On the first day of class each year, I would let students know how unnatural I found our physical experience in the classroom. This was at an all-boys school with a strict dress code of a button-down shirt with a tie. Adolescents in the prime of their growth and development, ready to be creative, curious, and active members of a community, almost literally tethered to a chair all day with a tight collar and a tie.
But, I would say, this is what it looks like to get conditioned to our culture. And then we’d go about learning.
Even without the tight collar and tie, it’s easy to see that modern education is heavily intellect-focused. As a teacher, I feel proud when my students master a new concept. Teachers design lessons to scaffold learning, and students build understanding piece by piece.
But our intellect is only one aspect of who we are, and the way our schools are structured, it’s pretty clear that schools support our dominant culture’s valuing of our intellectual development above the other realms of our experience.
I’m not suggesting that our kids’ intellectual development isn’t important. I am, however, suggesting that we should infuse physiological, emotional, and spiritual development into our schooling too.
The STEM or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) acronym was created within the last 20 years as a reminder of the actual overlap and integration of those subjects in project-based work. It’s a reminder that those subjects aren’t separated in the “real world” as we tend to separate and silo them in school curricula. I have appreciated the reminder that though my subjects can be taught distinctly, they’re actually quite intertwined.
Similarly, the intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the human experience are currently siloed subjects in school, isolated to their special places on campus if they’re offered at all.
Related to this, I’ve recently been learning about trauma, and there are two ideas about it that have sort of blown my mind. First, we have all experienced trauma; it isn’t limited to extreme experiences such as severe accidents or assault. Second, though trauma has psychological components, trauma is at least as much a physiological phenomenon, so it lives in the body.
By more fully integrating our intellect, physiology, and spirit in school, we can learn to experience more consistently high levels of well-being. Additionally, by learning self-awareness and resiliency, we can better resolve and even prevent trauma.
Thanks for reading ❤️.
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