Today in education I hear and see educators spending way too much time working in silos trying to influence the outcomes for kids in a positive manner, yet they burn out, grow weary, or don’t meet the goals in which they have set. We are all familiar with the term “an organization is only as strong as the team”, and so we must learn to become interdependent of one another, and break down communication barriers so that we can collaborate. We all bring different strengths to the table, and we must learn to leverage those accordingly, and allow folks to excel in the areas they are good at if we are going to truly reach the “whole child”. In educational terms we have also heard the term “area of growth”, which is why surrounding ourselves with those who can help in those areas of growth also helps us become stronger, and more well rounded, but more importantly helps the system grow stronger so we can support all children.
A lot of times when you hear the term “success” referred to in education, it is in correlation with academics, because we have systems and algorithms to easily measure a student’s academic success. I have even seen trends for their future based on some of their academic success. We even have methods and strategies to put into place based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) of where they are not mastering them, so that we can hopefully help them begin to meet or master that standard. An area that I feel that is not easily measured, based on the current tools we have, is SEL. I hear lots of leaders talk all the time about how important SEL is for our students, yet our states hold us accountable on the “mandated standardized tests” which don’t reflect the SEL of our students directly. Furthermore, this puts a ton of stress on administrators to get kids where they need to be based on the test. This for me is why we must focus on the whole child, and the social and emotional climate is just one of those components in a school system.
I love the work that CASEL (Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning) is doing to shed light on this body of work through the five competencies which could be its own entire blog post. For the purpose of this blogpost I would like to shift the focus on the WSCC framework (Whole School Whole Community Whole Child) because this framework is designed to break us out of those silos I referenced earlier, and this framework provides us all with a platform, if done with fidelity and with intention, that can truly bring all stakeholders to the table to have true collaboration. This framework is fairly new, only emerging in 2015 when ASCD’s “whole child initiative” and CDC’s “coordinated school health” collided bringing a focus to 10 components within a school. Those ten components are the following:
Health Education 2) Physical Education & Physical Activity 3) Nutrition Environment & Services 4) Health Services 5) Community Involvement 6) Family Engagement 7) Employee Wellness 8) Physical Environment 9) Counseling, Psychological & Social Services 10) Social and Emotional Climate
One of the things I have schools do when looking at this framework is to identify folks within their school system or community who could fit into those components. For example, physical education and physical activity most likely would be the physical education teacher who can lead that work. Health Services would be your nurse, Counseling could be your counselor and social worker if you have one at your campus. You can go ahead and fill in the rest of those blanks, and in some of those components you would have multiple people which is great. When I look at the last component I highlighted, which is social and emotional climate this body of work belongs to everyone in the school system, this includes community and family engagement.
In Texas we have what are called SHAC’s (School Health Advisory Councils), and they are required by law to be made up of 51% non-school personnel (families, community, students, etc.) and the other 49% is made up of school personnel, central office administrators, etc. In my district, Spring Branch ISD, we call this our DSHAC (District School Health Advisory Councils), and this council meets 5 times out of the year. Now when we break it down to the campus level we have the CSHAC which stands for Campus School Health Advisory Council, and then I created the first ever KSHAC in Texas and this is the kids council version. The framework that we use revolves around the WSCC framework, and we bring representatives from each component on that framework to talk about how we can truly support the whole child. This of course looks different for each campus and community, but it allows us to give everyone a voice so we can create healthy and positive change. You can find more on this to add to your toolbox at this website. https://www.dshs.texas.gov/schoolhealth/sdhac.shtm. This provides a whole guide on how to begin your SHAC for those that are interested.
One of the things we have begun doing to measure the SEL or how we refer to this body of work in SBISD is “School Connectedness” by utilizing Panorama. We give a survey to students, families/community in the fall to give us a baseline on if kids feel safe, and supported at school, and that they feel the adults in the system genuinely care about them. We then conduct the same survey in the spring and are scored with a percentage of where we are from the fall semester. This system also provides us with tools to work on increasing in those areas, and this is something that our CSHAC’s look at to begin looking at where we need to make changes.
This is where I see CharacterStrong filling in some of those huge disparity gaps, because we know that our teachers are the front line of instruction, but also the front line in building relationships with students, families, and the community. One of the things I hear a lot is that “you cannot add one more thing to our plate”, and my hope is that we can transform their thinking to recognize the “whole child” as the plate, and that we may need to reorganize our plate to be more intentional of bringing in SEL. I also know that SEL is not something that was taught when I went to school, so teachers are typically left on their own to learn more about this. I would agree that educators in all fields have a lot that they are having to juggle, so providing them with the tools until they can begin embedding SEL throughout their lessons organically is a great start that I am willing to invest in, because I know the benefits will yield 100 times on the investment. We share this a lot, but I truly believe we must maslow before we bloom in order to help kids succeed.
My hope is to grow the WSCC model across all systems because it brings our community, family and schools together to support the “Whole Child”. I have started a grass roots twitter handle @WSCCEdu in hopes to share this work with other professionals around the globe, and bring more attention to this framework that organically creates a platform for true collaboration. If you would like to follow our story please follow @Samuel_Karns & @LandrumMS or if you have questions about this framework, or need help getting this started please do not hesitate to contact me via twitter or email [email protected]. I have presentations I have shared locally, statewide and nationally with SHAPE America and ASCD, and would love to equip you all with having this conversation with your district leaders and superintendents.
Thanks for tuning in.
Samuel Karnes started off as a health fitness specialist (physical education and health teacher) in Spring Branch ISD. Then served for 6 years at Westwood Elementary bringing a full arsenal of extra-curricular activities through movement, sports, and experiential learning. From there he transitioned into the Advanced Movers Coordinator and worked with Health Fitness and Athletics to provide an elevated path through movement and sports from elementary to college. This led to being named the Assistant Director of Student Wellness. Now his calling came back to serve on a campus, and this is his second year serving as an Assistant Principal at Landrum Middle School in Spring Branch ISD.