Category Archives: Philosophy & Governance Models

Whole Child Education

When we speak of tensions in education, I see a great many.  The two that really stand out for me are; the lack of focus on our students as a whole and complex being within our society, as well as our unnerving need as adults/experts to control and manage learning experiences.

Last weekend I had the distinct honour of joining an amazing group of mindful educators as we listened to Jack (John P.) Miller speak about the lives of the Transcendentalists. We broke into smaller groups to discuss one of a handful of thought provoking quotations from Jack’s new book Transcendental Learning: The Educational Legacy of Alcott, Emerson, Fuller, Peabody and Thoreau. It was during this time and the large group discussion that followed that I came to experience my own learning unencumbered by external judgements or expectations. This certainly relates to my own preconceptions of what to expect having read and connected so deeply with Jack’s earlier work in Whole Child Education but I believe it also had a lot to do with not knowing any one of the 30 or so attendees before entering the room. I could come to the table, not as a student, but as an adult on equal footing.

Returning to my initial point, Jack would offer Holistic Education; one that focuses on the whole person (i.e., heads, hands, and heart), in response to the previously mentioned tensions in education. The Holistic Curriculum, focuses on three connections relating to the individual (i.e. thinking, mind-body, and soul) and three connections centering on integrated learning, the earth, and community (i.e. subject, earth, and community). But more than  just an acknowledgement of the whole child it speaks to nurturing the teacher and teaching with soul. Jack refers to Emerson’s writings about teachers using “methods of love” and concludes this new book with a comparison to Emerson’s beliefs about poets in that “teachers should also ‘be free and make free’ (p.122).”

In my Organizational Communication course I was asked to look at the leadership communication roles I wish to play in my career. I noted that I wish to become an advocate for the freedoms of children while revealing to them their responsibilities within society. This statement is a snapshot of my own transformative learning in which I have come to look beyond the limited expectations of mainly intellectual and economic preparation which is the current push within our outdated system of education. This too speaks to the tension between freedom and wisdom, a tension I hope to explore more in the future. I still grapple with how to implement a holistic curriculum while nurturing myself as a teacher within a neo-liberal school environment. This has been a major impetus in looking to open a school. Some schools are exemplary at doing this and I’d like to see more of them.

In the meantime, I will be connecting with Deborah Adelman from the Executive Committee of The Equinox School (thank you Jack) to discuss the challenges they faced in making this possible.

Visualizing a Vision

I was a college graphic design drop-out in a previous life. While I’m intrigued by technology, I’m also fearful of our reliance on it.

That said, I am a visual person so when asked by Austin for something in writing I started this visualization. Its only the tip of the iceberg and a rough draft but it brings the concept into bite size pieces. It will also help when getting input from those in different specialty areas.

The wisdom gleaned from speaking with Terezia and Kim was to start with small and concentric circles of organisers as the concept expands, have key pillars (and possibly guiding principles as well) clearly defined before bringing others in, yet equally important is moving from ‘I’ to ‘we’ as soon as possible. There are a number of individuals who have shown interest in the concept but they are mostly advisors. Creating the visualization aided in drafting the following summary for Austin.

The summary of the concept is: a proposal to the TDSB to create a new alternative school based on three pillars; 1) equity and diversity within a 2) holistic learner-centred education through the use of 3) democratic decision making. 

The program begins with a paradigm shift towards, what Thomas Armstrong calls, a Human Development Discourse (vs. an Academic Achievement Discourse). The holistic program, similar to Whole Child Education developed by John (Jack) P. Miller, supports the students understanding of and part within the interconnectedness of the world. Exploration of interdisciplinary curriculum is student driven (and designed, dependant on developmental stage) while mentor (teacher) encouraged. Mutual trust, respect and caring are the cornerstones of the “Beloved Community”.

Next steps include an expansion of the Nodemap and conversations with Jenn Chan about building community meetings sooner rather than later.