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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Educating the Whole Child - Happy New School Year!

Happy New Year!
The dog days of August are approaching and, soon, school doors will open welcoming students to a new school year. With any new year, we are given to both reflection and resolution. As you reflect on your past practices as a teacher, find those things that not only worked but made teaching enjoyable. As you make your resolutions for the upcoming school year, let one of them be to educate the whole child.
Educating the whole child consists of five components.
1.       Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
It cannot be overstated the impact a student’s health has on both short-term and long-term achievement. Does your school culture support and reinforce the health and well-being of each child? If not, then let it begin with you. Be attentive to your students and watch for any changes in behavior or increased absenteeism. When you see signs, take positive actions; after all, inaction is the same as acting negatively. Use parent conference to discuss nutrition and a home environment that includes opportunities for active play. Work with them and others in the school community to identify health care providers to help children get the medical attention they need. For yourself, model a healthy lifestyle so that you influence not just their learning but also their health and physical well-being.
2.       Each student learns in an intellectually challenging environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
Safety is a basic pre-condition to learning as none of us wants to spend a majority of our waking day in an environment where we do not feel safe. If you are given duty, use it as a time to monitor what the students are doing. Take a pro-active approach to make sure children are safe-especially if you see children victimized or bullied. Make sure your classroom is a safe haven of community because for some students it may the only safe place they have to go. Let your actions speak of safety and respect and try not to shut your door, emotionally or physically, in the face of a child.
3.       Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the broader school community.
Successful students are connected to their school community-they feel safe, they recognize that everyone on campus respects them, and they begin to make positive choices that impact their well-being across the rest of their lives. This connectedness makes school a place they want to be rather than have to be. When students want to be in school, they will be; and when they are in school, learning takes place. Take time to get to know your students and provide opportunities for them to get to know one another. To minimize the impact and effects of bullying, use class time to talk about respect and make sure that everyone who enters your classroom models the rules that you and your students abide by.
Removing the challenges and barriers to school participation helps students focus on their learning and fosters active engagement that is self-driven and self-directed. You want your students to engage in inquiry to expand their learning and their success in order to enhance intrinsic motivation.
4.       Each student has access to personalized learning and to qualified caring adults.
All students have unique learning needs and your classroom is home to students with disabilities, those who are gifted and talented, speak different languages, and a host of other characteristics and values. It may not be possible to personalize learning 100% of the time but there are opportunities that you need to take advantage of. Think about the feedback you give to your students. Make sure the feedback is tied to learning goals and reflects information that benefits students collectively and individually. It also helps if it is sometimes spontaneous and does not result in a grade. More significantly, personalize the feedback so that it actually helps the student shape behavior and improve individual learning. This is just one way that you can begin to personalize learning for your students.
5.       Each high school graduate is prepared for success in college, for further study, and/or for employment in the global environment.
More and more emphasis is being placed on ensuring that students graduate from high school college and career-ready with the ability to succeed in a global environment. As daunting as this may seem, it begins with setting high expectations for all students in the context of curricula that embeds learning disciplines. English is no longer just English; it embodies the depth of history, the precision of hard sciences, or the richness of art. Teach across disciplines and work collaboratively with colleagues to ensure that what you teach is aligned vertically with other grade levels and content. Also, actively incorporate critical thinking skills in instruction and recognize the benefit of utilizing technology such as smart phones and iPads as well as the power of social media such as Twitter and Facebook when used as learning tools. Take time to expand your own understanding and use of technology; you also have to be successful in the global environment.
Effective teaching is not so much about being the “sage on the stage” as it is the “guide on the side.” Structure your classroom and your instruction to align with qualitative and quantitative data that makes the most of your time in front of your students and their time in your classroom. Learning is life-long, not an August-to-June practice where one year exists in isolation from one another. It is connected just like life. As you begin this new year, resolve to teach the whole child.
Oh, and Happy New Year!
For more information on Teaching the Whole Child, 
Source: An E-newsletter from the Texas State Teachers Association - August 2012 
2012 Texas State Teachers Association • 316 West 12th Street, Austin, TX 78701 • 877-ASK-TSTA  

1 comment:

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