Teaching the Whole Child
by J'Anne Ellsworth
To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society - Teddy Roosevelt
Our children are the future. The education of our youngsters can nurture lifelong community building and self development if it is person building and community building. As youngsters work in our schools and then go out to greet the world, it can be with excitement and energy, with a will to continue to grow and a desire to share their idiosyncratic preciousness with the world.
Will I have less to do if those around me treat these youth as costume quality or paste?
We do gain unbelievable treasure in working with children.
We do not own the students, but the treasure of their presence, their
personalities, thoughts, ideas and essence is ours for a time each day.
Many students lose sight of their own value. So many have no one but a
peer to tell them how special they are. We can recognize and share the
knowledge with them, even, at times, act as the intermediary who brings
their merit to attention.
The dual nature of the human journey became defined earlier in this material, the autonomous and heteronomous push and pull, the tandem peddling from self as focus to acceptance of self by others. Recognizing, understanding and addressing what it means to be a human being, and in particular each special and gifted student becomes the foundation of education. And as a dual thrust, we then turn our understanding to the knowledge that each unique and wonderful child’s journey is taken in the midst of people. Hopefully it is with companions and in the company of outstanding models, but often life is lived in a milieu of detractors and distractions; the helpless or weak, the courageous loving builder and visionary, the bully, the uncertain, lonely, the ill defined, power hungry, the taker, the sharing giver.
Thus each journey for self fulfillment is taken in concert with humanity, surrounded by and in the midst of others. And, like all successful life travelers, our students must eventually realize that the most profound understanding of self comes through interaction with others. As Plato noted, to be fully human, one must accept the social nature of being.
Year by year we move around the spiral of personal definition, at times more involved in autonomous perspective, self absorbed, demanding, reclaiming the importance of individuality. At other times, we seem propelled by the angst of caring, giving, apparent selflessness, and thus at a more heteronomous stage. Both parts of the journey are vital, and both ways of being need to be valued. Though the autonomous (sometimes selfish and self involved) stages appear more isolated, they too occur in the purview of others and the struggles with self is defined by others’ level of tolerance and needs.
As educators become more adept at recognizing the dual nature of the human journey, we can build on the power and strength of that dynamic set of forces. Like a generator, the interplay between organizing selfhood and the building of a personal community are functions of the inherent driving life force. By understanding and then using the power inherent in these basic drives, these normal functions in each person’s development we maximize effective learning. We gain responsiveness and trust from students which enhances involvement in learning. Rather than plodding through the twelve years as so many say they do now, students may be assisted to catapult themselves through learning situations. The educator who is responsive to the internalized drives and inherent pursuits in the development cycle, assists each student to recognize and capitalize on the natural energy of growth. Through effective enhancement of developmental pressures students are assisted in constructive personal and social gains.
A free-flowing, stimulating and friendly classroom is a wonderful byproduct of establishing such an educational environment. It naturally occurs when a master teacher matches the nature and development of the students with the content and expectations. It is further enhanced through valuing the individuality of each person and establishing and teaching healthy community and group process. Teachers who have found the match exult in the time spent teaching and express a great sense of fulfillment and pleasure. Students look forward to school and see learning as a normal extension of every life experience. Parents are gratified and delighted. Each parent sees the student as a gifted, challenging, unique treasure. With the school mirroring that vision in the way the parent and community members are treated the parents becomes great advocates!
The new frontier may not be outer space, or sea exploration, but rather evolving, articulating and developing the inner space of human understanding. creating an educational and human systems program that has the capacity to serve as a true personal development and society building system. Our understanding of astronomy and physical science has changed dramatically from the view proposed by Socrates. Much less progress has been made in furthering our understanding of human nature from what he understood and posited of human kind.
Resources already exist to make an important paradigm shift in education. With little more than additional training and a change in what we believe students need to know, we could prepare our youth for the future that businesses predict. We could fulfill the visions and hopes of great educational philosophers who foresaw education as the portals of the future. We certainly can intensify the quality of time spent on interactional critical thinking, more clearly develop the student perception that learning is a life long joyous pursuit. We can offer assistance with self control and teach responsibility more fully. We can simultaneously develop human sensitivity to fully authenticate self and share self with society.
This new focus will allow us to keep all of the effective practices we currently use, to sharpen the tools we have already developed and to gain impetus and excitement for the tasks ahead by realizing how much of current best practice is suited to developmental and human needs of individuals and society.
