Roaring waves of hopeful obligation have rumbled into schools across the country, crashing learners into desk chairs for another year of education. Standing on the shores of learning adventures, many educators look out and see oceans of hope and possibilities, but seasoned sailors know the sea is a friend that can turn enemy. Among the waves are storms and shipwrecks, and the lull may be the calm before the storm. However, rather than ending the journey before it begins, classroom ships venture onto the high seas of learning, knowing that while there are perils ahead there are great rewards, too. Bullying is one of those perils. Student voice is a beacon in the water that can help educators see what is coming.
We are about to enter the season of the education documentary. Much has been written about the four films coming out for theatrical run and community screenings this fall–Waiting For Superman, The Lottery, The Cartel, and Race to Nowhere–with their takes of the current state of U.S. education. But less has been mentioned about what comes next and what form the conversation should take after the screenings.
One film, Race to Nowhere, is worth a mention here because the filmmakers have planned follow-up discussions and ongoing dialogue. Producer Vicki Abeles was interviewed last week on CNN about the film and in particular about what parents and schools can do. The first step is to start a dialogue with your kids and your school.
The film's producers have made it a point to continue the conversation; to start a dialogue among the audiences and communities where it is being screened; and to seek answers, discussion, and understanding from those at the local level. It has taken the premise that the film is the start of the conversation and not the end. The Race to Nowhere team has also made a point of designing direct actions and discussions that involve—guess who—the students themselves.
The film fits with ASCD's commitment to a whole child approach to education, and healthy school communities in particular, but it was the commitment to ongoing dialogue that prompted ASCD's executive director, Gene Carter, to write the foreword to a facilitation guide that will accompany the film. It was a recognition of the filmmakers' desire to move the conversation out of the movie theater and into the schools, classrooms, hallways, and homes of each community. Dr. Carter writes
Challenges, when discovered, need to be addressed. Problems, when they arise, need to be solved. This is never so true as when we are talking about our children—their health, their growth, their education and their development. It is not enough to alert people to issues and then walk away. It is not enough to uncover problems and then neglect to work through them. It is not enough to lay blame and then move on.
Learn more about how your school and community can schedule a screening of the movie, preorder the DVD and facilitation guide, and find resources at www.racetonowhere.com.
Bridgette Wagoner, director of Educational Services for Waverly-Shell Rock Schools and former interim director of the Whole Child Award-winning Price Laboratory School, reflects on the process of creating a shared culture of wellness in her district while taking an honest look at her own wellness in "My Wellness Hypocrisy" on her blog Creating a Passion for Learning.
As August comes to a close and we conclude our focus on school staff wellness, Wagoner's reflections are a refreshing reminder that our own health and well-being contributes to our community's culture of wellness. Our struggles and victories are part of the process of creating a more healthy, balanced approach to living, learning, teaching, and leading.
I met with the chairs of my district's Wellness Committee yesterday, and ever since I have been thinking about what I can do as a school leader to support a healthy school community. Unfortunately, I have come to the stark realization that I am part of the problem. I'll grab my scarlet H, plaster it on my chest, and get real about my own wellness hypocrisy.
See, I am the person who had to hedge an excuse for a box of decadent cake balls from the local Bosnian bakery sitting on my desk when a reporter came to talk to me about healthy school meals.
I am the person who brought sinfully sweet gourmet cupcakes to celebrate a colleague's birthday last week. I enjoyed every crumb and didn’t even think about tagging a "sometimes food" disclaimer.
I am the person who lived two blocks from work for six years…and drove there every day, all the while advocating for physical education and health literacy.
Like all seismic cultural shifts, creating a distinct and shared culture of wellness in our district relies on individual people making individual decisions day in and day out to act in accordance with our professed beliefs. Once our "walk" matches our "talk" we have successfully shifted the culture.
So today—and every day after—I will take deliberate steps to match my walk with my talk. Now that I've donned my scarlet H, you can all hold me accountable as I strive to model a life of wellness. I also urge each of you to think about the decisions you can make today to model a healthy lifestyle for your colleagues and your students.
