All classes at The Whole School are small sized, multi-age and cultivate a non-competitive environment. These elements are felt to be crucial to ensure that our students experience a secure, nurturing environment. This safe environment enables them to become risk-takers who trust enough to make mistakes and leaders who are willing to express their own opinions openly and freely.
Our non-competitive approach, which includes no use of grades in the classrooms, empowers the students to appreciate differences and enjoy each others’ successes.
Self-evaluation and self-motivation are keys to the assessment of these goals.
Our classrooms are configured so that students move through a variety of different cooperative groupings based on their individualized instruction and non-graded learning plans. Our school values the safety and compassion of continuous progress.
To enable each student to experience success, teachers work one on one with the students to develop ongoing, individual, achievable goals.
The Whole School values authentic assessment and qualitative reporting to parents with an emphasis on individual growth and needs without comparison to others. Therefore, student evaluations are only given to families in an anecdotal format (letter grades are available to parents upon request).
Daily classroom activities are theme based with social, emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual development equally emphasized. Often thematic units span all classrooms in the school bringing the students together to share their knowledge. Classroom activities are also based on active learning styles using centers, field trips and experiential learning tools. This daily rhythm includes circle time, morning physical activity and meal times together.
Daily exposure to creative projects, music, drama, languages, movement, handwork, cooking and fine art is a constant thread throughout the curriculum while drawing upon the talents and abilities of teachers, parents and community members to enrich the program.
Exploration and discovery of the natural world are encouraged as they develop increasing bio-regional awareness and leadership skills. An appreciation of our place in the ecosystem and respect for its inter-connectedness and cycles teaches respect for each other, our community and our environment.
Within the Whole School program there is a comprehensive behaviour policy developed called the “Student Guidance Policy” which is premised on positive guidance. This policy outlines tools to be used to create a positive learning environment including: the “Virtues Project”, non-violent communication, student learning contracts, process for dealing with conflict resolution, individual/collaborative problem solving and an appeals process.
The Whole School also works from a developmental attachment theory paradigm. The basic concepts of this theory are (as taken from our parent classroom support manual):
Attachment is not only a basic theme of human existence but of all living things and in the inanimate world as well. Attachment is the most fundamental force in the universe. The forces of fusion, molecular cohesion, magnetism and gravity are examples of attachment in inanimate form. The experiences of love, loyalty and affection are examples of attachment in human form.
Most plants attach by their roots and Humans by their hearts. This renders all humans very vulnerable.
Children were never designed to be parented or taught by just anyone, he/she is meant to be influenced and taken care of only by those they are attached to. Children will not accept guidance or support from people they are not attached to; therefore, the relationship between child and teachers or parent classroom support is critical for them to feel safe and for optimal learning opportunities to happen.
All teachers have a working knowledge of this paradigm and utilize these practices on a daily basis, for example, by taking time each morning to reconnect with each child, as every day is a brand new day. The children are surrounded by a working attachment village of teachers and parents.
At The Whole School there is also a high level of parent involvement. This involvement includes collaboration between parents, teachers and students on planning themes and supporting activities including artistic programs, field trips, resources, outdoor education programs, special celebrations and events.
The Whole School constantly has community volunteers coming into the classroom to share their artistic talents through numerous workshops with the students. The school also holds many seasonal celebrations including Harvest Lunch, Candle Lighting Ceremony, Winter Performance, May Day, and recognition of other cultural milestones.