Teaching the Whole Child


In this ever-increasing technological age, we are faced with some amazing capabilities in education.  We have learned about current and future trends in educational technology, hardware and software, the necessity and importance of integrating technology into our curriculum, a vast number of technological tools, the importance of reflection and blogging, collaboration and teamwork, and the necessity of teaching to our students’ needs rather than for our own convenience.  With so many amazing possibilities in education today, we must continually strive to better ourselves to become the teachers that our students need and deserve.  And one thing we must always remember is that our students are not just intellectual beings in need of information, but multi-faceted individuals with complex characteristics.

Photo taken by Phil Roeder on August 25, 2011, retrieved from Flickr.com.

For this journal entry, I would like to address the importance of teacher awareness in education and teaching to the whole child.  In recent weeks, my school has gone through some rather difficult times with the passing of one of our former students – a 14-year-old young man, who felt that the only way to deal with his life was by taking it.  Needless to say, we were extremely saddened by this loss.  As I personally reflected on this devastating event, I began thinking about my responsibility as a teacher in the lives of my students.  Am I supposed to continue teaching my curriculum?  Yes, of course.  But my students are not just a “brain” waiting to acquire knowledge.  They are a whole being, with “physical, moral, social, emotional, spiritual, and aesthetic” needs, as well.  (Noddings, 2005).  Some people may believe that teachers have no business getting involved in other aspects of their students’ lives.  But the way I see it, we spend, on average, around 6 1/2 hours with our kids five days a week.  I believe this qualifies us to be dynamic influences in the lives of our students.

According to the Noddings article, the history of education emphasized whole child teaching early on. “In his 1818 Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia, for example, Thomas Jefferson included in the ‘objects of primary education’ such qualities as morals, understanding of duties to neighbors and country, knowledge of rights, and intelligence and faithfulness in social relations.”  (Noddings, 2005). I believe that we should continually strive to be role models for our students, constantly representing good character, exhibiting genuine happiness, demonstrating positive social relationships, and simply being “real” to our students.  Should we still set boundaries for our students?  Absolutely.  But at the same time, I believe it is extremely important to maintain a safe environment in our classrooms, making sure our students feel accepted and loved, allowing for them to feel comfortable enough to share their needs, and staying aware of situations in our students’ lives.

So how can I make sure I am teaching the whole child?  I believe it begins with  “integrating these healthy qualities into our …character development… and our classrooms and model them on a daily basis.” (Wesley Prep, 2012).

  • Understanding the importance of self-control
  • Recognizing and eliciting trust, help, and praise for others
  • Empathizing with the perspectives of others
  • Choosing our friends wisely
  • Sharing, waiting, and participating in groups
  • Giving and receiving help and criticism
  • Identifying one’s goals
  • Expressing and accurately labeling feelings
  • Employing the art of reflection and thinking in alternative ways to solve problems
  • Considering short- and long-term decisions made and how they will affect oneself or others
  • Practicing how to exercise leadership, accept diversity, and demonstrate desirable attributes such as honesty, integrity, responsibility, compassion, and caring

Although this posting was not necessarily about  technology in the classroom, I want to point out that with proper instruction in online collaboration and journal entry through blogging, I believe that technology may give our kids the means and opportunity to relate their feelings and get help in their times of need.  It is our responsibility to show them the right way to communicate using these forums, however.  So, we must remain active and “personal” in our kids’ lives, as well.

Our kids need us – not only as someone who distributes knowledge, but as a mentor.  This means that we have to find a way to incorporate character training into our curriculum, because “it only takes one person to make a difference in the life of a child.” (Jones, n.d.)