Share your "wellness hypocrisy." What deliberate steps are you taking to walk your talk this year?
Post submitted by James S. Roberts, Ed.D., superintendent, Batesville (Ind.) Community School Corporation
For the past four years, the Batesville Community School Corporation (BCSC) has partnered with the American Cancer Society to conduct a 10-week Active for Life fitness challenge. Through this challenge, all staff members are encouraged to engage in some sort of physical activity for 30 minutes per day for at least five days per week.
To add motivation, a building competition is held within BCSC pitting all four school buildings and the Administration Building against one another! Records are kept detailing each employee’s activity and the building’s relationship to the goal set. The winning building is the one that has the highest ratio of participation rate to rate of goal accomplishment.
Batesville Middle School was a first-time winner during the 2009–10 school year, following back-to-back wins by Batesville Primary School in 2006–07 and 2007–08 and a win by Batesville Intermediate School in 2008–09. A traveling trophy is awarded to the winning building. Each individual meeting his or her goal, regardless of building, is presented with a commemorative T-shirt.
This year, we will expand our physical activity challenge to encompass most of the nine months of the school year and culminate with participation in the Indianapolis Mini Marathon held in May. The Mini Marathon annually has nearly 35,000 participants and is affiliated with the world-famous Indianapolis 500.
In September, project manager Andy Allen, associate principal at Batesville High School, will start setting up training teams and registering individuals for the Mini Marathon. Staff members will have the opportunity to run or walk the full 13.1 miles OR run or walk the 5K that is also a part of the day's festivities.
We hope to involve the greater community in this effort in a variety of ways, as invitations to join us have been extended to area businesses and students and their families will be asked to participate. Additionally, we hope to get the Batesville High School band and cheerleaders engaged by stationing them along the course to cheer on our Batesville runners and walkers. As our organizational efforts hit high gear with this ambitious challenge, I will be sure to update you on our progress.
What kind of events would you like to create in your school and community that would promote school staff wellness and a positive school climate?
Post submitted by Ronda Rumig, educator, Halton District School Board, Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
Over the last two years, I have been privileged to work with a group of colleagues at Iroquois Ridge High School (a Healthy School Communities site) who all agreed that staff wellness was an important aspect of a healthy school community. We focused our efforts in a couple of areas: physical/emotional wellness and relationship building.
We increased opportunities for staff to come together in a variety of ways through exercise, social activities, and healthy eating. Some of our initiatives took place during staff development time and others during lunch or after school. Here are some of the activities that were most memorable to me.
- Exercise Activities: Staff were given the first hour of a professional development (PD) day to take part in one of many activities, including archery, yoga, table tennis, indoor soccer, an outdoor walk, and badminton. Our aim was to provide many different levels of activity and to include many different interests.
- Photo Scavenger Hunt: Staff were divided into teams and asked to bring in one digital camera per team. Each team was given 60 minutes to complete the scavenger hunt, which required them to visit different areas within the school and our immediate community outside of the school and take pictures at each stop. Teams were given points for a variety of categories, such as team with the most points, first team to finish, and most creative group photo.
- Team Games: We opened one PD day with a team game session. Staff were divided into teams and completed a circuit of games. The games included activities such as scooterboard races, riddle-solving, keeping several beach balls in the air, and using newspapers and limited amounts of tape to build the tallest free-standing building.
- Healthy Snacks: We provided staff with healthy snacks in the staffroom during exam days when they would be spending many hours grading. This is a one way to provide staff with not only healthy nutrition, but also some time to unwind and socialize with other staff members.
- Staff-Led Walks: We provided staff with a personal pedometer and invited them to take part in several walks offered throughout the day for a few weeks. We counted our steps and logged them toward a community initiative where trees would be planted for every 10,000 steps taken.
- Recipe Fridays: For several months, staff shared healthy recipes every Friday in an attempt to introduce each other to new and healthy ingredients.
- Bracelet Making: One PD day we joined our efforts as a staff to make several hemp bracelets to be sold to raise money for the school we were building in Haiti. This was an excellent opportunity to build relationships and do something to help our global community.
