Tagged “Voices”

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Creating Experiences Through the Arts

Post submitted by Elizabeth M. Peterson, a fourth grade teacher, host of The Inspired Classroom, and author of Inspired by Listening: Actively Listening to Music While Teaching Your Curriculum. Connect with Peterson on Twitter @eliza_peterson and @inspired_clsrm.

Educators need to do more than teach; they need to create experiences for their students. Experiences are what make learning come alive. Let's face it, experiences are what life is made of and what we need to emphasize in our classrooms if we are to teach the whole child. The arts provide a wonderful way to bring experiences into your teaching.

Creating, acting, playing, listening, performing, molding, dancing: these are all ways to bring the arts into your teaching and when you take the time to stop and really focus on these, you are allowing your students to share in an experience and amazing things can happen in your classroom.

There are two main ways to allow for experiences in your teaching: teacher-led and student-led. Both are effective, both are important, and both need to live in harmony with one another to truly have a well rounded curriculum.

Teacher-Led Experiences

It's important for teachers to lead students through the creative process through art making. This is one way students learn: FROM us. We may assign a project, teach a process or skill, or create a time for students to share in collaborative creation.

When I was a novice teacher, experimenting with art integration, I focused on what I loved—music. I allowed time during our day to listen to music together. This method of music integration through listening experiences is something I still do with my students every day. It's an enjoyable time for us to share ideas about the music and discuss our interpretations of it. I ask my students guiding questions that will help them to listen more carefully and enjoy the experience more with each listening. From time to time, these shared experiences are used to enrich other parts of our curriculum. For example, if we are about to write some poetry or a narrative, we could use the music we are listening to as inspiration.

Another example of a teacher-led experience would be to accompany a book review with a piece of artwork. This artwork should not just be a simple picture that is tagged on at the end of the paper, but a well thought-out illustration. A clear purpose would be given to the assignment, for example, "The main character in the story has conflicting feelings. You are going to draw an illustration of how the character feels at some point in the story. You may use any medium you desire as long as your illustration is flat and fits on this size paper." Then ample time needs to be given so that students can really work on and edit their work. There is also the opportunity to draw attention to students' use of color, design, and setting and to emphasize the importance of details in their work.

With teacher-led experiences, you are exposing students to new things and rounding them out as individuals. My students become well-versed in Beethoven and Glenn Miller, they also become comfortable splattering a little paint. This may mean that some of them are working out of their comfort zone. That's OK! Allowing for this time and giving students these experiences is what students will remember and take with them for years to come.

Student-Led Experiences

Think of the times when students are asked to express their learning through a medium they choose. Maybe they want to create a paper-mache relief map for geography, perform a skit to retell a story, or write a song about erosion. These types of experiences are student-led, giving students a chance to explore something they choose.

I have had students come up to me and express an interest in putting on a play about Martin Luther King Jr. The topic and the art form were interests for this group of girls. My job wasn’t to provide them with a script and a plan, instead it was to give them the space, time, and encouragement they needed.

Sometimes it can be hard to allow students to take the reigns or to give that extra attention or time to stop and listen to their ideas, but we have to do it. Our job is to foster their curiosity and creativity and allowing them to take the lead on their learning every so often is a must!

Student-led experiences allow the students to explore what they know, learn what they are comfortable with, and give them a chance to challenge themselves as creative beings. We can't possibly be experts on all our students. We need to empower them with the trust that they will do what is right for them from time to time.

It's with a balance of teacher- and student-led experiences that a students' whole self is nourished. In what ways do you create these experiences for your students?

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Resilience, Research, and Educational Reform

Sara Truebridge

Post submitted by guest blogger and education consultant Sara Truebridge, EdD. Contact Truebridge at resilienceST@gmail.com.

Resilience is one's ability to spring back from adversity. Those who engage in resilience research view the world and individuals through positive, protective, and preventive models as opposed to traditional problem-based, deficit, pathology models. The vast body of resilience research has provided the foundation for many popular movements, such as asset development, positive youth development, strengths-based practice, and positive psychology.

Resilience research in education focuses on healthy development and successful learning, especially with young people facing difficult life challenges in their homes, schools, and communities. Resilience research emerged over 40 years ago as researchers began asking the question, Why do some children who are threatened by exposure to high-risk environments successfully adapt while others do not? The study of resilience has expanded from an early focus on the individual to a broader, more inclusive focus that situates risk not in children, but rather in a variety of socio-economic systems, institutions, and harmful public and social policies.

