Author Archive

Thom Markham

Reframing Resiliency: Let’s Make It an Outcome

The whole child movement, in my view, is weighed down by society's current inability to conceive of children as whole beings. Instead, we dissect them. Academic learning is distinguished from social-emotional learning, as if brain and heart operate in isolation. The brain itself gets divided into forebrain, hindbrain, mammalian brain, limbic system, and so on, furthering the mistaken assumption that the brain performs its miracles through isolated modules. A steady diet of units, pacing guides, and curriculum strategies reinforces this skewed view by taking a narrow aim at stimulating a child's cognitive apparatus rather than their inner life.

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Thom Markham

Connecting the Dots to Whole Child Education

Yesterday's date: April 1, 2013.

Yesterday's lead education article: How should we handle homework?

Yesterday's lead statistic: ADHD diagnosed in 11 percent of U.S. children.

Today's question: Can we connect the dots?

No, this was not an April Fool's question. It's a simple scattergram, a graph of disparate facts and headlines arranged into no particular pattern—until you begin to probe and ponder.

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Thom Markham

Only Whole Children Can Make Schools Safe

In the long term, there is just one answer to the problem of school safety: more love. The short term solution, on the other hand, lies in the unhealthy mix of force, fear, guns, security, locks, and other devices meant to barricade our children from a small, but obviously lethal, subset of the population.

I'll leave the short-term answers to parents and politicians. Instead, let's support advances in education that take us closer to the ultimate goal of raising, nurturing, and educating children who feel psychologically safe. That, really, is the sole purpose of whole child education.

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Thom Markham

Ten Reasons Why Common Core Standards Require a Whole Teacher

When teachers and parents hear the term Common Core State Standards, many have a tendency to think of the new standards as a simple upgrade. In fact, the standards represent an entirely new operating system.

This is good news for the whole child movement. The Common Core standards focus on an inquiry approach to education. Inquiry can't be done through direct instruction alone; it requires student cooperation, engagement, and persistence—all attributes drawn from a pool of social and emotional resources. Without addressing this aspect of human performance, the standards will fail.

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Thom Markham

How Project-Based Learning Educates the Whole Child

Over the past decade and a half, I've seen how well-executed project-based learning (PBL) can provide a joyful learning experience for students. Joy is not our number one standard, I realize, but when projects offer the right mix of challenge, engagement, and personalized support, blended with a motivating, meaningful learning experience that reaches deep into the soul, joy is the outcome. You can see it bubble up in the animated faces, big smiles, body language, and open-hearted response of students at the end of a good project. In other words, we've reached the whole child.

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Thom Markham

Project-Based Learning and Common Core Standards

The first question about Common Core State Standards, What will they look like?,  has been answered. The answer is: Very different. The internationally benchmarked standards will emphasize creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, presentation and demonstration, problem solving, research and inquiry, and career readiness.

The second, more challenging question is, How will we teach these new standards? For several years, the winds of change have been howling in one direction, pointing educators toward greater focus on depth rather than coverage, thinking rather than memorizing or listing, and demonstrating and performing rather than "hand it in and grade it." With 46 states endorsing the Common Core State Standards and half of those planning for full implementation in the next three years, we've moved into hurricane status. Quite soon, we'll land on a distant, unknown shore. Teachers will have to teach differently.

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Thom Markham

Why the Whole Child Needs a Coach

Coaching is popular these days, as evidenced by a recent article in The New Yorker (October 3, 2011) describing how a neurosurgeon decides to extend coaching into the operating room and improve his skills in unhooking a damaged thyroid from the grasp of surrounding tissue. Athletes also get coached, in just about everything. So do executives and those needing better life skills. And teachers increasingly receive coaching on structuring lessons and pacing their instruction.

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