Post submitted by Sara J. Schmidt, mother, educator, and volunteer blogger for IDEA: The Institution for Democratic Education in America.
When I was studying to be a teacher, I had a discussion about my priorities with my grandmother. I told her about how I wanted my room to be a haven for the junior high kids I would be teaching. I wanted them to feel at home, where they could learn with open minds and open hearts. I wanted them to feel free to ask questions, experiment, play with words, and be creative. Rather than giving standardized tests, I would give relevant, oral and written assignments to challenge them and really glean what they had learned—not what they hadn’t.
To my surprise and disappointment, my hero looked me square in the eye and said that was nonsense, that all children need strict discipline and to just learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. I realized that my beloved grandmother, who encouraged me beyond anyone else, was simply speaking from her own time. After all, she’d had to drop out of school by the 8th grade to help raise her own siblings.
But not much has changed in the way of education since my grandmother’s time. Sure, we have iPods and computers, and typing classes are more mandatory than home economics—but the system itself has remained unchanged. Originally put into place to prepare children for the workhouse, American public schools continue to operate largely under this same modus operandi—though often masked with plenty of brightly colored bulletin boards and craft projects, and the occasional field trip to a local farm.
The fact remains that we continue to treat children as if they are going into the workhouse and not into the 21st century. Instead of focusing on test scores, we need to focus on the child. Worksheets, videos, and hours of homework intended to make children memorize answers to regurgitate on a multiple choice test do not encourage critical thinking, problem solving, self-direction, creativity, leadership, or even intelligence itself; all they do is teach one to play the game the system presents. Those who learn get by until college; those who do not—particularly the one in three kids who do not graduate—fall through the cracks.
What will teach children these skills? A whole child approach. By keeping our children healthy and safe, we can ensure that they have an environment conducive to learning. Could you learn with the threat of bullying, corporal punishment, humiliation, or harm looming over your shoulder? No. In fact, adults sue companies with working environments such as this. Why do we expect less for our children?
Engaging, supporting, and challenging children is integral to their development into creative leaders and intelligent problem solvers. Every child should have a support system that exists within his or her school, community, and family. He or she should feel engaged, with direct input on his or her education and direct support on his or her unique talents, interests, and abilities. He or she should feel safe enough to experiment, fail, and try again; and to question, invent, and solve.
Rather than making a one-size-fits-all shoe that students are pummeled into until their individuality and gifts are stripped—leaving a one-size-fits-all child who feels unvalued, ill-prepared, and not whole—an open array of educational options should be offered across the board.
This isn’t just in the best interest of the children—although that is a key and very necessary reason to adopt a whole child philosophy, as well as why parents in particular should support it. This is in the best interest of the nation. Rapidly developing technologies, new diseases and their remedies, the global economy and all of its challenges—all of these issues and more face the future leaders and thinkers of our country. In order to properly equip them to handle all of these issues—issues that will affect us and future generations—we must address children fully, wholly, as people, and not as memorized facts and figures or test scores.
Test scores do not solve problems.
Please write to your state board of education with me today and implore them to integrate a whole child approach into our education system as soon as possible. This may be the most important decision affecting America’s youth that they will ever face.
Post submitted by Mike Anderson, author of the forthcoming book The Well-Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out, and guest on this month's Whole Child Podcast
The school year is about to start! It's an exciting time of year, but it's also pretty hectic. There's the physical space to set up, lessons and units to prepare, students and families to get to know, and meetings to attend. All too often, we teachers find ourselves swamped with work right at the beginning of the year, and in a desperate attempt to start the year positively, we immediately move into overdrive, trying to do too much in too little time.
Before we know it, it's the middle of the year, we're still not caught up (we never really do, right?), and we've fallen into unhealthy patterns as we've tried to meet the impossible demands of our profession. I remember one year I got into the habit of stopping at Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's on the way to school every morning as I tried to get to school quickly to get extra work done. Six months and 25 pounds later, I had a hard habit to break!
