Inspired Teacher                         January 18, 2010
An Inspired Teacher enables students to become knowledgeable and self-disciplined, with the skills to think and solve complex problems in school and in real life.
In This Issue
Whole Child-Inspiring Quotes
Inspired Activities that Teach the Whole Child
On the Web: Whole Child Resources

Whole Child is hard, but can we stomach the Part Child approach?

I've never met a teacher who didn't agree that teaching the "whole child" is important. Talk to anyone who has been in the classroom for even a few weeks and they'll be able to give you myriad examples of the physical, emotional, and intellectual growth - and needs - of their students.

But nearly every teacher I know has struggled mightily with the notion that she can actually create a classroom environment that fosters growth in all these areas equally.

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Whole Child-Inspiring Quotes

In research for this issue we came across the following quotes which we thought you might enjoy:

Many things can wait. Children cannot. Today their bones are being formed, their blood is being made, their senses are being developed. To them we cannot say "tomorrow." Their name is today.
- Gabriela Mistral (Chilean teacher 1899 - 1957)

Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.
- John Dewey

Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.
- Plato

Excellence in education is when we do everything that we can to make sure they become everything that they can.
- Carol Tomlinson

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What does it mean to teach the "whole child"?

"Educating the whole child" is a phrase that has been in and out of style for over 100 years, but as the engines rev up for the re-authorization of ESEA (currently the "No Child Left Behind Act") and talk builds over the Race to the Top initiative, it's one of those phrases that's starting to mean different things to different people.

At the core of the "whole child" concept is the understanding that children grow physically, emotionally, and intellectually; therefore, school should attend to all of these areas of growth.

Few schools ignore the physical and emotional growth of children entirely, but many operate under the assumption that gym once a week and a few assemblies on character fulfill two-thirds of the whole child puzzle. In addition, our high stakes testing environment has significantly narrowed ideas about what "intellectual growth" entails. And if the goal of school is to prepare young people for life, one has to wonder what teaching "part" instead of the "whole" child will mean for the future.

Consider this thought-experiment: One of your students will grow up to become the President of the United States. Is your classroom preparing her or him for such a role?

Over the past year President Obama has had to go far beyond the knowledge of academic standards to keep the country running. His social and emotional skills have been put to the test in situations ranging from race relations to international tragedy. He's had to keep himself healthy while pushing for better health care for the masses. He's had to find ways to solve massive problems for the nation, while maintaining his role as a family man.

What are you doing to build the foundations for such wide-ranging skills and dispositions?  

We're going to dedicate the next five issues of the Inspired Teacher newsletter to a deeper exploration of what teaching the whole child entails. We'll use the framework provided by ASCD's Whole Child campaign to look at what teachers can do to ensure students are:
  • Healthy,
  • Safe,
  • Engaged,
  • Supported, and
  • Challenged
To get started on this quest, we've identified some interesting resources on the topic of whole child education as well as some of our own strategies for this instructional approach.
A Few Inspired Activities that Teach the Whole Child

Many more of these in the 5 issues that are to follow, but hopefully you'll find something immediately applicable in the selection below:

Child-centered approaches to teaching standards
When you have hundreds of standards to teach and only 9 months in which to teach them, it's easy to make excuses for why student voice, curiosity, creativity, and imagination aren't priorities in the classroom. But the experienced teachers know that classroom management becomes the focus of instruction when student interest is not part of the curriculum.

10 Ways to Show You Value Your Students
This list of community-building strategies requires little more than your time. It is by no means comprehensive and we'd love to add your ideas to it!

Random Walk
Apply this movement activity to a review of virtually any terminology, or use it to have students explore math concepts. Unfortunately Random Walk really only works in large open spaces, so you may want to make use of a cafeteria, gym, empty classroom, or playground to explore this activity.
On the Web: Whole Child Resources

The Whole Child
ASCD's campaign for broadscale education reform that proposes "a broader definition of achievement and accountability that promotes the development of children who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged."

August to June: with respect for each child
Check out this inspiring video project in the making - explore a year in the life of a 3rd/4th grade public school classroom in California where, in the words of the producers students "still look forward to school." You can access short trailers from the film through the link above, a longer trailer can be found here.

Curriculum-Development Group Urges Focus Shift to Whole Child
A 2007 article about research from ASCD pointing to the importance of a well-rounded education in ensuring student success.

What "Whole Brain" Means: Why Wholeness Matters
by Geoffrey Caine and Renate Nummela Caine
This brief article explores the idea that we short-change the potential of our students' minds by teaching concepts in isolation and in tiny parts rather than immersing the students in sensory experiences that teach the concepts as part of a whole. This idea is part of a larger body of research termed "Natural Learning." You can learn more about the philosophy and approach here.
Center for Inspired Teaching is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that exists to ensure schools make the most of children's innate desire to learn. We do this by investing in teachers. Please visit our website to learn more about our philosophy, programs, and results.