To Follow Melanie Jones


Jones, Melanie (n.d.).  Welcome to Speak to Children. [Web article].  Retrieved from http://www.speaktochildren.org/index2.html

Noddings, Nel (Sept., 2005).  What Does It Mean to Educate the Whole Child? [Web article].  Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept05/vol63/num01/What-Does-It-Mean-to-Educate-the-Whole-Child%C2%A2.aspx

Roeder, Phil (Aug. 2011). Back to School [Web photo].  Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/tabor-roeder/6085668928/

Teacher Files. (n.d.).  Clip Art – Word Art and School Signs.  [Web resource].  Retrieved from http://teacherfiles.com/clip_words.htm

Wesley Prep (2012).  Teaching the Whole Child. [Web article].  Retrieved from http://www.wesleyprep.org/node/38


About chanks777

I am a computer lab teacher and media specialist in Ocala. I have returned to school after 23 years of working out in the "real world." I am married with two wonderful daughters. We have two dogs and two cats. I love to read, travel, and spend time with my family.

9 responses »

  1. Pingback: Jessica Nickel | Teaching the Whole Child

  2. Hi Cindy,

    I am so sorry to hear about the tragic loss of a former student, but I appreciate you sharing that with all of us. It definitely provides me with some perspective.

    While enduring the daily frustrations of our job, it can be too easy to lose sight of why many of us became teachers in the first place. It is unimaginable what some students go through on a daily basis, and it is possible that we may provide the only safety or security in their lives. I agree with you that we need to be positive role models for our students and we need to keep the “whole child” in mind when teaching. This can be difficult when we see at least 140 students every day. It can equally be difficult to set boundaries with students, however, we may be the only influences in their lives that do create boundaries for them. I wholeheartedly agree that social education should be a priority. Although some may feel that the bulk of this should be done in primary/elementary education, I am lucky to be at a middle school where the principal makes social education and morality a priority. We have some of the most polite, respectful and responsible students I have ever encountered because of that commitment. I personally see the positive difference in student behavior when I show difficult students respect and model appropriate behavior rather than revealing just my frustrations to them.

    Each of the healthy qualities you listed are important to the education of the “whole child” and I agree with you that technology can be used to teach or reinforce these qualities and as a means for student self-expression.

    This was a great topic and a great post Cindy! I have truly enjoyed reading all of your blog entries and getting to know you this semester. I look forward to continuing my educational journey with you! Happy Holidays. 🙂


  3. Hi Cindy,

    WOW… as always, you have a lot to speak about and do so eloquently. I had to deal with a lot as a k-12 educator but thankfully never the scenario you experienced. That you could reflect on the process from the standpoint of curriculum design means you are a true educator through and through. What a powerful experience to reflect upon. I agree with you that teaching the whole child and not just a “roomful of brains to fill” is harder than ever these days. I am encouraged that there are teachers like you out there working to ensure our students have someone on their sides, though. Thank you for an enlightening and interesting post and I’m so sorry you and your students are going through all of this.

  4. So sorry to hear about such a terrible event happening at your school. Was this child on your RTI list?

    Your list of ways to ensure that you are teaching the whole child is quite comprehensive. I especially like considering long and short term decisions and how they will affect others. Students can be so impulsive (as can adults) and they/we don’t think about what might happen as a result of our actions.

  5. I really enjoy the thought that goes into your posts, not jsut professionally but also personally. I agree that we are huge influences on our students. Even If you see them just for one hour a day, that adds up to 180 hours a year (about 7 days worth of time)!! These students, whether they realize it or not, are modeling themselves after us, and it is our duty not to let them down. We must model everything, like behaviors, cleanliness, dress codes, inquisitiveness, compassion, and restraint, just to name a few things.

    I have fond memories of my years as a high school student, and the teachers that I like to remember are the ones that I ended up modeling myself after, even if it was jsut a couple of aspects of that person.

    Have a great one

  6. What a heartbreaking story. Thank you for using his story as a way to remind us how we can better reach our students as a whole and at a more personal matter. All children need to feel as though they matter, and are important. The “qualities” you listed willl serve as a great reminder to me as I mold the little mind sof my perschoolers. Thanks again for sharing and for a great post.

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