Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Whole Child

This morning as I work on my final assignment for grad school (WOOHOO) my mind is spilling with thoughts, emotions, ideas, and questions. Our assignment is to first watch Sir Ken Robinson's TEDTalk "Do schools kill creativity?" then respond to a variety of questions and prompts. I find myself overflowing with what I want to say and hope that by blogging first, I can streamline these thoughts.

Several years ago our school read Sir Ken Robinson's book Creative Schools and I remember it being one of the first educational books that made me think - made me REALLY think and reflect and consider. It so happened at the same time my first child was beginning school. Listening to his words made all of these memories come flowing back and all the feels! *I must say before sharing more that in no way at all do I blame any educator for my children's experiences. As an educator, I have grown and evolved and understand how things work and I do not place blame. However, I do want to see and be part of the change that continues to push the boundaries of traditional education. I am thankful I belong to an innovative district that is constantly moving to provide new ways of learning while asking questions and encouraging learning forward.*

It is stated in the TEDTalk that 'all kids have talents and the education system squanders them' and I completely agree this is true when we only focus on academics. Sir Ken Robinson shares the story of a girl - her parents were told she may have a learning disability when in fact she was a gifted dancer! Once given the best learning environment for her needs, she was able to grow and learn and eventually create CATS! Wow!

What are we doing to ensure our children are provided all they need to be well-rounded members of society? Not later - not when they graduate, but now? Please know there are children around the world making a difference at very young ages - thanks to technology and social media, people of ALL ages make an impact. We do not need to prepare them for tomorrow as much as preparing them for today. For now.

Traditional education systems were formed to educate the masses, often preparing students for factory work or war - hence the lines of silent students walking from one place to another, or completing a set of tasks to show mastery of a concept. If you look around, few work environments function this way anymore. People collaborate, must have strong communication skills, must be able to work independently and self-motivate to complete a wide variety of tasks in multiple environments. Where are all the people walking in a line silently? I struggle to understand the reasons for some of the expectations we still hold in high regard without understanding how it is best for children.

One child I know has such a strong athletic ability. He shows exceptional control on a pitching mound, where he is still and focused and holds the entire game on his shoulders with confidence. Yet if you ask this child to read a book or write a story, he faces multiple challenges. He can appear to be impulsive and hyper, but if you really know him, he is the most caring and loving person and wants to be accepted. Another child I know is overflowing with curiosity. He wants to take things apart - not just physical items, but also ideas. He begs to gather information and question the norm. He finds no value in knowing facts, he knows he can 'ask Alexa' or Google it; so memorization holds no weight to him. He wants to program things and feel challenged. At three years old, he carried a tiny notebook around drawing ideas and writing questions; but at school, he had to put it away. These stories I have seen first hand, as these are my children.

Please, know your students. Please, ask them questions and value their answers. Know who they are and what their strengths are. Some people need to move. They feel like they can't breathe when they have to sit still and conform. Some people need to talk. They thrive on learning from others. Some people need to be alone. All of the noise, movement, action just exhausts them. Don't you know adults like this? Children are no different.

Continue to ask questions. Continue to learn forward and provide options that are in the best interests of your students. Let's continue to promote educating the whole child.

In what ways can we challenge the traditional system and evolve to value all unique strengths of students?


  1. Congrats on finishing graduate school!

    I am frustrated by this too. I have come to realize a whole-child issue deserves a whole-child solution. I have had the most success when I enter into a successful partnership with home. Not always, but usually that yields the best results. I have realized that sometimes I only get to be a part of the solution, and I still try my hardest. But instead of losing when I see a child under the stresses of school which s/he is not successful with I try to let them know they are not alone, and I see them and how cool they are, and I value them. That is the least I can do - and I do that the most. :)

    1. Our district is implementing the Student Voice project this year district-wide. I find it incredibly valuable in really knowing our students, knowing their needs, passions, plus inviting them to participate in their learning with feedback and designing their work. Thank you for sharing your experience. I appreciate the comment. : )

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic, Erin! This year my oldest child started kindergarten and it has really helped to re-frame the teaching and learning that takes place at school for me and the work that I do to support teaching and learning for educators in my school district. Specifically, I think about the opportunities we are providing students to interact with technology.

    You posed the question " [w]hat are we doing to ensure our children are provided all they need to be well-rounded members of society? Not later - not when they graduate, but now?". That is such an important question to ask. I read that and think about how we are empowering students to be creators of content and responsible citizens in both the digital and face to face world they live in. It's so important that we prepare are students for these worlds by doing more that playing games on iPads and taking quizzes on Chromebooks, but instead providing opportunities to create authentic content and interact with authentic audiences in both their digital and analog work.

    Congrats on finishing your graduate studies!