Reflections on Educating the Whole Child
Working Theory of Instruction: A Boarding School Model
When I wrote my working theory of instruction for my Educational Psychology
course in the fall of 2000, I had spent the past semester student teaching
at Westtown Upper School in Westtown, PA. While at Westtown, which is
a private, Quaker boarding school, I was not only a biology classroom
teacher, but a dorm parent, coach and student activity advisor. By living
on campus with the students and working with them in so many different
capacities, I found that my educational role extended far beyond the classroom.
For these students, school was not simply an academic institution, but
a place in which they were learning how to grow up.
Therefore, as I developed my working theory of instruction, I focused on three levels at which students in school are taught to develop into aware, responsible and active individuals. There were:
Application of the Model to a Day School
Friends Select, like Westtown, is a private, K-12, Quaker School. However,
unlike Westtown, Friends Select is a day school. The first day at Friends
Select, I could feel the effect this difference had on the school community.
The students were comfortable and friendly with each other and their teachers,
but the closeness and familiarity that arises from living together was
absent. The schools philosophy still stressed the education of the
whole child, but I realized that this could not be happening in the same
way as at Westtown since the students and teachers lives were
intersecting at many fewer points. As a teacher, my primary and often
only interaction with my students was in the academic classroom. While
working in the upper school, I often met with students outside of class,
but usually only to discuss classwork. I felt that I knew a lot about
my students as learners within my classroom, but very little about them
as whole individuals.
While working in the middle school, this perception changed. As a full-time
classroom teacher, advisor and service-group leader, I found that I grew
to know more about my students than simply how they were in my classroom.
I found most middle school students to be more brash and open about themselves,
their ideas and their concerns than the upper school students. The processes
of developing senses of self and place in communities were more outwardly
messy in the middle school than in the upper school. The middle school
students struggles were often more clear and open and, therefore,
I was called upon more often to intercede and take an active mentoring
and educational role.