In the past year, experts and practitioners in the field, whole child partners, and ASCD staff have shared their stories, ideas, and resources to help you ensure that each child, in each school, in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged and prepared for success in higher education, employment, and civic life.
Dogs are amazing creatures! They provide unconditional love, do not discriminate, judge, laugh, or criticize, and they are excellent and attentive listeners. They encourage relaxation, lower blood pressure, and brighten affect. These characteristics help to make pet-assisted therapy a natural fit for children and adolescents, and students in North Carolina's Orange County Schools will happily agree!
One of the first pet-assisted therapy programs in schools, R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) focuses on reading and was introduced several years ago in the west by Intermountain Therapy Animals. The concept spread throughout the country and there are now a variety of programs and models that work with children at school and in libraries (See Spot Read, Tail-Wagging Tutors, etc.). Pets are now being used in many ways in education settings and even help to relax students studying for exams at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
My son Samuel is a Red Sox and NASCAR fan, an avid bird watcher, an honor roll student and a gregarious 13-year-old who also experiences cerebral palsy.
I began making my first film—a documentary called Including Samuel—for selfish reasons. I wanted to try and make the world a more welcoming place for kids with disabilities like Samuel.
As I screened my documentary nationwide, however, I noticed a trend: at almost every screening, someone would pose this question in some form: "What about kids with 'hidden' disabilities? Can they be fully included like Samuel?" These hidden disabilities can include depression, anxiety, autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and a host of other diagnoses.
As a professional development trainer with Ramapo for Children, an organization that provides youth programming and adult training for special needs students, I often offer feedback to teachers regarding their classroom and behavior management. Often, when teachers reflect upon a particularly challenging lesson or stressful period, they will get a faraway look in their eyes and pine for the possibilities of next September. As early as October or November they will rue the structures and expectations they did not put in place from day one. "Next year," they tell me, "things will be different. I won't make the same mistakes."
Post written by Rachel Syms, a native of Los Angeles who moved to Chicago to pursue a degree in journalism at Columbia College. She hopes to write for a magazine after graduation.
"How many of you, yourselves, were challenging, disruptive, or unmotivated back when you were in school?" That's the question Brian Mendler, adjunct professor at St. John Fisher College in New York, asked the room full of educators attending his 2013 ASCD Annual Conference session, "Motivate and Manage a Differentiated Classroom."
Mendler, author of The Taming of the Crew and coauthor of Strategies for Successful Classroom Management and Discipline with Dignity, admits that as a child he struggled with his disruptive behavior in the classroom and a severe learning disability that interfered with his reading capabilities. He says that he was able to get through school until the 4th grade, when faking it became a problem because of a difficult teacher he didn't get along with. Mendler says the teacher mocked him, called him lazy and unmotivated, and told him to try harder. After being labeled "emotionally disturbed" following a disagreement with the teacher, he was placed into self-contained special education for two years.
ASCD's third annual Whole Child Virtual Conference is a free, online event that provides a forum and tools for schools and districts working toward sustainability and changing school cultures to serve the whole child. Built on the theme, "Moving from Implementation to Sustainability to Culture," the conference will be held May 6–10, with international pre-conference sessions held on Friday, May 3, for Australasian and European audiences. The conference features presentations from renowned speakers, educators, authors, and education experts who have successfully implemented a whole child approach in schools around the world, including ASCD Vision in Action award-winning schools and Whole Child Network schools.
Below, we hear from Finnish educator, ASCD Board member, and Whole Child Virtual Conference presenter Pasi Sahlberg, whose session, "The Finnish Experience and the Whole Child," will be held Wednesday, May 8, 10:00–11:00 a.m. eastern time.
As part of the school team, school social workers share the goal of ensuring that all students receive a high-quality education. We work with students and their families to address personal, family, and societal issues that create obstacles for learning. The adoption of the Common Core State Standards will create a strong foundation for school social workers in our mission to improve academic and behavioral outcomes for all students.
A positive school culture is the cornerstone of a good school and the foundation for school improvement. School culture encompasses the schoolwide ethos and the culture of individual classrooms, high expectations for learning and achievement, a safe and caring environment, shared values and relational trust, a powerful pedagogy and curriculum, high student motivation and engagement, a professional faculty culture, and partnerships with families and the community. It is constantly being shaped through our interactions, individual identities, beliefs, traditions, experiences, and community diversity. Research shows that successful schools with positive, effective school cultures are places that foster teacher learning and motivate students to learn.
Many schools may be in the process of implementing a program or process to support a whole child approach to education. Other schools may be looking at how to sustain what has already been achieved or developed. Fully embedding a whole child approach into the culture so that it becomes an integral part of what we do and who we are as schools and communities is key to ensuring that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged and prepared for their future college, career, and civic lives.
As Harvard educator Roland Barth once observed, "A school's culture has far more influence on life and learning in the schoolhouse than the state department of education, the superintendent, the school board, or even the principal can ever have."
In this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, Klea Scharberg, project manager for whole child programs at ASCD, talked with members of the Special Olympics National Youth Activation Committee—Special Olympics Project UNIFY is a whole child partner—about what a safe and positive school culture means to them, student voice and leadership, and why they are committed to being agents of change for their communities and young people across the United States. You'll hear from
Daniel Fink, originally from Alaska and currently attending Washington State University;
Kelsey Foster, from South Carolina;
Heather Glaser, from Wyoming; and
Bernice Higa-French, from Hawaii.
How does the culture of your school and community affect the success of your students?
"It's not necessarily that something is different about the school. They don't have different curriculum that they teach—no, it's just that it's more integrated and inclusive. You can walk down the hallway and you're not afraid of talking to anyone because of their race or their background, or anything like that. ... You walk in and there's just a smile on your face—and you don't necessarily know why—and you want to know more about why [the school culture] is that way."
Educators today face many exciting challenges: preparing students for life and careers in the 21st century and helping every student overcome obstacles and experience the joy of learning. To meet these challenges, every teacher and every administrator must work together within their schools and across schools, breaking free of their silos and collaborating. Just as principals can no longer stay in their offices, administrating behind closed doors, teachers also cannot seal themselves inside of their classrooms.
Research proves that when teachers collaborate effectively to analyze student performance, create interventions for struggling students, and continue their own professional learning, they can increase their efficacy. When principals empower teachers to do what they know is best for kids, children learn more and teachers find more satisfaction in their work. Collaboration creates a win-win-win situation for students, teachers, and administrators.