Sean Slade

A Health Iceberg

I use these slides often when discussing health. It starts with the tenets, becomes a pyramid, and then ends with what I call a "health iceberg." Let me show you what I mean.


Slade - Health Iceberg


The first slide should be fairly obvious to those who are familiar with the five Whole Child Tenets: healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. No need to go over them once more here, but this video offers a great explanation.

The second slide places the tenets into a structure or hierarchy (a la Maslow) highlighting how we cannot and should not focus on, for example, the challenged tenet without focusing prior on those tenets underneath. Again, for more information, read a great synopsis by ASCD's Molly McCloskey in her Best Questions column.

The third slide takes the first tenet (healthy) and breaks it down into its parts: socially, emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy. It outlines that these elements are linked, are part of the same whole, and then does something different: It adds a line between physically and the rest.

This is the health iceberg. An iceberg where you can see what is obvious and sticks out, but you don't see what lies underneath, is hidden, and is larger and potentially more destructive than what lies atop.

When we discuss health and only discuss the top of the iceberg—what we see—we suggest to ourselves that it is all that being healthy is and can be. We kid ourselves to believe that if we don't see it, it isn't there. And more and more evidence is coming out to show that social, emotional, and, in particular, mental health is key to children's well-being.

  • More than 14 million children and adolescents in the United States have mental health issues.
  • One in five (20 percent) of U.S. youth are affected by some type of mental disorder to an extent that they have difficulty functioning.
  • However, 79 percent of children aged 6 to 17 with mental disorders do not get the help they need.
  • According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44.
  • In 2010, approximately 160,000 children missed school every day out of fear of being bullied.
  • Approximately 2.7 million students are bullied each year with about 2.1 million students taking on the role of the bully.
  • Fifteen percent of all students who don't show up for school report it as due to their fear of being bullied while at school.
  • Approximately 71 percent of students report bullying as an ongoing problem.
  • Suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of death among children under the age of 14 in the United States.
  • Only half of high school students feel they are an important part of their school community.
  • More than 20 percent of students say there is no adult at their school who cares about them and knows them well.

Mental health—along with social, emotional, and physical health—needs to be addressed.

The first step should be an understanding that what we see may not be all there is. Although a focus on physical health (fitness and nutrition) is needed, warranted, and will have positive effects on mental health, it cannot replace a focus on what lies under the surface.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999; National Institute of Mental Health, 2010; Kataoka, S.H., Zhang, L., and Wells, K.B., 2002;; and Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Indiana University School of Education.

Comments (3)

Toney Olton

May 24, 2012

Thank you so much.  As a person using EQ in teaching, coaching and counseling, I am graetful for a model that so easily clarifies what I often seek to communicate to parents, teachers and my charges.  Much appreciated.


Don Roy

June 6, 2012

The recognition of the interrelatedness and interdependence of the various facts of being is vital. But I am surprised that the “spiritual” dimension doesn’t get a mention, especially in the light of previous ASCD publications like Rachael Kessler’s thought-provoking ‘The Soul of Education’.

Melissa V Rentchler

June 13, 2012

Teaching is not just about content. If it was, it could be easily handled by computerized learning. Not a bad idea if Kahn Academy could be combined with real time data available to the classroom leader and upon which that leader could pull strugglers aside and provide small group instruction.

The following is an agenda for a webinar offered to educators and is typical for what we teachers have to contend with in a public school setting as we must take any and all students. Think of the societal implications of us teachers’ work that goes well beyond teaching content, that solely upon which we are being considered for evaluation and accountability.

“Difficult and Disruptive Students
OnDemand Webinar
OnDemand Webinar (82 minutes) $99.00 Add to Cart Add to Cart
Access for FREE by becoming a member of Special Education Institute! Learn More


Students labeled as “difficult” or “disruptive” are often unsuccessful in school and may be poorly prepared to manage life as an adult, should they graduate. Additionally, they make life challenging for teachers and administrators. Left unchecked, they can consume school resources with little improvement, feel left out and unappreciated, and are at increased risk for unemployment, problems with the law, depression, and substance abuse. Knowing how to identify these students early on, understanding the nature of their problems, and implementing positive strategies can literally be a life-changing event for them. This OnDemand Webinar will cover a range of empirically-supported, practical, state-of-the-art assessment and intervention strategies that can reduce the frequency and severity of these problems.
Bruce M. Gale, Ph.D., BehaviorTech Solutions Inc.

Characteristics of Difficult and Disruptive Students

  Redefining Diagnoses, Such as ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, as Behaviors to Target
  Understanding Why Children Behave in Disruptive Ways
  Common Motivational Factors That Maintain Challenging Behaviors

Crafting the Initial Intervention

  A Little Bit of Assessment Can Go a Long Way
  Team-Based Approaches to Intervening in the Real World
  How to Track Progress Meaningfully

Strategies to Reduce Disruptive Behavior

  Eight Useful Teacher Strategies That Work, Most of the Time
  Helpful Technologies to Consider Using With Disruptive Students
  Helpful Resources”

This is what today’s teacher does today in their jobs. It is a herculean task to differentiate instruction for each learners abilities and learning styles, and additionally contend with the issues in the aforementioned webinar. Teachers need more tools to do this herculean task that benefits all of society in the short and long term.

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