Michael Rutter (1979), Bonnie Benard (2003), and other researchers as documented by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine (2004) have already shown that motivation, learning, and the achievement gap are just some areas of education where resilience research has vital implications for practice and policy. Their data indicate that when classroom environments and schools consistently foster caring relationships, maintain high expectations for all students, and provide meaningful opportunities for students to participate and contribute, students from these nurturing environments are more successful in school.

One of the reoccurring messages in resilience research posits the relationship that beliefs have with resilience: resilience begins with what one believes. Educators who possess an understanding of resilience and the belief that student resilience is a process that can be tapped within each student can create educational environments that make a positive contribution to increasing student success. Researchers including Frank Pajares (1992) support the importance of studying beliefs in the context of education because beliefs influence the behaviors of education practitioners, which in turn influence the behaviors and success of their students. Thus, affecting educators' belief systems about student resilience through well designed and supported education preservice or professional development programs are two concrete ways to transfer resilience research into education practice that would promote positive school experiences and education success for all.

Resilience research supports the argument that discussions about education reform and transformation cannot be limited to discussions about best practices as reflected in curriculum and programs. Such best practices are only as good as the practitioners who are able to implement them with their pedagogical best practices, thus creating educational climates conducive to student learning. As Joan Walsh (1997) states, "When there's improvement, it usually isn't that the services per se were different, it's about a change in the person who delivered the service, and the way they delivered it."

If education reform is truly to be grounded in sound research, it is rather interesting to see so many reforms that focus only on band-aid solutions that research has shown can actually be counterproductive to improving education outcomes. Some of these solutions when implemented—including ones that involve extending the school day, increasing homework, purchasing new curriculums and programs, implementing more standardized testing, or creating competitions for resources—prove to be short-sighted. These solutions often sacrifice quality for quantity.

Research consistently finds that education practitioners do not necessarily need to be inundated with new curriculums and programs, and students do not necessarily need more homework and longer school days. Education and resilience researchers consistently find that education practitioners need to be supported if any increase in teaching and learning is to occur and be sustained. One vital, valuable, and cost-effective way to support educators is to provide them with an understanding of the concept of resilience and support them in developing, nurturing, and sustaining practices that allow them to transfer resilience research into their classrooms and schools.

Resilience research in education specifically recognizes three protective factors that, when present in an educational environment, mitigate risk and enhance positive educational climates that promote student engagement, motivation, and self-efficacy, which in turn increase student success. These three protective factors are: (1) fostering caring relationships, (2) conveying high expectations, and (3) promoting opportunities for meaningful participation. So what do these three protective factors look like in a classroom or school?

Strategies that promote caring relationships are as simple to implement as being aware of making personal contact with students every day—something as basic as a "hello" or a smile. Another classroom strategy that promotes caring relationships is getting to know individual students' interests outside of school. Strategies teachers embrace that foster high expectations include encouraging students to develop a "stay with it" attitude and perspective when confronting challenges. Another strategy that conveys high expectations is helping students reframe language from a negative to a positive—instead of a student hearing that he is hyperactive, that particular student could be hearing that he is energetic; instead of being labeled as being argumentative, that student could begin to identify herself as having conviction, etc. Strategies that encourage meaningful participation and contribution include giving students more voice and choice in classroom and school issues. Another strategy that fosters meaningful participation and contribution for students is when classrooms and schools engage in peer-helping, cross-age helping, and cooperative learning.

It is unfortunate that, all too often, education policies and reforms are adopted without sound research and adequate attention paid to the voices in the trenches—our teachers and students. The potent and profound words of Haim Ginott (1972) clearly articulate what many education practitioners already know and what many students agree to be true:

I've come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my personal approach that creates the climate. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.

We are in the midst of an education crisis in the United States. In addressing this crisis, we need to question some of the current policies and practices that have been adopted in the name of education reform. We can start by questioning whether education reform focusing solely on spending more money to alter services, programs, and curriculum may be misdirected.

When we use the semantics and refer to making changes in education as "education reform," we often are compelled to look at the parts of education that are believed to be in need of improvement. Perhaps it is time that we reframe the needs in education by altering semantics and saying that the education system is in need of "transformation." With this perspective, teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, and students may more readily embrace a theory of change in education, where the change agent resides not with the programs incorporated in the system, but rather within the individuals creating and implementing the system.

