Training for the Whole Self

Dear Seán,

Beyond Measure is a good wake-up call to the kind of schooling that engages in real learning, not just recitation. I agree, the “societal sickness” is what goes unnoticed. We are doing too many things in schools just because that is the way they are always done.


How can teachers support young people’s total well-being? First they need the freedom and mandate to respond authentically, not just in their daily interactions, but in the kind of curriculum they must deliver every day. Second, they need training and development in how to do that.

I read this op-ed in the New York Times that points out how poorly we train teachers compared to other professions. Why not treat them like doctors? Years of intense internship, studying directly under highly experienced professionals. Not let loose in the operating room after just a few months of being an assistant. If caring for patients’ bodies requires so much preparation, what about caring for children’s minds?

Expense should not be an issue here:

Nationally we spend 7 percent of our instructional budget on substitute teachers, 12 percent on teaching assistants and between $6,000 and $18,000 annually per teacher on professional development that many teachers describe as ineffective.

That’s a lot of money. If we could put it to work where an actual difference is being made, we might see more emphasis on helping teachers to be present, to work creatively with students, to develop their own sense of total well-being. Most teachers are ready to put a lot of heart into what they do. What they are missing is that redefinition of the culture of school to include our whole selves.


Theodore TimpsonComment