A Change - Introducing the new "R"
Flanders' (1970) and Galloway's (1970) research are two notable exceptions. They established the importance of a teacher's quality of interaction skills. We have not written much about educational relationship and process (Bruner, 1962; Maslow, 1971) so we have not hypothesized and extensively researched its importance. Until cooperative learning research we had not rigorously tested for community building in the educational setting, not actively recognized its presence or the magnitude of its impact. Nevertheless, it is an omnipresent part of each classroom setting. It is important to note that early teachers and philosophers who wrote about education frequently highlighted the social arenas and relationships inherent in education. Cooperative Learning (Slavin, 1991; Johnson & Johnson, 1987), Community of Learners (Brown, 1988) and Megaskills (Rich, 1988) are examples of the resurgence of interest in teaching the substance and skills of human process and relationship.
It may be an unwritten presumption that people are "born" with a social sense and social settings are an automatic part of the child's growing experiences, hence relationship need not be taught, or presumed to be unteachable. Certainly in the recent past, social events and opportunities were more present than they appear to be today.
In the past fifty years many factors decreased the number of natural social interactions present as learning opportunities in a child's day. Some of these factors include smaller families with less physical attachment to extended family, the move away from a small interdependent community into a more insulated city atmosphere, a larger percentage of free time spent watching rather than actively participating or being entertained rather than engaging in entertainment.
Given these facts, and assuming that relationship is a vital part of being human, of being educated, how would this emphasis on relationship and process best be integrated into the existing framework of schools? First, it would be important for educators to recognize just how much of the educational day is spent in interaction and thus to develop a more stereoscopic vision of education, by looking at the teaching day from this and several other perspectives.
2. Percentage of the day spent on outcome - product
3. What number of lesson objectives cover outcome - product?
4. Percentage of the day's activities which are not lecture style
5. Which personal school experiences and activities provided lasting expertise? - How many of the truly important skills did you learn on your own?
A mental rehearsal focuses awareness on how much of the educational
day is spent in relationship, in the process of working toward product.
Indeed, for many, this review of daily educational practice provides insight
that process and relationship are more than the background of education
and are inherently valued.
We know a great deal about relationship
1) Does a body of information address relationships
2) Is the material accessible to educators?
3) Could it be learned by or taught to current
4) How hard would it be to get it in place in
5) What knowledge base would we have to sacrifice
if we include process and
The cognitive knowledge base would remain substantially unchanged. The major areas of change would come in more effectively teaching what is currently valued, recognizing flaws in presentation of developmentally inappropriate tasks, and retooling the processes for presenting vital knowledge and concepts. Frequently suggestions that we address the needs of the child are met with suspicions that building esteem and building knowledge may be antithetical. That has not been true of these initial field studies.
Relationship goes hand in hand with responsibility. The student is reassured from the beginning that education will be a challenge and will call forth great effort and dedication. The child is taught responsibility for self and action in the same sentence with personal freedom. Teachers stress to young people that they have a right to be educated, a right to be called upon to push their own limits, and that they have a responsibility to learn above and beyond limits set by educators. Students who are taught in this manner excel; push beyond the boundaries normally expected, rise to the call to give their best.
6) Would curriculum and instruction change radically?
7) Could we measure process and relationship?
8) Could we evaluate and report
student abilities in process?
It is important that we relish the miracle of being human. The future of humanity counts upon that recognition. It is also important to give new credence to the student as learner, as self educator, and as being already in possession of crucial tools for learning which teacher and parents will hone rather than ignore, discount or override. Children possess a fundamental humanity which deserves to be recognized and educated further. That manifestation of human nature is something many have been unable to address in education. As pointed out earlier, it consists of the "process", the relationships, those things which science has not yet learned to measure, and we have thus chosen to ignore.
Unlike many of those creatures in the animal kingdom which we have studied, we choose to feel as others feel, intend to treat others as we wish to be treated, work to mature beyond simple physical development, wish to develop morally, strive for a relationship of peace and joy in the company of others. We are a species with “will” and that sets us apart.
as Natural Learners
From this moment of recalling the marvel of human learning, we rekindle a recognition of how important it is to educate rather than train the human being. In recognizing the status of the child comes a desire to dedicate our educational lives beyond "do no harm". It is a request that we reevaluate current practice. Teachers know what kinds of things are exciting for students. We know what activities are so meaningful that our class doesn’t know the bell is about to ring, doesn't want to stop the learning of the moment, calls out for repetition of an activity and permission to continue. We know well the frustration and ultimate futility of trying to teach something beyond a student's developmental ability.
