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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Holistic Teaching and Learning

More and more education programs are moving towards a holistic lens and practice with regard to teaching children well. We know that it's not one skill or another that creates a strong program, but instead it is important to employ a holistic approach that helps educators to connect to students and help them become the successful learners that they can be. It is most important that every child continues to develop his/her repertoire for living and learning well.

With respect to this, how do we continue to develop our own teaching/learning repertoire as educators and how do we continue to develop our curriculum programs and teaching pedagogy to serve every child well.

In light of the fact that the science of learning and learning supports and programs continue to change, how do we keep up with grade-level, school, and system changes?

Our system begins by highlighting a number of system-wide goals. Then each school and educator matches their goals to the system-wide goals. That's a good process overall. The only part I'd change is to look a bit more deeply at the goal setting process so that it's as inclusive as possible. There are many tech strategies we can use to both deepen and broaden the approach.

As I think about our system-wide goals, highlighted to the right, I'm thinking about how the grade-level, school, and I can match our goals to these overarching goals.

Use Data Wisely
Data collection, both informal and formal, provides us with a terrific opportunity to look deeply at our students and programs. Already I've done a lot of deep data analysis with regard to my students. I've identified a number of questions about success and achievement that I'd like to pursue alone and with colleagues. Those questions include the following:
  • How do we best serve students who are one or more years behind in the curriculum? 
  • How do we maximize staffing expertise and time to serve all students well?
  • How do we make our curriculum programs more culturally proficient?
  • How do we give every child a challenge and a vision, plan, and activity for development--even children who are already meeting grade-level standards and beyond.
Nurture Early Child Development
How can fifth graders work closely with their early grade buddies to support optimal development, growth, and happiness at school? We can do this by establishing a weekly schedule of buddy time that includes teaching our kindergarten buddies and also developing fifth graders skills in multiple areas including reading aloud, basic math skills, and science and social studies knowledge.

Infuse Technology and Design
In what ways will we continue to design and redesign the curriculum program to teach well? How will we infuse technology into that design process to both appeal to and teach every child with depth? We already use technology a lot. This year we'll begin using Google classroom as we infuse technology into almost all project work and learning efforts. 

Train Global Citizens
What opportunities will we develop to help students broaden their awareness of the world around them and how will we support global and planetary citizenship? Our science curriculum develops students' awareness of our planet and how to take care of it. Our social studies curriculum helps students to develop the social skills to live peacefully and productively in the world. Further our Global Changemakers project helps students to look closely at how the world's most courageous and innovative people fostered positive change and development--this provides mentors for students as they live their lives.

Elevate Achievement
One big push in this realm is teaching students how to learn. We are explicitly helping students to understand the attitudes and behaviors that make learning more accessible and brain friendly. Through models, videos, conversation, and project work, we are developing students ability to pursue their passions and interests and develop as successful life-long learners.

Deepen Wellness Skills and Insights
Together with the physical education teacher, we are looking at ways to foster healthy snacks at school. We are also working closely with the guidance counselor to develop healthy social/emotional skills and advocacy with students on a regular basis. Further we are working to make our teaching and learning routines active including lots of outside nature play and study.

As I write throughout the year, I'll provide more details related to the goals. At present the teachers in my school work together to create school goals, it's important that we work together to support each other's individual teaching, grade-level programs, and whole school approach so that by the time our students leave our school they've developed a strong skill, concept, and knowledge foundation and have had a broad range of meaningful experiences with which to move forward with as they continue to learn.