Great teachers work with all the strengths and weaknesses of their students to develop the whole child.

Through approaching education with more personalized tactics, teachers can transform kids from disruptive or apathetic pupils to goal-oriented, focused children. When focusing on the whole child, teachers and parents must ensure students are able to learn in a setting that fulfills the following five criteria: a healthy environment; physical and emotional safety; active engagement in class and community; an atmosphere conducive to personalized learning; and preparation for careers in a global marketplace. Direct your passion for teaching into a whole child approach by starting with these steps.

1. Look at the Kids, Not the Students

Working within a teaching framework that focuses on the whole child requires engagement with students on a level that provides insight into their personal goals and dreams, which include their lives outside the classroom. At the University of Illinois, The College of Education’s prospective teachers learn to use approaches benefiting the whole child through classes that build understanding of “…children as members of families, communities, and neighborhoods before thinking about them as students in classrooms.” Make time to get to know your students personally, including their hopes, dreams, skills, weaknesses, and family situations. Greeting students at the door to your classroom and having a quick conversation as they walk into the room can be a simple way to start.

2. Build Upon Children’s Positive Traits

whole childAfter becoming acquainted the young people behind your students, create lessons based upon personalized learning principles that will connect with children through their individual strengths. When organizing students into groups for activities that promote the whole child, such as project- and station-based learning, arrange pupils with others who share their interests. By cultivating students’ individual assets through group work, teachers will see improvements in self-esteem, class participation, and behavior. Keep in mind, while identifying student strengths is integral to growth, understanding and providing opportunities to improve on students’ weaknesses is also important.

3. Personalize Correspondence

When incorporating teaching methods that rely on cultivation of the whole child, teachers must focus on the individuality of each student. When providing feedback regarding student performance, teachers must personalize report card messages and dialogue during parent conferences to show interest in each, individual child. Parents will recognize, appreciate, — and hopefully incorporate — this teacher feedback to continue learning and study in the home.

4. Connect the Dots Between Subjects

whole childSuccessful teachers not only know how to connect their subjects to other areas of study, but they also recognize the value of this tactic in promoting a focus on the whole child. After identifying the interests of children, think of ways to integrate these topics into lessons. Whether connecting STEM to social studies, science to the arts, or engineering to toy making, students will become more engaged in lessons with which they can identify. When teachers share lessons that place importance on topics that students value, children feel that they are more valuable.

5. A Holistic Approach to the Whole Child

In addition to academics, implementing a whole child approach requires opportunities for children to learn how to maintain healthy bodies and minds. Meet with gym teachers to collaborate on projects that blend your current coursework with physical education classes. If your job includes teaching physical education and health, ensure adequate class time is devoted to helping all children meet their maximum health potential. In addition to keeping their bodies in shape, teach children to also maintain mental health through mindfulness and reflection.

To find success in teaching the whole child, teachers must ensure that every student’s individual needs are met. Though this might seem to be a lot of work, the extra effort will be rewarded with students who are well-rounded, mindful, critical thinkers who place great importance on comprehensive education and health.

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