We can discover, if unsure, that students have a work ethic, though it may not have the same dimensions as the adult ability to maintain task commitment. We know that youth need a sense of accomplishment, that they revel in a job well done and that they will stick relentlessly to those things which are developmentally appropriate; taking first steps, riding a bicycle, shooting hoops, practicing cheers, pumping iron. These are examples of developmentally appropriate tasks in the physical domain. They are ways students push themselves to the edge of endurance.
We seldom address these particular areas of expertise in the educational system. The physical domain is not often attended to beyond kindergarten or outside of Physical Education, though it is a useful vehicle for learning especially for those with kinesthetic learning styles and psychomotor intelligence. The important point here is the willingness of youth to push and be pushed when the internal timing and task orientation coincide.
It also presses for recognition of the other domains in the PEPSI model as areas for teaching, perhaps areas which are more valuable for preparing students to be educated than some of the tasks we are currently demanding; tasks which youth love to do, fleeting information which teens acquire, but with no recognition of a measured change in the education of the person.
This next illustration shows a Picasso called First Steps. Something about this representation distills the notion of child as capable and responsible learner. At the same time the role of the teacher, a nanny in this particular case, is also aptly shown.
We can develop secondary education with the same excitement, joy, uncertainty, tenderness as a mother faces those first steps, cherishes those first words. -- protection and exhilaration, --- mother protects, smoothes the way, but celebrates each progression -- good mother continues to pave a safe path, to cringe at the bumps and bruises, but to also press for challenges, for getting beyond the hard times. The press or motivation is internalized for the child and the reasonable parent does not interfere. Even when we cheer, it does not significantly change the child's push.
If a parent tries to stop the child's explorations, it is usually met with renewed efforts to succeed and an unstoppable press forward. If the parent tries to pattern the child's moves, the child resists inherently, through some internalized message, seeming to know the next steps and to work incessantly at the drill and practice of perfecting the moves necessary to move from crawler to toddler, to walker, and then to the joy of mastery of our body as runner.
In the Classroom
This teaching role calls for a belief in the inherent right to push forward. It also calls forth self discipline to stand by, excitement about new and dangerous challenges, and ultimately asks for the wisdom to trust and believe in each student, in the unlimited potential of each human being. Some of these perspectives about education are new. The role of filling and shaping a student's mind has always been accorded to educators. Recognition that the mind is already primed, already brimming with notions, concepts, ideas, has been stated as early as Socrates’ era, but it has not been appreciated in today’s educational perspectives if it has been given credence. In fact there are many cartoons showing the teacher as frustrated and angry because the student focused attention in other places than what the teacher has decided are the matters at hand.
The role of seeing the child as a person in his/her own right and dealing with the child as an empowered personality has frequently been discounted. As uncomfortable as is may be to recognize:
1) Youngsters do have definite ideas and attitudes, some of which are solely reflections of their own thinking and individual personalities.
2) Youth have become enfranchised and they know that they have rights -- in fact many need to be taught the responsibilities which go with those rights so they can develop in socially appropriate ways and make choices which will not hamper their entire future.
3) Ignoring the student or discounting his or her ideas or feelings is unethical.
4) Empowering the student as learner, teaching the roles, rights and responsibilities of education and the role of an educated person with respect to ideas and feelings is functional, appropriate and necessary.
person in the classroom is entitled to learn - and in an unfortunate sense,
is a possible threat to the educational environment if the ability to
control and manipulate is not focused productively, if control issues
and self gratification are allowed to give license. Therefore the learning
community setting teaches students a sense of responsibility to self and
others to be self disciplined and socially responsible.
This cord is the one which will hold up the weighty obligations involved in preparing the nation's youth to be good citizens, to be educated, to move civilization forward, yet at the same time it is gentle enough to pull out the individual and distinctive best in each youth, to allow each student to take on the role of society and maintain the joyousness of individuality. Thus the students and teacher are enabled to live life intertwining the gift of self and selflessness.
The categories are
These eight areas are developed in some detail, and are represented as a series of practices and abilities which are developmental and incremental. The process skills are not taught as a separate set of competencies which take up new curriculum time, but instead are integrated into thematic units which are already being taught or as part of the substance of a lesson in math, English, science, etc.
