Monday, January 20, 2014

Being Well Rounded #savmp

Growing up my father was an elementary school teacher and spending lots of time in his classrooms over the years really helped to shape my thinking and educational ideology. My dad was always a very innovative and caring teacher who worked in some very challenging school environments where the majority of students did not have a stable home life. I always saw my dad balance the need to have an academically rigorous classroom, and also play kickball with his class on Friday afternoons to enjoy the sunshine and have some extra recess! (Read this article about the school day in Finland!)

During my classroom teaching years I strived for the same balance, to have a well rounded approach to education and my classes. I can remember countless students who were always so overjoyed to get their first report card from me. All the positive comments and grades they had never before received. It always surprised me to hear this, what were the previous teachers doing? Holding them back by not giving them the grades they deserved. After that first report card 'those' students began to work SO much harder for me! Why? They knew I cared about them and there was more to my classroom than worksheets and homework....we were balanced and well rounded!

Being well rounded now is even more important for me as an Elementary School Principal. Of course academic rigor in the classroom is extremely important on so many levels, but so is having conversations with kids during lunch. Knowing each and every students name in the school! Being 'all-time' pitcher during recess for 2nd grade kickball games. Tweeting all the great things I see on a daily basis to share with the community/world! Not being punitive with discipline, so many times a face to face conversation with a student and the promise of NOT calling home this time is all that needs to happen. Being a kid is hard, especially in 2014 and being on Team Kid makes it that much more important to have empathy and lots of patience/understanding!

Becoming a parent has undoubtedly made me a more well rounded educator on so many different levels. When my wife and I started looking at preschools for our daughter, she first asked me what I would be looking for when visiting schools! I of course wanted a well rounded environment that balanced play and some level of conversation around academics.

I have been reading a lot the past two years about Finland and their education system. Pasi Sahlberg has written a great book about the educational approach in Finland and I highly recommend you check it out! I've also been reading a great blog by an American (Tim Walker) who is now living and teaching in Finland which you should really check out. The differences (and Finnish balance) in our education systems is staggering and his writing really has me analyzing ours and looking for opportunities to change!

How are you ensuring your classroom/school/district is well rounded and balanced? 

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