The latest issue of ASCD Express (The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s online publication) explores the ways in which schools can promote a healthy environment for students, “developing policies and programs that not only encourage a healthy mind and body, but also establish safe hallways and classrooms so that students can flourish as individuals in an authentic, mutually supportive community.”
This is more challenging than at seems. From what we’ve seen here at Tanenbaum, pretty much anyone involved in education is busy, even overworked. With regulations such as No Child Left Behind, educators and administrators are facing more and more requirements to fulfill, reducing their flexibility and ability to reach “the whole student.”
It’s difficult to focus on building confidence, healthy eating habits or the reasons why students are bullying one another when you’re preoccupied with test scores. But, we believe that addressing these issues is a precursor to academic success. Moreover, we think there are ways for educators to infuse their curricula with these themes without sacrificing time or results.
One way of creating a healthy environment at school is by encouraging students to understand their different religious and cultural identities, learning more about themselves and each other. Our pedagogy, The Seven Principles for Inclusive Education, gives academic programs a framework for exploring the diversity of their students, reinforcing respect for difference and creating healthy, inclusive classrooms.
The Seven Principles are:
1. Teaching All Students: Educators should take several different approaches to teaching the same material so that information becomes more interesting and tangible to a greater number of students.
2. Exploring Multiple Identities: Students who are proud of themselves and excited by the world around them will be more compassionate and understanding people; the same is true for educators.
3. Preventing Prejudice: Educators should take a proactive approach to debunking preconceived stereotypes and preventing them from escalating into prejudices and negative biases.
4. Promoting Social Justice: Students are good judges of what is fair, especially when they are affirmatively challenged to consider issues of social justice. Educators should talk to them about issues of social justice and injustice in terms of fair versus unfair, respectful versus disrespectful.
5. Choosing Appropriate Materials: Inclusive classrooms use books and materials that reflect accurate images of diverse peoples and challenge stereotypes.
6. Teaching and Learning About Cultures and Religions: Educators should create curiosity and expand students’ horizons by teaching about others in a positive manner. Students should have the opportunity to learn from their peers as well as other cultures.
7. Adapting and Integrating Lessons Appropriately: Educators should be flexible when using and adapting lessons in our curricula, as well as in prescribed curricula in general. Many of the most teachable moments are unplanned and unscripted.
When students learn about themselves and one another in a safe environment, they may be less like to bully one another, and more likely to become respectful, open-minded global citizens. And with an academically-integrated pedagogy such as the Seven Principles, educators can work on reaching the whole student, creating a healthier classroom that fosters, not impedes, academic success.