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools' advisory council on diversity, a member of the EdCamp Foundation's public relations committee, and a fellow of the Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence.

Originally shared on his blog, these are Thinnes' remarks from the Whole Child Symposium Town Hall at the 2014 ASCD Annual Conference, inspiration from the Network for Public Education Conference, and reflections on an EdLeader21 PLC Advisory Group meeting.

"Sisters and brothers: Don't settle for the 'okey-doke'..."
Karen Lewis

"We don't support the status quo..."
John Kuhn

I just returned to Los Angeles after the honor of participating in one of the great conversations about the future of education, sitting around a table of district leaders engaged in writing what some have called a "third narrative" of public education in the United States. For days we collaborated in an effort to generate a theory of action, and made concrete commitments to a series of initiatives, that will have an impact on the experience of 2 million children in EdLeader21 member schools and districts in the coming years.

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