Making Today Count:
Honoring The Whole Child
It’s hard to believe that 2017 has come to a close and the New Year is upon us. The holidays of December offer a kind break from the busy school schedule, allowing time with family and friends along with the opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the passing year.
As I reflect on the things at Manheim Township that have brought me great joy during 2017, my mind centers on one primary thing – seeing how our students flourish both academically and holistically through the work of a highly dedicated staff. My observations and interactions with students each month when visiting schools, and meeting with them during scheduled times, reinforce the belief that these students have so much to offer us as a school community and as a larger “global” community. They are truly our future, and I love knowing that our investment of time, money, and resources into the educational programs at MTSD bring them full circle as they develop into strong, skilled young adults.
Addressing the “whole child” in an educational system that puts significant weight on high stakes testing and accountability can be a challenge. However, at MT, I’m proud that we collectively strive to have a balanced, holistic perspective on education. The whole child is valued in many ways as we address their social, physical, and academic needs. Our vision statement offers testament to our commitment to addressing the whole child – “We are committed to the achievement of each individual’s potential by providing a nurturing learning community that … stimulates curiosity and creativity, promotes personal integrity, and encourages good citizenship ….”. These skills are modeled and often taught by various individuals throughout the school day. Some educational specialists refer to them as “soft skills,” the skills employers desire for employees – positive attitude, creative thinking, work ethic, intrinsic motivation, ability to get along with others, collaborative communication, honesty, and strong social and emotional intelligence.
At the elementary level, we recognize students’ bucket filling” — filling other’s “buckets” with positive words, recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors, and offering unexpected kind and meaningful words. At the high school level we honor the demonstration of the soft skills by having teachers nominate students who regularly exhibit character traits that are noteworthy. The most recent recognition ceremony on December 21 honored twelve students for consistently demonstrating a positive attitude, compassion, respect, honesty and integrity, gratitude, courage, and responsibility.
Through extra-curricular clubs, athletic teams, and other venues our students continue to give back to their community and those in need. This holiday season many of our students spent time providing food and other items to local organizations and individual families. At times, we partnered with students from other school districts, such as Donegal High School, to give holiday dinners to families at the Clipper Stadium.
The desire to give back to the community is such an important behavior, and one that many of our students embody both individually and collectively. This behavior, along with the other soft skills that students need to possess, cannot be measured by any high-stakes assessment in reading or mathematics. Therefore, we need to continue balancing our focus on academic growth and achievement of the soft skills that promote lifelong success for students.
So in this time of gratitude and reflection of the past year, a special thank you goes to our school staff, parents/guardians, and community members for helping our students grow in such meaningful ways. Blessings in the New Year, and I hope it brings renewed spirit and energy for the important work to be done for our students.