The Goals of Education: Enaging the Whole Self

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I have been trying and trying to share this blog post since we first discussed the goals of education In our first class for the Contemplative Practitioner in January. When the ideals of holistic education and timeless learning were shared I couldn’t agree more. I love the concept of a Thinking Heart: a blend of wisdom and compassion. As I looked a little closer in my daily travels to schools I could see the awe & wonder as well as joy & happiness. But I was left with many questions:

  • If I was to share these goals with others, what would I say?
  • How does it align with the curriculum demands many mention?
  • If I truly believed these goals what did I need to change in my practice?

Last night as I watched a colleague share her story along with her students, I think I got a glimpse of these exact goals in action. Airin, who teaches in a very diverse learning community in the downtown core, shared her learning journey with practitioner research and a special year long course she teaches. It is a sociology/philosophy course that also parallels a university sociology course the students participate in with a university professor that comes in (she explains it so much better-I’m not doing it justice). Instead of starting with the traditional backwards design and set plans, she follows what arises from the learners. Last night they shared the results of their exploration of identity. Their various representations from a sketch of an identity iceberg (what you see about me is just a tip of a much greater identity), to a student’s special stew recipe for himself (including a pinch of naughty) and dopamine molecules composed of the various elements that caused that reaction in a student took your breath away and more than once made me just slightly emotional. It was the epitome of differentiation but more than that you could see the pride students had in sharing their work, the depth of thought as they explained their choices like nesting layers of identity. Many mentioned the struggles they had to go through to answer the question posed, the discomfort with something so open ended, the need to pause and inquire into who they really are as individuals.

What brought me back to the goals of education was one passing statement. After sharing her long difficult journey from the Philippines to Canada, one student pointed out that identity and education are often two extremes that never interact in education and in this assignment she was able to go past just the academic. Her whole self was engaged.

Still addressing all the necessary curriculum expectations, I saw in Airin’s story a glimpse of what I would hope for: Learners whose whole self was engaged. You could see the sense of wonder, awe, joy and sense of purpose fall into place along with the skills being developed.

I know their stories yesterday have made me pause and reflect on how I am engaging the whole learner even with adults. I think I will start with listening more closely.

What do you feel are the goals of education? How are you engaging ALL of your learners?

Love to hear your thoughts!

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