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The Whole Educational Theory


The Whole Child Approach


I am a proponent of Whole Child Education, and I strongly believe that when we are electing school board members we should know what educational theories they support and why. The School Board itself will not be writing curriculum, or deciding which textbooks to purchase, or what electives to offer. However, we as school board members will be enacting policies and approving budgets that do reflect the direction we want the school system to go. That is why it is important to know what a school board member understands and supports in current educational theory before you vote for them. I sincerely hope that those also running this year will be asked this question and are prepared to answer it.


For me, it is imperative schools move beyond the “teach to the test” mentality that the No Child Left Behind era brought us. As someone who taught under the tightening screws of tests determining our schools’ funding and future in a large school system with hundreds of thousands of learners, I know all too well when we abandon the other aspects of child development and focus just on what they can retain for a test we are not truly educating and aiding in child development. Thankfully, educators and administrators are moving past this, yet we are still beholden to those test scores determining too much about the educational direction of a school and a child. I will say testing for comprehension is important. We have highly trained educators and administrators that do that on a daily basis. We do need systems in place to determine if a school, as a whole, is not meeting community expectations. There is a time and a place for standardized testing.; but by giving them the import that No Child Left Behind did, we make just the cognitive growth and the testing there of the focus of educational policy and funding for too long.






Whole Child Education looks beyond just the cognitive development of the child. It embraces what the name implies- a wholeness. This educational theory embraces the role of the school in the development not just the cognitive skills of the child, but also the ethical, physical, psychological, and social emotional growth an understanding. It is often presented as a wheel. Each spoke supports the other. We cannot have a developing child only get academic support, or the wheel will not hold up. Social and emotional learning (SEL) fosters skills, habits, and mindsets that not only enable and aid academic productivity. Ensuring that the children have access to mental health sources, to healthy nutrition, to emotional and ethical development flows out from the school to the community. Parents are more engaged and have stronger relationships with the educators. Whole Child Education also embraces the uniqueness of each child and promotes Identity-Safe Classrooms, in which culturally responsive materials are used and social skills where children learn to respect and care for one another are core to the classroom. When each student feels respected and responsible for their classmates’ safety, their academic achievements grow. The Whole Child approach encompasses us as individuals who are more than bubbles on a test, who are growing not just physically but also emotionally, and the emphasis that we as individuals make a community.



In 2019 the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development presented evidence that school environment in which children are encouraged to use an array of skills (empathy, respect, collaboration) their academic achievement and behavior are improved. The latest in brain science and development shows that social and emotional development are linked closely to academic learning. As a school board we need to ensure that policy is enacted that creates structures for healthy learning environments. We do this by investing in educator preparation, we provide integrated health and mental health support in the school, and we work to make sure learning time address students’ comprehension needs.



I am happy to see the administration of WSD embracing much of the Whole Child theory. I became particularly aware of their moves in that direction after the tragedies of 2018 at Warwick High School, and I salute the amount of work they put into the mental health of their students and staff. They have continued to work towards Whole Child through out this pandemic and continue to work with students, staff, and families needs. I imagine how much more they could be doing for their students, staff, and community with a school board that is proponents for Whole Child, a school board that understands the importance of SEL in every classroom, that works to prioritize budgeting and policies that promotes staff education towards Identity-Safe Classrooms.


This is why I am running - to support our current administration and community and the whole child growth of our young learners.

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