Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Whole Teacher Approach

Photo by Ben Andreas Harding

What do teachers really need? This is a hotly contested subject. Do we need more autonomy? Better PD? Higher salaries? More praise?

In short: Yes.

Of course it is much more complex than that. Recently, I have had the pleasure of trying to dissect this topic with one of my teaching and thought partners, Amber Johnson. Our multiple platform and somewhat ongoing conversation has wrapped around to a different way of reaching teachers. It isn't revolutionary. It is actually exactly what we believe is best for the kids we teach, just applied to teachers.

What if we focus on the whole teacher? How might our schools be different if we focused on personal passion, healthy lifestyle, and intellectual growth as much as the "professional development" we assign to teachers? This goes beyond listening to teachers and hearing what they need. This is the next step of helping to develop our teachers into more complete, happier, deeply fulfilled human beings. This is a level of care and love that I don't often hear explored in faculty meetings and staff development sessions.

Let's try this on for size...

The Whole Child Tenants (altered to apply to teachers):
  • Each teacher enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.
  • Each teacher learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.
  • Each teacher is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.
  • Each teacher has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.
  • Each teacher is challenged academically and prepared for success in further study and participation in a global environment.

Teachers are stretched. We are stressed. We are doing incredible things with kids and sacrificing so much of our personal selves to make these gains, to increase the opportunities of our future generations. I think Bill Ferriter put it best when he wrote Teaching is a Grind.  

What happens when we tap into who teachers are and provide them chances to grow in their hearts and souls, not just in practice and skills? How would this alter our stamina, our drive, our overall health and well being?

I don't know exactly what this looks like in everyday practice, and I am not sure how we make this happen. Luckily, I work with people I really care about and I can't imagine not providing moments for us to explore growth on every level. I begin thinking about how I can dedicate at least a few minutes each meeting, each gathering, each opportunity, formal and informal, to grow together with this group in a different way. Or at least provide space to see what happens when you make personal happiness and heart-strength a priority equal to that of professional practice.

I can't think of any good reason not to at least try.

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