By Rhonda Peterson, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Southern Hancock County Community School Corporation
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, especially within the four walls of a school building that is filled with rambunctious children who are counting down the days until winter break. During this season, I tend to slow down a bit and focus on the joys of childhood and the magic that permeates the air. This atmosphere encourages me to remember that there is more to educating a child than data charts and formative assessments. In fact, as I look upon this new era of education, I see a glimmer of hope, that we will once again begin to focus on the whole child as educators. The federal legislation known as No Child Left Behind called upon a stricter set of standards and assessment practices. It promoted accountability measures that leaders thought would bring about widespread change and marked academic improvements. I do think some of these measures were needed, and we have gained ground with closing the achievement gap; but researchers, educators and lawmakers alike have been reminded over the past decade that a well-balanced education system is what breeds success. This balanced culture includes the arts, humanities, and most importantly the social and emotional well being of our students.
In a recent ASCD article entitled Sowing the Seeds of Hope, authors Barr and Gibson outline four simple beliefs that help guide our work towards meeting the emotional needs of today’s diverse student population: optimism, place, pride and purpose. As educators we must provide an environment that cultivates optimism; the inherent belief that things can always get better and that all children are capable of great things. We must provide a place of belonging, where learning can grow out of a foundation of respect and encouragement. We must once again teach students what it means to feel pride for their community and more importantly for themselves. Children must learn how hard work, determination, and a sense of pride can carry them on the pathway to success. Lastly, we must help students find their sense of purpose in this complex world when it is harder than ever to navigate the complexities that lie ahead.
So as this year comes to an end and a new educational landscape lies ahead, let us re-dedicate ourselves to educating the whole child. Let us remember that our students are more than a score or a number, they are human beings filled with potential and hope.
For more on this subject, visit ASCD’s resources on educating the Whole Child, including the article referenced below.
Sowing Seeds of Hope by: Robert D. Barr and Emily L. Gibson, Online June 2015 | Volume 72
Improving Schools from Within Pages 22-27