Weekly Update from the Director - September 1, 2023
Dear GISC Community,
The first week of school always shows us the importance of why and how we at GISC want to educate the “whole child”. As you know, it is GISC’s mission to help raise “well-rounded, creative, and responsible global citizens.” How do we do that?
One of those approaches to reach this goal together is called the “whole child approach.” It means we know that our children (and we are purposefully writing children here, not students) learn best when they belong to a safe and welcoming learning environment with rich learning experiences.
Shifting toward a whole child education has far-reaching implications for the education system. Evidence-based whole child strategies include designing relationship-centered learning environments.
As educators we cannot address all of your child/ren’s developmental needs. But as a school, we can embrace a whole-child educational approach by committing to the following:
Creating and designing relationship-based learning environments. At GISC, we stress collaborative work among students – small groups of students working together on a task, problem, or project helps students to gain a deeper understanding as they can discover alternative ways to reach a solution. It is not uncommon to witness classrooms employing the Socratic method, whereby teachers ask thought-provoking questions, leading students to formulate their own complex questions, resulting in back-and forth discussions. Again, students learn to appreciate different points of view.
Fostering classroom environments in which students know they belong and matter (they have a voice). At GISC, we now conduct daily homeroom sessions, weekly extended (40 minutes) class meetings, and monthly assemblies. These efforts, enhanced by employing principles of the Responsive Classroom methodology, help create a safe learning environment in which it is safe to learn and ask both simple and complex questions.
Incorporating integrated support systems. The GISC schedule allows for Individual Learning Time (ILT), when teachers can meet with individual students. Similarly, our Become Bilingual Program (BBP) for both English Language Learners (ELL) and German Language Learners (GLL), Math Circle, and Math Support are just a few examples of how we help students receive needed support.
These are just a few examples of whole child education in action at GISC. Maybe the most important aspect to consider about whole-child education is that it does not sacrifice academic learning – it complements it and makes it authentic and rich. This point was especially brought to life when children worked in relative isolation during the remote learning phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Traits and skills such as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, persistence, and self-control – which are often collectively called noncognitive skills, or social and emotional skills – are vitally important to children’s full development. They are linked to academic achievement, productivity and collegiality at work, positive health indicators, and civic participation, and are nurtured through life and school experiences,” according to a recent Economic Policy Institute report entitled “Making Whole-Child Education the Norm.”
German International School Chicago is a preschool through 8th grade school that prepares students to become well-rounded, creative, and responsible global citizens. We provide students with a rigorous German-English bilingual education in a supportive and individualized learning environment.