They say that ‘love makes the world go around’. But just don’t mention the ‘L’ word at School.
For far too long, maybe forever, love has not featured in school curricula. It may be at the very core of humanity but has been assumed to be something that schools do not have jurisdiction over. Sure, Kindergartens and Primary School classrooms have a sense of love. In those younger, pre-teen years of cuddles, learning through play, singing, laughter, and tears; there’s plenty of love there. But once a child matures to a stage that allows them to cogitate and communicate the more complex feelings of love, we hastily wind-back conversations and explorations of love from the school experience. The timing could not be more imperfect. Just as a child’s experience of love becomes increasingly complex and something that isn’t always fun and cuddles, it disappears from the classroom.
Just when love becomes beautifully and painfully real, love is taken out of education.
Love is complex. It is a highly individualized component of human existence. Physiologically, in terms of oxytocin and serotonin, the chemistry of love is remarkably consistent across our species, but our individual experience of love is entirely unique. It is, by its very nature, emotional and is, therefore, perceived as dangerous territory for many traditional systems of education. This is in part due to a woefully narrow definition, linked to ‘romantic love’. Add to this the pervasive 19th-century focus on logic and reason and the subjugation of emotion to the realms of femininity, it is little wonder that school’s struggle to get effective social and emotional learning into the learning experience.
My own personal experience with school – albeit in a traditional, all-boys, suit-and-tie private school in Australia – probably mirrors the generalized experiences of many. Strict teachers enforcing strict rules, definite boundaries between teachers and learners, lessons based on textbook rote-learning for exam preparation – not much love. Yet, there were a few special teachers (we all had them), who were more than just teachers (they became mentors, maybe friends). They made learning fun and interesting, they nurtured and fed the naturally curious mind of my child self. The common thread of all my favorite teachers is that they all loved their jobs, loved their subject areas, and loved playing a role in my learning journey.
A teacher’s love for learning is where it all starts.
Middle School is that wild and wonderful age range of around 11-14. It is an almost inevitable roller-coaster ride of social and emotional growth. Children generally want to take a step back from the adults in their world, they are forming their own opinions, relationships become more complex and friendships become a central focus of life. It is a time that children need huge amounts of love.
Middle School is precisely the wrong time to reduce talking about, thinking about and experiencing love.
A holistic education is critical at the Middle School stage but is often diminished as children move beyond early and primary stages of learning and move into upper school. Progressive education programs are moving beyond knowledge-based to skills-based learning experiences, teachers are also starting to design curriculum with a focus on values-based learning. But how do you teach a value? How do you teach love? Part of the answer to this question is to provide students opportunities to experience love.
I am often asked ‘What is the Green School effect, what is the special mix of ingredients’? There are many elements that make up the recipe and love may be the binding ingredient.
Middle School, is one of four learning neighborhoods in Green School. Each one has their own distinctive subculture. Our Middle Schooler’s are a distinctive tribe. They are immersed in a natural environment, they are exposed to exceptional educators, a diverse community and the beautiful culture of Bali. But they are bound together within the broader community, by a set of values which create a safe and loving place for learning.
Take a look at our school values: Integrity, Responsibility, Empathy, Sustainability, Peace, Equity, Community, Trust – all of these values, that we live and teach by, have strong connections to love. The I-RESPECT values foster deeper connections and strong positive emotions from one person to another, internally to the self, and for our beautiful, natural environment.
The program is built on holistic learning. We refer to this as the ‘Big 4’ – Intellectual, Kinesthetic, Social-Emotional, and Intra-personal growth. Students learn and communicate new knowledge/skills through these four different lenses. Why is this important? Only when you understand the whole being – a being that processes information, moves, interacts and has feelings – can you truly love the person.
By respecting the unique aspects of each individual child, our teachers demonstrate a true love for our students.
With the infusion of skills-based learning (the Green School Skills) – lessons and experiences are designed to give students opportunities to intellectualize, apply and feel learning. This is a huge step for a school to take – no longer are we solely focused on uploading information, instead, we believe that for true life-long learning, in our forever changing the world, skills are more important than rote/content-based learning. With the curriculum designed on skills, what we are saying is: we REALLY care about you as a person and learner; we know you can access information online whenever and wherever you need – but can you think critically, analyze information, solve problems, can you communicate, collaborate and be creative?
Love is really about our social and emotional connections. One component of the program is the weekly Social-Emotional sessions that deal explicitly with our social connections and the emotional component of growing up. These sessions are structured, open, caring platforms for discussing crucial concepts such as puberty, risk-taking, sex-ed, bullying (and more). Our wellbeing thematics – where Grade 6 looks at gender issues, Grade 7 focuses on healthy living, Grade 8 concentrates on women’s empowerment – are designed to provide structured learning units that foster a love for self and others. The mindfulness program equips students with the know-how and confidence to step away from the constant busyness of their lives; it teaches heartfulness towards others and inwardly for the self. We prioritize social-emotional development, in a varied spectrum of our learning program.
We boldly prioritize the role we play in helping students learn to love each other and themselves.
Our Experiential Frame – with Arts, Physical and Jalan-Jalan (out and about) units, gives students substantial choice, recognizing that they are individuals, who are on a path the discover their individual passions and interests. In Arts, for example, children who love to dance get to dance, students who love music join the band or play marimba, students who love to spend time in our gardens join a Green Studies unit. We don’t force students to learn through experiences that they don’t like – we allow students to choose something that they love.
Middle School teachers utilize the Sustainability Compass to develop new curriculum. If you ask a Green School student, they will tell you that sustainability is more than an environmental issue. They understand that it starts from within. Nurturing one’s self – mind, body, and spirit, establishing relationships with others that are healthy and sustain us. With this in place, we can connect with mother earth and all the complex economic, social, political and environmental components that are factors finding sustainable solutions. By understanding the interconnectedness of sustainability and by providing a bigger picture of global issues, teachers are facilitating an informed understanding that allows students to develop a love for this amazing planet, the life forms on it, and the connections that make life as beautiful and astounding as it is.
“Educating for sustainability has changed over the past ten years. Children, by nature, are the most optimistic and creative humans on the planet. Rather than focusing on scare tactics around environmental and social degradation, we start by revealing to students just how magical this planet is. From this, students develop a love for the Earth, and the next logical step is for students to do everything possible to work towards a sustainable future.”
– Sal Gordon, Deputy Head, Middle School at Green School Bali
Our teachers have a genuine love of learning. We are not perfect and are all lifelong learners and embrace the opportunity to take on a role at Green School that is much more than just a normal teaching job. We are passionate educators, and that passion is driven by a love for what we do. Our teachers bring their own personal passion and ‘loves’ (for science, history, languages, cultures, numbers, sports, music, etc) to the school and to the children. The Middle School teachers work as hard as any teachers I know. They are continually planning, designing, reviewing, observing, collaborating and implementing a constant rotation of engaging units. At the same time, we are sharing student progress through written reports at the end of each six-week program block. Working at night and on weekends, running after-school activities, and helping with all the other extra Green School events and expectations. All the while, keeping the ‘children first’.
How and why do the teachers work so hard? Because they love it – our teaching team are all here for the same reason – a genuine love for learning, love of people, and love for this beautiful planet.
For too long love has not been a part of school curriculums. If you come to Green School Middle School, you can see, hear and feel the love – we are putting love into education.
Sal Gordon, Deputy Head, Middle School at Green School Bali
Application Open for August 2018 and January 2019, learn more to apply now.
Learn more about Green School Middle School Curriculum.