Resilience research supports that all children have the capacity for resilience. Individuals with an interest in increasing the education success of all students can benefit by developing a deeper understanding of student resilience and an enhanced awareness regarding the role that one's beliefs have in shaping such a concept. As Patrice De La Ossa (2005) says, "Although schools can make structural changes, until schools address underlying beliefs and perceptions, the educational system is failing our youth and society." Providing education practitioners with opportunities to reflect on their beliefs, especially how they pertain to student resilience, is a positive first step in the goal of improving student success for all.


Benard, B. (2003). Turnaround teachers and schools. In B. Williams (Ed.), Closing the achievement gap (2nd ed.) (pp. 115–137). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

De La Ossa, P. (2005). "Hear my voice:" Alternative high school students' perceptions and implications for school change. American Secondary Education, 34, 24–39.

Ginott, H. G. (1972). Teacher and child. New York: MacMillan.

National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine (with Committee on Increasing High School Students' Engagement and Motivation to Learn & Board on Children, Youth, and Families Division of Behavioral a Social Sciences and Education). (2004). Engaging schools: Fostering high school students' motivation to learn. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Pajares, F. (1992). Teachers' beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62, 307–332.

Rutter, M. (1979). Protective factors in children's responses to stress and disadvantaged. In M. W. Kent & J. E. Rolf (Eds.), Primary prevention of psychopathology: Social competence in children (pp. 49–74). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Walsh, J. (1997). The eye of the storm: Ten years on the front lines of new futures—an interview with Otis Johnson and Don Crary. Baltimore, MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation.

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Helping ESL Students Achieve Success in Language and Life

Sally Behrenwald

Post submitted by Sally Behrenwald, who has taught English as a second/foreign language to students ranging from 2 years old through adulthood. From 2005 to 2007, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, teaching in a public school in eastern Ukraine. Currently, she is an intern at the Ohio Program of Intensive English at Ohio University.

"The homework wasn't late—I was late. The homework was done two days ago."

"My friends do not understand. They are jealous that I am here, but I wish I was back with them."

"You mean if I use someone else's ideas but put them in my own words, I must use a citation?"

"I want to meet American students, but I don't know what to say."

"Thank you for talking to me. When I talk to my academic advisor, I think he does not want to listen to me except about classes. I think you are more my advisor than he is."

As a university English as a second language (ESL) instructor, these are the type of conversations I have every week—students trying to figure out college life, perplexed by new cultural norms, and rejoicing in small victories. They have come from all over—a majority are Chinese, but I've had students from South Korea, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and the United Arab Emirates in my classes over the last two years. Many of them are what are referred to as "provisionally admitted students": Once they finish their English classes, they'll start working on their bachelor degrees, and it's difficult for them to see my class as anything but an unnecessary evil between them and academic classes, whether or not they have the skills needed to succeed there. I teach them those skills, but more than that, my job goes beyond teaching grammar and vocabulary to teaching my students what it means to be a successful student at an American university.

Like American college students, my students are confronted with what, for some of them, is their first taste of freedom. They stay up too late partying or playing video games (and I'll never forget the student who flunked my class due to spending all his free time, including when he should have been in my class, playing an MMORPG). They form romantic relationships, both with students from their culture and with American students. They get sick. They get homesick. They hate the cafeteria food and dream of the day they can move off campus. They get a car and then have to figure out a) where to park it legally, b) how to avoid getting speeding tickets, and c) how not to freak out their teacher when they confess to driving in front of an oncoming train (I only wish I was making this part up!). They do their homework, but sometimes they don't. They take their exams and hope for the best.

But there are many successes, both in and out of the classroom. Lengthy conversations with American students where neither party runs out of things to say. That placement test score that jumps you up a level to full-time academic. Hosting dinners or performances to educate others about your culture. A shy girl giving a five-minute speech to her classmates. Friendships between students from different countries who find themselves in the same class.

In my career, these successes are what keep me going when I don't think I can stand to look at another run-on sentence. This fall, "Steve," one of my ESL students—one who struggled with writing and grammar—applied to be a cafeteria supervisor. He had me look at his resume and help him think of possible answers to interview questions. The day of the interview, he showed up to class in a suit and tie. "You know, Steve, even if you don't get the job, I'm proud of you," I said, trying to soften the possible blow.

"I think I'm going to get the job," he told me.

And he got it.

Do you know any international college students? Were you one yourself? How does the influx of international students change academic classroom dynamics once the students get out of ESL classes? What are some suggestions for helping them integrate into the university culture?

