On April 30th, a group of educators came together to reflect on the ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative and the context of the British Columbian educational system. A group from ASCD’s Whole Child In Action Award winning school, Byrne Creek Secondary, spoke about their school situation, including socio-economic, academic and community influences that converged to help create the school eight years ago. Sandi Lauzon (vice-principal), Iha Farquhar (Community School Coordinator), Maureen DeCamp (EAL teacher) and Mirella Gargiulo (EAL teacher) each displayed the committment and care that they have for their students. Chef Jonas and his Ace-It team created a delicious selection of dishes for dinner that was extremely well received.
I had the pleasure of speaking to many of the educators throughout the evening, including TTOC’s, student-teachers, teachers, counsellors, adminstrators and university education specialists. Each had their own unique situation and thoughts around the Whole Child, but one theme emerged: this isn’t a top-down approach to improving student outcomes.
In Byrne Creek, new programmes and support were all developed by teachers when they had the opportunity to stop, see what was working, what wasn’t working, and where they should go next. The concept of H.E.A.R.T., which was developed at the very opening of the school, became the lens through which they viewed everything in the school, from the free breakfasts, lunches and dinners, the sports and artistic opportunities right through to Later to Literacy programmes they developed.
After the meeting, I spoke with several of my school’s teachers about the Whole Child initiative. A recurring theme re-emerged around the need for teachers to collaborate, find the issues themselves and develop their own solutions. This is quite a daunting task for educators who are slowly (or quickly) becoming the swiss army knife of the community. Teachers are supposed to be nurses, bus drivers, youth care workers, counsellors, chefs, mothers, fathers, drug counsellors, advocates as well as experts in their discipline areas, imparting knowledge, skills, and social responsibility to their young charges. There just isn’t enough hours in the school year to do it all.
This is where carving out time for collaboration is so important. It needs to be embed in the schedule. Some schools do this by balancing tutorials for students with collaboration for teachers, some create time after school that allows for collaboration and some have even set up afternoons as non-instructional time for teachers to meet and discuss their issues. I would be interested to hear how other schools are setting up time for teachers to collaborate.
To really embrace the five tenets of the Whole Child, where each child, in each school is Healthy, Safe, Engaged, Supported and Challenged, you need to make sure that there is the opportunity for the Whole Teacher. The graphic below should also be made to show that “Each teacher….” for each tenet.