Steps for Integrating Process
a) lessons would be planned and executed combining specific content
and specific process skills
b) process would be systematized and taught using goals and objectives
c) the student learning of the process skills would be tied to appropriate evaluation
d) the process portion of the curriculum would be reported to parents and be a requisite portion of the school's scope and sequence
e) classroom, group and individualized goals would be used to facilitate the teaching of process proficiencies.
Once process skills are incorporated into a large number of teaching settings it will be possible to assess which developmental progression will be most beneficial and which will work well for classrooms at differing grade levels. It will also become easier to see ways in which teachers have combined skills and concepts most effectively and creatively with specific subject matter. It may also become clear that some of these process skills, such as learning to be a learner, acquiring the skills for decision making, for leadership, for self control, are continuous elements.
We frequently believed that essential learning behaviors and skills were being acquired systematically. Unfortunately much have been left to chance, presented in a cursory fashion, not recognized as valuable by some youngsters. For some students, there are many more missing skills than we expected.
Beginning at the District Level
* Establish a philosophy of education consonant with relationship and
process * Determine the components which will be used in classroom
The changes suggested will not work as a Band-Aid or a small procedure with local anesthetic applied. To provide the type of education which will encourage the growth of responsible adults and assist in true human development, we will need to adjust our philosophy, reconstitute our discipline and classroom management, establish new guidelines for what constitutes valuable use of educational time. We will find ourselves revitalizing the reporting system to parents and the community and recognize the power of asking students to be involved in the monitoring and reporting of their own progress.
We will find that students are one of our most powerful assets in the classroom and become excited about the roles they take in accelerating the healthy development of relationship as a valued function of education. Certainly it will be a delight to have them realize their potential for loving education and looking forward to each school day unlike many of our consumers of the past.
The global overview or perspective of implementing a process / product curriculum which focuses on the teaching and learning relationships has been suggested. It requires the work of the entire learning community if implementation is to be complete and consistent. If, however, a teacher becomes interested in trying the ideas on a smaller more personal scale - implementation in one classroom - there are guides and steps which would allow this to occur. In those schools where this has been effected on a classroom by classroom basis, certain situational arrangements proved to be important.
Those other educators in the school with whom the teacher works need to be aware of the process curriculum.
to be told, usually by letter, that the students will be involved in a
proactive classroom setting and that their child will be expected to take
responsibility for learning, and then parents need to be encouraged to
participate and stay abreast and involved with progress.
Grading philosophy needs to be altered at least to the extent that the students are involved in monitoring their own progress and the emphasis on mastery of skills and competencies becomes more important than competitive ranking.
Achievement tests can be given and students can be expected to outperform those of equal ability who are not involved in process education, but there needs to be a clarification that the achievement tests are not giving a valid, reliable or responsive measure of student achievement, teacher expertise or true educational competencies.
The following models provide a developmental sequence for the seven
areas of process education. These charts have been organized to include
a cluster of related skills and concepts. They are also meant to be developmental
and "catch" a typical student's quest for initiating and working
energetically toward acquisition of the skills as a set of personal abilities
at the approximate grade levels listed. The charting is neither inclusive
nor exhaustive. Instead, it is a beginning point to spark excitement and
generate a more thorough scope and sequence in each set of skills. These
can be adapted for each classroom and district setting.
If this is such a good idea, why didn't we do it before? This is an exciting part of the concept. We have been doing it, and in some cases we have been doing it very well. We have not been getting credit for teaching process and have not given students, past or present, name recognition of its presence or an understanding of its vital place in their lives. In fact many times students have seen it as a ";by the way" outcome and not given education full credit for the impact it has had in their lives.
In addition, we have not been actively providing training or guidance in areas of process or relationship to educators. We have not been testing for its presence in the curriculum, so we have not been accurately reporting gains. Since it was not tested, many educators discounted or failed to recognize the inherent value. Nevertheless, relationship and process education have existed to some extent in every classroom.
Where we begin
* The something inside which happens so that 2 + 2 = 4 is more than
a rote statement
A starting place for defining relationship might be:
The following may initiate excitement and energy for change.
Determine how these things can be developed most effectivelyEncourage
a home school partnership to tie community building to home and school
Brown, D.S. (1988). Twelve middle-school teachers’ planning. Elementary
School Journal, 89, 69-88.
You should now:
E-mail J'Anne Ellsworth at Janne.Ellsworth@nau.edu
Web site created by the NAU OTLE Faculty Studio
Course developed by J'Anne Ellsworth
Copyright 1998 Northern Arizona University