ASCD Whole Child Bloggers

Historical Perspectives on What Is "Developmentally Appropriate"

Thomas Armstrong

Post submitted by Thomas Armstrong, PhD, ASCD author and learning and human development expert. Connect with Armstrong on his blog and follow him on Twitter.

Thirty-five years ago, when I was at the beginning of my teaching career, Piaget was all the rage. We read his books and puzzled over how observation of children interacting with real-life situations could enable us to understand the development of their minds. We also were able to catch the tail end of interest in the work of Freud and saw how children's early struggles with issues like autonomy, jealousy, and initiative could affect their ability to emotionally manage the ups and downs of life later on in development.

These days, it seems that Piaget and Freud are hardly ever mentioned, let alone read, in education discourse. Instead, the buzzwords of the day are accountability, standards, data, and academic achievement. If we're interested in the child's development at all, it's usually to help us understand how to get the child to achieve academically. This explains why we are now expecting children to master academic material at younger and younger ages.

Again, back in my early days of teaching, early childhood education was seen primarily in terms of play experiences that children created out of their own imagination. Today we have preK–16 programs that attempt to foist the atmosphere of later academic learning on children as young as 3 or 4. And the sad thing is that the child development experts of our day are busy researching a child's ability to master academic learning in the early years, rather than questioning whether or not this is such a good thing in the first place.

Twenty years ago, I wrote a column on learning for Parenting Magazine, and when I did the research for an article on computers in education, it was difficult to find anyone in the field who would come out and say that children below the age of 4 should have access to computers. Now, if I suggest that children under 4 not be exposed to computers, I'm considered out of touch with the times. Thirty years ago, the National Association for the Education of Young Children wrote a position paper which stated that young children should not be subjected to standardized tests. Today, they have abandoned this position and talk instead about the different sorts of tests that young children appear now to need.

Is there anyone with a historical sensibility who can see how vastly we've shifted over two or three decades in our understanding of what children need? I believe we need to keep a historical perspective in order to see more clearly how the concept of "developmentally appropriate" has been perverted into a mandate to teach things that were clearly developmentally inappropriate 30 years ago. And those of us with the experience to see the broad view of education over 30 or 40 years ought to raise our voices and let it be known that what is going on with young children and academic learning is not OK and can only serve to harm their deeper sensibilities and interfere with their full development as whole human beings.

Watch Thomas Armstrong's archived webinar from last week where he explores multiple intelligences theory and the eight intelligences and explores the importance of utilizing the theory to reach a diverse group of learners.

Klea Scharberg

Broadening Understanding of Others and Ourselves

This week, November 15–19, is International Education Week (IEW). Begun in 2000 and sponsored by the U.S. Departments of State and Education, IEW is an opportunity for exchange students worldwide to share their cultures with their host communities and highlight the benefits of international educational exchange programs, including

International Education Week 2010

  • Promoting mutual understanding;
  • Bringing people of different nations together to share ideas and compare values;
  • Increasing awareness and adoption of alternative, multifaceted approaches to learning;
  • Nurturing leadership skills that prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century, such as foreign language acquisition and problem-solving skills;
  • Increasing self-development and awareness leading to enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem; and
  • Preparing citizens to live, work, and compete in the global economy.

The worldwide celebration of IEW offers a unique opportunity to reach out to people in every nation, to develop a broader understanding of world cultures and languages, and to reiterate the conviction that enduring friendships and partnerships created through international education and exchange are important for a secure future for all countries. You can make a difference by sharing with others your culture—your history, government, language, food, holidays, school system, and traditions.

According to the Institute of International Education's 2010 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, more than 260,000 U.S. students studied abroad in 2008–09 and nearly 691,000 international students enrolled in a U.S. higher education institution in 2009–10. These numbers do not include the thousands of students who participate in high school-level exchange programs. Spotlight international education in your classroom, college or university, and community with these suggested activities and resources.

"[Study abroad] will advance your education. It will expand your sense of possibilities and it will make you more competitive for the jobs of the future. But more importantly it will also show you just how much we all have in common—no matter where we live in the world."

—U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama

In my junior year of high school, I participated in a yearlong exchange program. I left my home in Detroit, Michigan, and lived with a family in Fürth, a city near Nuremberg, Germany. I had a year of language classes and curiosity before I departed and language fluency and a changed worldview when I returned. I attended Hardenberg Gymnasium, a school that provides college preparatory secondary education.

