The quintessential role of educators is to provide safe environments for children to flourish emotionally, academically, and physically. As we discuss safety, it is important to consider care—a magic bullet in this conversation.
The current debate about school safety, as tragic as recent events may be, risks derailing the positive direction we need to go in as a nation if we want to uphold the broadest purpose of education: What kind of people are we preparing to lead society into the future? The very sad incident in Newtown was the result of one individual's mental impairment and a variety of factors—including his access to weapons—that happened to come together in a perfect storm at an elementary school. But if our response is to arm our schools, I'm afraid that by that logic we must also arm our cinemas and arm our supermarket parking lots. The list will go on and on. In other words, the Newtown issue is not so much about school shootings as it is about a shooting that took place at a school, like many others that have taken place in many other environments.
As the education world around us continues to spiral through the misguided insanity of testing as both the academic means and the end, I remain steadfast in my determination to provide whatever I can to ensure that each and every student who walks through the door of my school has equitable access to high-quality instruction and is provided the kinds of learning opportunities that nurture academic risk-taking, critical inquiry, and principled reflection. In short, I expect for my students the same as I expect for my own children. I want them equipped to make a consciously positive impact on the world around them. We need to spend at least as much time developing the self-efficacy, collaboration, and problem-solving skills they will need to make this happen as we do preparing (enabling) them for success on our current professional obsession—the high-stakes standardized assessment.
Safety is and will always be a fundamental concern for schools. Students who aren't or don't feel safe at school cannot learn, and schools must ensure that their environments are both secure and supportive. The current debate on school safety brings with it a renewed interest in addressing safety, school climate, and mental health concerns at schools and promises to improve school policy and practice.
Yet while the current debate has engaged the nation in community-wide discussions, it also has the potential to overlook the voices of educators. In this episode of the Whole Child Podcast, host Sean Slade and guests discuss what we, as educators, believe is crucial to making our schools safe—not just physically safe, but safe places to teach and learn. You'll hear from
"It takes a whole village to raise a child," goes the African proverb in the focus of Jane Cowen-Fletcher's 1994 children's book1. I'd like to build on this wisdom to propose that it takes a whole school to educate the whole child. All of us, policymakers; communities; families; administrators; staff; teachers; and, importantly, school librarians, must work in concert to ensure that children are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. School librarians have a special contribution to creating an environment that welcomes all forms of expression; creativity; and active, interdisciplinary learning.
What does it mean to be a teacher, a learner, and a leader in today's schools and classrooms? What do we need to be effective? How will the current standards movement affect us, as professionals, and our students? How do we find out the answers to these questions?
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.
During the last few months, I have had the chance to talk with several speakers who strongly affected their audiences. I started to think about the remarkable leaders with whom I have worked over the years and how they have made huge differences with their incredible wisdom, insight, and actions. I contacted some of them and asked them to comment on working in education in these difficult times. I asked them to share some take-away messages, so that, if they were speaking, what would they want their audience to remember? Read the other installments in the series: school safety, student services, and teaching.
Leadership is essential to effective education. Here are some "Tips from the Trenches" from the school leaders and leaders of national education organizations themselves.
Inspired by the young adult novel The Misfits, where characters work together to create a no name-calling day in their schools, this annual event aims to end name-calling of all kinds in schools and communities everywhere. The No Name-Calling Week Coalition, created by whole child partner the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, provides students and educators with opportunities and resources to help celebrate the event. Below are 10 simple ways you and your school community can participate.