We will all develop habits and patterns of behavior as a new school year begins. If we're proactive and thoughtful, we can get ourselves "stuck" in patterns of healthy behavior before bad habits emerge. Here are a few to consider:
- Make exercise a part of your getting-to-school routine in the morning. Bring your school clothes to the gym or the pool, work out, and then shower and head right to school.
- Plan healthy snacks to eat at school every day. Make Sunday evening your time to prepare and pack good snacks for the week.
- Pick one day a week to connect with positive colleagues. Maybe it's Wednesday mornings for breakfast at a local diner. It could be Friday afternoon for happy hour. It might be Tuesday mornings at school for a fun book group. Set something up, invite positive colleagues, and then stick to it!
- Pick a day a week to do some journaling. A few minutes to write down reflections from the week can help you detect patterns and trends in your students and your teaching that can help improve your practice.
What are some other ideas you have? What are some healthy patterns you'd like to establish this year? What will those habits look like? Share your ideas!
Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Ashley Magnifico
Although there are countless methods of teaching global citizenship, the International Baccalaureate (IB) is the most well-known educational model, especially for secondary education. According to the IB website, over 2,000 schools worldwide offer the IB Diploma Program, which is designed to prepare students age 16–19 "for success at university and life beyond."
Providing tools for curriculum development, student assessment, and training and evaluation in schools, the IB is designed to instill skills in
- critical thinking,
- independent learning,
- intercultural understanding,
- evaluating and constructing arguments, and
- solving problems creatively
All of these are essential to the democratic education model. (For a more comprehensive look at IB and examples of its programs in the United States, see "How IB Prepares Students" from the May 2008 issue of Educational Leadership magazine.)
The United States hosts about one-third of these schools—and some of the program's most outspoken critics. Leading the opposition is Lisa McLoughlin of Long Island, N.Y., founder of Truth About IB. Among the objections cited by this group are "values that conflict with traditional Judeo-Christian values," as well as "Marxist ideology," high costs to schools, and "the forfeiture of local control of school curriculum and culture."
McLoughlin is not alone in her criticism. In May, a group of Idaho parents took to the streets to protest a local elementary school's adoption of the IB Primary Years Program. Back in 2008, during an IB debate in nearby Utah, state Sen. Margaret Dayton blogged on senatesite.com that "the IB program teaches a skeptical unattached philosophy of world citizenship. It does not try to instill cultural identity ... I don't want to create 'world citizens' nearly as much as I want to help cultivate American citizens who function well in the world."
Many stakeholders in American education are unsure of how to deal with IB and the objections from its critics. One key issue is how IB compares to the College Board's Advanced Placement (AP) programs, which TAIB and other American IB critics greatly prefer. In a July 15 blog post, Jay Mathews of the Washington Post applauds both AP and IB for offering "the most challenging courses in U.S. high schools today." In fact, Mathews argues that "IB is slightly better" in assessing students, and laments that "college academic departments do not usually treat AP and IB equally" in assigning course credit. A New York Times article from July 2 makes a similar note but adds that IB is widely respected by colleges, several of which "give students with an IB diploma sophomore standing, and some offer special scholarships."
As for the charge from critics that IB is overly expensive, Mathews calculates that the cost to a Fairfax County, Va., high school is "about the amount that school paid for its baseball and softball programs." Funding for sports programs is an investment in healthy and well-rounded students; programs like IB should be evaluated on their merits as well. There are very few—if any—other programs that provide such a comprehensive support system and curriculum for teaching citizenship in today's "global village." Schools should judge IB on its benefits to students, not on the fears of outside interest groups.
Speech and theater saved Keegan Robinson, a shy student who could spit out standardized test answers but hadn't found the connection that would keep him coming back to school.
The dramatic arts brought him out of his shell and into the school community as a contributing member. He eventually won an academic scholarship to college.
Robinson, a former student of Bronx Preparatory Charter School in the South Bronx, N.Y., illustrates how essential a well-rounded education is to averting dropouts and, better yet, to nurturing career-, college-, and citizenship-ready young adults, said Bronx Prep arts educator Kate Quarfordt at Thursday's Capitol Hill briefing on policies that support balanced education.
