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Live from #ASCD15: Whole child, teacher leadership

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The 70th ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show is underway in Houston. ASCD Emerging Leader Jennifer Orr is on the ground, bringing SmartBrief readers coverage of the event. Stay tuned for daily show recaps. Also follow live event coverage on @SBEducation and via #ASCD15.

One of the reasons I am so passionate about ASCD is because of the focus on the whole child. This morning, I had the privilege of sitting down with several teachers and the principal of Magnolia Elementary School in Joppa, Md., recipient of this year’s Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award. The award recognizes schools that do not solely focus on academic achievement, but support the whole child. Award winners make sure each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged. You can read more details about all the amazing things happening at Magnolia Elementary in ASCD’s press release.

From the conversations this morning, several things stuck out to me about the work being done at this school. The commitment to the whole child begins early. Programs support families with toddlers and the school has four classes of pre-kindergartners. Every Thursday morning the entire school meets in houses, each consisting of students from across the grade levels. During this time the focus is on character education. When they began several years ago, they talked started with respect and how it looks and sounds. The idea is that students need an opportunity to understand respect (or other terms) before they can be expected to demonstrate it when asked.

This school works to serve students through the summer as well with a jump-start program. Not only does this help students re-acclimate to the classroom and to school, but it is focused around STEM and art projects. As a result, students are thinking critically and creatively during this time.

One of the things that came up again and again was the role teacher leadership plays at Magnolia. There are a variety of quality improvement teams on which teachers serve. Ideas and initiatives come from the teachers and are tested out by a few before they are implemented school-wide. The impression I received from talking with these teachers and principal is that Magnolia Elementary serves the whole child, but also recognizes the need to care for the whole teacher.

On another note, were you aware that Crayola has creative leadership grants? A part of me doesn’t want to share this, because the more schools that apply, the less chance my school has of getting one of these. The idea behind the grants is to build creative capacity and collaborative culture in schools. Winners receive $2500 and $1000 in Crayola products. There’s more information here. So often schools have narrowed the focus to core subjects, if not just math and reading, and creativity is slipping through the cracks. Sarah Lewis’s message yesterday was a good reminder of the importance of creativity.

Read Jennifer’s takeaways from day one: Live from #ASCD15: Grit, mastery, accountability

Jennifer Orr is an elementary-school teacher in Fairfax County, Va. She was selected as a 2013 ASCD Emerging Leader and was a panelist at ASCD’s fall 2014 Whole Child Symposium on teacher leadership. Connect with her on Twitter at @jenorr.