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‘Educating for Wholeness’ rolls off the tongue of every Surrey Christian School staff member who has been working here for a while. There is something beautiful about this. However, there is something risky about something rolling off the tongue so easily – the significance of these three words may be lost as they become familiar and cliche. As Covid-19 descended upon us last year, we were all forced to think about ‘Educating for Wholeness’ in a very intentional way as we began ‘Educating for Wholeness…from a distance.’₁
Teaching remotely last Spring revealed ‘Educating for Wholeness’ in new ways to us as teachers. It was a time to explore how to educate in a way that still provided social connection while we were told to physically distance. We explored how to encourage physical movement and health during a time where we received the message to lock down and stay put. We explored how to provide chapel and spiritual nourishment over Zoom. And we explored how to continue with curriculum while simultaneously caring for the emotional state of our students as they also learned to live with the fears and unknowns of learning during a pandemic. Indeed, as a staff, we learned a lot about what it means to ‘Educate for Wholeness.
And we explored how to continue with curriculum while simultaneously caring for the emotional state of our students as they also learned to live with the fears and unknowns of learning during a pandemic.
As we returned to school and the opportunity to be with our students again this year (which suddenly wasn’t taken for granted anymore!), we came back keenly aware of the need that ‘Educating for Wholeness’ included a strong emphasis on the mental and social emotional needs of our students. It is no secret that students flourish at school when they feel a deep, authentic sense of belonging. While a student’s social emotional wellness has always been linked to success in school, the connection has become even more explicit during this pandemic. Christina Cipriano, director of research at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence states it clearly: “It is next to impossible to expect teaching and learning to occur in a crisis without attending to our emotions.”
While we have had it in place in various forms and to various degrees, it is within the context of returning to school during a pandemic that we have launched CREW as a school wide K-12 structure. For the last few years, teachers at Surrey Christian School have been exposed to the ideas and practices of CREW. While CREW can look different in a variety of ways, depending on the age of the student and school implementation, essentially CREW is a structure in which students and teachers come together in smaller groups on a regular basis. The purpose of the time together is to create a deep sense of belonging; all students are known, hear their name and receive the consistent message that we have important work to do that we cannot do without you. CREW is both a culture and a structure that anchors students in a school community.
So, as we continue to journey into ‘Educating for Wholeness’ in such a time as this, we are equipping ourselves with a new structure that represents a deeper level of intentionality of living into our vision of being fully alive in God’s story.