Bronx Prep is located the poorest congressional district east of the Mississippi. "Kids in my neighborhood don't get a second chance," Quarfordt said.
We have to ask ourselves, she added, are our schools funneling kids into the dropout machine, or are we persuading kids to stay with us; graduate; and go on to college, career, and an engaged civic life?
She shared several other stories like Keegan's, where the "spirit of equality among disciplines" at South Bronx meant the difference between losing kids to the streets and changing lives for the better.
Quarfordt, and the other educators behind the more than 20 major organizations who have signed on to the well-rounded education consensus recommendations, provide the vital link between the classroom and education policy.
On the table for consideration: balanced representation of all the major disciplines in the coming ESEA reauthorization and federal funding schemes for education in FY11.
Although the Obama administration has proposed a $38.9 million (or 17%) increase in funding to support teaching and learning in the arts, history, civics, foreign languages, geography, and economics in the FY11 budget, the administration proposes combining eight subject-specific grant programs into a single competitive grant program. Disciplines would compete against each other to receive funds from the $265 million pot of money allocated under "A Well-Rounded Education" on the proposed FY11 budget.
The consensus recommendations presented on Thursday ask the U.S. Department of Education to amend this approach to promote collaboration, not competition, among the disciplines. Also important is a dedication to educator-developed standards of quality and accountability for all disciplines, not just language arts and math.
Forcing the disciplines to compete for funding runs the risk of perpetuating the status quo—a lopsided curriculum that offers no quarter for creativity or students like Keegan Robinson.
Post submitted by Whole Child Blogger Ashley Magnifico
The debate rages on over Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which passed this April as the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act and is scheduled to go into effect tomorrow, July 29, barring any federal injunctions.
This state law holds the police responsible for making "a reasonable attempt ... to determine the immigration status" of persons involved in "any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency." Further, "a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, may arrest a person" and transfer him or her to federal custody "if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States."
The intense controversy that has sprung up over SB 1070 has led many politicians, writers, and grassroots organizers to sound off loudly and often about immigration issues. However, many fail to mention the children of immigrants, who make up perhaps the largest group of stakeholders so routinely ignored in the debate.
According to a 2009 study by the Pew Hispanic Center, out of 5.5 million children of illegal immigrants, almost three-quarters were born in the United States. As American citizens, they have the same legal rights and protections as any other children. No one is as implicated in ensuring these rights as the public education system. But creating a learning environment where each child feels safe and supported can be quite a challenge amid the turmoil of immigrant deportations and raids.
A tearful 10-year old Catherine Figueroa testified at a congressional hearing in early June, saying,
Last year, both my parents were jailed for three long months. ... It was very hard for me every time when I went to school. I kept thinking that maybe I would see my parents when they got back home. I would also have bad dreams where the deputies would take my aunt, her family and me to jail. I am still afraid of the deputies. ... Please help us. Children don't know what to do without their parents.
A study published by the Urban Institute in February shows that Catherine's experience is typical for a child of detained immigrants. Participants of all ages and from several different regions demonstrated changes in eating and sleeping patterns, as well as symptoms of fearful, angry, and withdrawn behavior. For many children, these behaviors lingered from the short term (recorded at two months following parental arrests) to the long term (nine months after arrests).
Catherine's willingness to speak out against "the laws that are separating us from our parents" is also increasingly common among her peers. Kids from across the country are participating in civil disobedience prep classes, planning solidarity marches, even writing protest songs and demonstrating outside the White House.
The issue of American immigration reform is as old as this country itself and will surely last well into the future. But the increasing chaos, instability, and fear in the lives of children of immigrants is a tragedy that must be addressed today. Opinions on SB 1070 and other reform efforts may vary, but the thousands of students making their voices heard on this issue are an inspiration to us all.
For resources on student voice and student rights, visit Democratic Education on ASCD.org. Also, be sure to share your own ideas and experiences at the Democratic Education group on ASCD EDge.