The school system and advanced coursework, especially in mathematics and sciences, were different than my American experience—I even received a B (or a 2, in the German grading system) in my English as a foreign language course! But what was similar was what happens when you put a lot of teenagers in a room together: We asked questions of each other. We learned about each other's values and cultures, homes and schools, hopes and fears. I'm still friends with many of them, though we're scattered around the world today.

Also important during my year of new experiences were the teachers at Hardenberg. It is tempting in these situations to observe, rather than actively participate, for fear of making a mistake. One teacher, Frau Scholz, understood that I would not be able to participate in our German classes at the same level as the German students. During a writing and comprehension exercise, the class read a book and wrote an essay for the exam. Frau Scholz knew that I would not be able to read the book in the same timeframe as the rest of the class, so she challenged me in another way. She asked me to write my essay exam on a recent class trip to Berlin—what I experienced and how it affected my understanding of German history. I remember receiving a good grade on my essay, but it was covered in the dreaded red ink of corrections.

I felt embarrassed when Frau Scholz asked me to read my essay aloud to the class, even though I knew that mastering German grammar took time. I showed my classmates the red-covered workbook and, like all supportive groups, my classmates held up their essay workbooks—with red corrections on every page. We were all learners and all had made mistakes. I ready my essay and felt proud of what I had done. I felt closer to and more engaged in my class. Sixteen years later, I don't remember everything I experienced during my exchange, but I remember Frau Scholz.

I went on to study abroad during college—one semester in Belgium and one semester in Russia—and my family hosted four exchange students—one from Sweden, one from Australia, one from Belgium, and one from Spain. Were you an exchange student or did your family host a student? Did you participate in a study abroad program? How did your experience shape your view of the world and education?

Klea Scharberg

Knowing All Our Students

In this interview for the Responsive Classroom newsletter, Caltha Crowe, educator and author of Solving Thorny Behavior Problems, discusses the importance of forming strong relationships with students early in the year. When teachers understand the needs and concerns of their students, she says, they can help them to overcome the learning challenges they face.

"The sad fact is that some children, especially those with behavior challenges, go through year after year of school without a positive relationship with a teacher," says Crowe. "We need to find what's likeable in each student, especially the ones who may be hard to like immediately, because they're the ones who need a trusting relationship the most. I watch and listen to the child closely so I can see things from that child's point of view. Relationship-building can pay big dividends in the child's improved behavior and schoolwork."

Part of building a positive classroom environment requires observing how students interact with one another and helping them to feel as though they belong, Crowe explains. She offers exercises for assisting teachers in identifying shy or reticent students who need more help in interacting socially and explains that often students act out when they feel excluded.

"All humans have a basic need to belong. So I pay attention to students' skills in forming relationships, making a place for themselves in the group. The first day of school, my students do the Human Treasure Hunt, which has them mixing and mingling, looking for classmates that fit questions like 'Who likes pizza?' and 'Who has a pet?' I notice who approaches other children, and who hangs back. During my weekly recess duty, I pay attention to who plays with whom and who's usually alone. At dismissal times, I notice who goes home with whom," says Crowe. "I can then help the shy children and the excluded children become a part of the group. Misbehavior and lack of academic success often grow from an unmet need to belong."

Managing a class of 24 to 30 personalities requires educators to understand group dynamics; focus on individuals; execute sound judgment; and most of all, inspire, engage, and motivate students to learn. ASCD Express shares teachers' best practices for organizing physical space, letting go of control, promoting collaboration, and fostering a positive classroom culture.

What is your top classroom management tip?

Klea Scharberg

Isn't It Just Common Sense?

It makes sense that social and emotional factors affect cognitive learning throughout early childhood and adolescence. We know that not every child learns how to walk at the same time, reads at the same level, or behaves in the same way. We talk about standards and assessments with regards to testing and where children should be at the end of each school period, so doesn't it make sense that developmental milestones (and whether every child has met them) are taken into consideration?

We talk about multiple intelligences, differentiated instruction, and personalized learning—in short, meeting the needs of each student. Is too much reliance on standards and assessments interfering with providing a personalized learning experience that respects the developmental stage of each child? And are we providing teachers with the time, resources, knowledge, and assistance they need to juggle the responsibilities they have to meet each child’s learning needs? Is it fair to the teacher and student?

At last month's press conference to release the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education’s policy recommendations on how the developmental sciences can prepare educators to improve student achievement, Iowa high school English teacher and 2010 National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling shared stories from her classroom and talked about the importance of empowering teachers.

NCATE Press Conference, 10/05/2010 - S. Brown-Wessling from NCATE on Vimeo.

