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Eric Russo

Putting the Child into Whole Child: Give Students Voice to Improve Your Practice

Recently I was having a discussion with a colleague who is new to the building. This teacher is confident, self-assured, and has decades of experience more than me. We teach the same children, so we meet frequently for RTI and team meetings. This is the type of teacher that takes pride in being "old school," which roughly translates to a no-nonsense, quiet-equals-learning, behavior-should-have-negative-consequences type of environment. It's the model that many of us grew up with. Although I was able to navigate through this system because I was a so-called "good student," many friends were not particularly successful, with the logical assumption that they were "bad students." This model puts the system itself as the driving force for success, which is disempowering both to educators and to the students alike.

Now, the conversation in question did not go smoothly, especially when I insensitively insisted that the teacher "would not be successful" using this old school approach. Realizing that I was working against my goal, I quickly concluded with a final statement that I paraphrased from a Maya Angelou quote: People don't remember what you say; they remember how you made them feel. It is a statement that I share with staff and students, and for me it is at the foundation of the type of teacher I strive to be. It is also at the core of the safe and supported tenets of the whole child approach.

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