I believe education in these times needs to be focused more on the holistic development of the individual rather than solely the intellect. Regardless of the subject matter, teachers should first and foremost consider how they are able to develop each student as a kind, passionate, thought-provoking and productive member of society. A classroom experience that would enhance this development should involve the respectful acceptance of all personal differences, civilized dialogue communicated with open minds and ears and a peaceful environment resounding with compassion and the desire for personal growth. By leaving educational institutions to single-pointedly address how to become more academically successful, they neglect the opportunity to instill the humanistic values and societal ethics that would create more responsible global communities in the future. These global communities, enhanced through empathy, are ones that have the potential to peacefully solve problems, eradicate social, economic and environmental injustices, advocate sharing of wealth and tolerate religious and political differences.
I believe that elementary education can be presented in a manner that promotes and exposes students to cross-cultural qualities that are within all peoples: desire for egalitarianism, compassion, love, cooperation and non-violence. By creating a classroom environment that represents these qualities, students will be prepared to successfully engage in whatever social, academic or vocational discipline they are called to later in life. An elementary environment that advocates personal responsibility, accountability and self-sufficiency is crucial to the independence and holistic development of the child. This growth will accompany students throughout their future academic endeavors and, more importantly, throughout their non-academic life education. Responsible and accountable learners will blossom into responsible, independent citizens as they mature in life.
In my opinion, the most successful classroom educators can facilitate this by doing less teaching and more coaching, empowering and motivating. Educators plant the seeds within each student that will take root at different stages of their lives. They do this not by sowing these seeds, but by uncovering the natural potential in seeds that already exist within each student. I believe these seeds are best nurtured and guided by the principles of high expectations, internationally minded values and reflection of personal actions. In my experience, students will achieve up to the level of expectations that are placed upon them. An external classroom environment that demands students’ best attitude and effort academically and socially will mold their internal disposition to always expect the best from themselves. Furthermore, acting with internationally minded values such as integrity, empathy and tolerance are at the heart of not only a collaborative classroom, but also a cooperative and peaceful planet. When students practice caring communication and appreciating multiple perspectives in their developmental years, our institutions will produce open-minded global citizens for the future. A classroom environment where students and teachers are simultaneously and continuously reflecting on ways they can become better humans will yield more positive action in the world. The key to a more peaceful and global community lies in our ability as educators to provide the most fertile soil for students’ seeds to grow into holistic excellence.