It might be easy to think: Why don't teachers just do this? ... So much of this seems kind of intuitive; so much of it seems kind of like common sense. But here's the thing about living in a school: We have 'teaching and learning' and we have 'school.' And there are some times when these things intersect, but there are a lot times when they don't. So there's a lot of times [when teachers' lives] are full of school clutter; right? They're full of bells and paperwork and little, tiny activities and necessities that take all the minutes of the day. And when we do not free our teachers from those kinds of moments, we don't allow them to be intuitive. We don't ... empower them to use that kind of common sense that we can all kind of from afar stand back and think, why not?

What do you think?

Judy Willis

The Arts Inoculate Against Boredom and Its Consequences: Dropping Out, Physically or Virtually

When a high school eliminated the last-period guitar instruction elective available to students who had attended all of the day's classes, there was a significant dropout of the students who tolerated their other classes to enjoy the pleasure of that guitar class. What a shame at a time when we are experiencing the highest high school dropout rate our country has ever had. For the first time in our history, for students in high school, it is now more likely that their parents will have graduated than they will graduate.

Read more »

Klea Scharberg

How Do You Justify Arts in the Curriculum?

You've heard the comments: The arts are nice to have but not necessary to have. We have an afterschool program that integrates the arts so that they don't take away from the curriculum. If a kid can't read, does he really need music? And on and on. Yet NCLB includes the arts as core content, and there is plenty of research pointing to the value of arts education not only as a stimulant for student engagement and deeper learning in other core content areas, but also as a valuable curriculum all on its own.

What makes a subject or discipline a "major discipline?" In his book Arts with the Brain in Mind, ASCD author, former teacher, and leader in the brain-based-learning movement Eric Jensen tackles this question and arrives at the conclusion that the arts are not only fundamental to success in our demanding, highly technical, fast-moving world, but they are also what make us most human, most complete as people.

The book describes what findings from neuroscience and cognitive science research are teaching us about the need for the arts in our schools and presents instructional strategies and classroom activities that promote the musical, visual, and kinesthetic arts in school, as well as recommendations for assessing arts instruction. Do the arts help develop the brain? Are there special age-groups important for introducing the arts to children?

ASCD book: Arts with the Brain in Mind

Jensen grades the arts on a series of seven criteria:

  1. Is the discipline assessable?
  2. Is it brain based?
  3. Is it culturally necessary?
  4. What is the downside risk?
  5. Is the discipline inclusive?
  6. Does it have survival value?
  7. Is it wide ranging?

What do you think? Do the arts receive a passing grade?

"Make the goal high test scores, and you get a majority of students who get higher test scores and a minority who are turned off by learning and school. Make your priority better human beings, and you'll not only get better test scores; you'll also get cooperative, self-disciplined, creative, and compassionate students with a real love of learning." —Eric Jensen

Eric Jensen is also the author of Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do About It and has been a guest blogger for the Whole Child Blog and a featured guest on the Whole Child Podcast, where he addresses student risk factors, including health and safety issues and cognitive, social, and emotional challenges.

Klea Scharberg

Plácido Domingo Is for Whole Child Education

World-renowned tenor, conductor, and general director of Whole Child Partner the Washington National Opera, Plácido Domingo believes in a whole child approach to education.

The arts stimulate the very qualities that make us human and are an essential component in a whole child approach to education. Arts education engages young people in critical skills essential to success in the 21st century economy and global society: the ability to communicate [and] empathize for other human beings, the development of abstract thought, and the ability to work as part of a team.

For the world of opera is not just for singers, orchestral musicians, or dancers—you can also sew costumes or apply makeup on the performers; you can design, build, and paint the set; you can work on lighting, moving the set, or promoting the opera. The job opportunities are immense. So, opera isn't just about singing. There is a role for virtually everyone.

The stories of diverse cultures told through the arts give young and old alike tools to understand a complex, global society rich in history, convention, and beauty. Finally, the arts allow us to express our feelings in a healthy way, and sharing emotions is the bond that ties children to their families, friends, and community. People who are emotionally bonded to each other make up a healthy and empathetic world.

I hope you will join me in making the story of arts a priority in our schools and thus help make our world a better and more beautiful place.

If you stand for whole child education, you can speak out for it, too. Contact your senators, and ask them to support the National Whole Child Resolution, S. Res. 478, which makes a whole child approach to education a national priority and designates March as "National Whole Child Month." Don't forget to sign the Whole Child Petition to tell your state board of education that it must do more to educate the whole child.

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