Post written by Laura White for Ashoka's Start Empathy Initiative, a whole child partner organization.
Amy Potsou and Elizabeth Stickley have a unique approach to educating students. As 3rd grade and 1st grade teachers at North Glendale Elementary School in Kirkwood, Missouri, they strive to help children "walk in the shoes of others, even if they are of a different background," and "assist others because it's the right thing to do,” not because there's a reward. According to Potsou and Stickley, these are the characteristics of a leader—yet these skills are difficult to teach.
Post written by Martin J. Blank and Ryan Fox, Coalition for Community Schools
Walking through the halls of John C. Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles with senior Kevin Valiencia, one finds an unexpected inner city public school in one of the most maligned neighborhoods in the country.
A climate of cooperation, enthusiasm, unity, and endless possibilities permeate throughout school. A strong juxtaposition with the surrounding community in which neighborhoods blocks apart from each other are often at war. Kevin himself has seen a friend stabbed, drive-by shootings, and police raids near his home.
It's not that the troubles found in other schools don't exist inside Fremont. Less than 40 percent of its students graduate in four years and test scores still lag behind state averages. But the angst and conflict found in many other struggling urban schools is minimal at Fremont. The suspension rate at Fremont is far below the rates at other high schools in the district. While the dropout rate is still very high, those numbers are gradually improving. Nearly 85 percent of those that did graduate in 2009 and 2010 continued on to a postsecondary education.
"There's unity (at Fremont)," Kevin said. "We're all in this together."
Even though student-centered learning is the foundation of student voice, the complexity and demands of teaching often make focusing on student voice yet another "add-on" for educators. However, as Toshalis and Nakkula (2012) assert, "student voice is the antithesis of depersonalized, standardized, and homogenized educational experiences because it begins and ends with the thoughts, feelings, visions, and actions of the students themselves" (p. 23).
Based on my experience as both a teacher and administrator, I suggest three action steps that educators can take to further incorporate student voice into their classrooms and schools.
Creating a safe and supportive learning environment is a critical to a whole child approach to education. Usually when we reflect and work on implementing the Whole Child Tenets in our schools, we forget one critical component in making them manifest: the students. Students are as important as actors in creating a safe school as teachers. They can be actors in helping create a safe learning environment, and project-based learning (PBL) projects can be a way in which we harness that service and target learning in the content areas. Here are some project ideas I have done or have seen other educators create.
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."
Post written by William J. Tolley, instructional coach and head of history at the International School of Curitiba in Brazil. A graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, he is a member of the current cohort in the Johns Hopkins/ISTE Supervision and Administration graduate certificate program. Connect with Tolley by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. This post was originally featured in ASCD Express.
"Advisory" is often a catch-all phrase for a space and time set aside for faculty and staff to help students face academic, social, psychological, and perhaps physical challenges. Unfortunately, schools seldom give such programs the space, time, and resources needed to accomplish all this. Moreover, advisories are often ill-defined or poorly designed and end up as well-intentioned tangents to the school mission. Nonetheless, the need for effective advisories is especially important in the 21st century because, as never before, students with different abilities and intelligences all need to know how to learn without us and build their shared future. A 21st century advisory is the perfect place to help them do this.
Post written by Jill Bass, director of curriculum and teacher development for Mikva Challenge's Center for Action Civics. Connect with Bass by e-mail at email@example.com. This post was originally featured in ASCD Express.
Every teacher has at least a handful of moments with students that make him or her think, "This is why I became a teacher." One such moment for me was on a campaign trip with about 60 students in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2007.
ASCD conducted its second Whole Child Virtual Conference in May. This free conference showcases schools, authors, and research about implementing a whole child approach for a worldwide audience. View and share archived session recordings, presenter handouts, and related resources at www.ascd.org/wcvirtualconference.
Gain further insight into what successful school sites are doing and simple steps your school can take to help implement, sustain, and build a culture of meeting the needs of the whole child through these presentations:
Post submitted by whole child blogger Caroline Newton, a sophomore at Temple University. Newton is studying journalism and writes for Jump: The Philly Music Project magazine.
"How can we prepare our learners for the future? How can our learners cultivate global competence?" Heidi Hayes Jacobs of Curriculum21 asked in her ASCD Annual Conference session. The topic of the hour? Connecting the classroom and the school to the global world.