In our work in character education, we have learned about how different types of character interact: you need to belong (civic character) and to be able to fulfil your potential (performance character); if you feel as though you belong and achieve your potential, you're more likely to do good and right in the world (moral character). It's the same with wellness. You can't be at your best with achievement academically or otherwise unless you are well. It's about seeing the whole and working out how what you do supports the other components.
Thus, instead of compartmentalising the components of a person or an education, we look to integrate what we might call the content and the context of the journey of the growth of the person and its formation through interdependent relationships of apprenticeship. And then, of course, we need to integrate everything we do as educators within interconnected systems and structures that bring people together to grow, achieve and succeed, even though we know that life isn't necessarily beautifully seamless and smooth.
When we talk with teachers all over the world about a whole education for the whole character of a person and the competencies and wellness that underpin this, for too many still, the starting point is “What's that got to do with us?” We need to help our colleagues to recognise that what they're doing is more than delivering a prescribed set of knowledge for replication in examinations.
Of course, results are important. There's an inherent potential in every human being that needs to be fulfilled through performance, through achieving results. Human beings are built to do things and to do them well. It's really, really important for them and for us that they can.
But it goes beyond this. As teachers, we are educating for the development of all of the belonging, potential, and good of the human beings in front of us despite their frailties. We are educating for the selflessness and interconnectedness of community that bring out the best in all in a world of constant change and uncertainty that might provoke self-centredness and isolation in their place. This is what we mean by the whole of learning.
The consequences of this commitment to the whole of learning within a human-centred, technologically enriched, people and place and planet conscious and intentionally purposeful community are so important. They may even be intimidating as we contemplate how much there is to be done and how limited our individual capacity might be to get it all done.
We know, however, that nobody's capable of perfection, that everybody makes mistakes. It’s Leonard Cohen who said that it’s the brokenness in us that lets the light in. We can’t do it all by ourselves. It’s this necessary reality that prevents us from pretending we can fix our imperfections by striving to be in a perfect yet inhumane isolation. It’s this need for each other that gives us our complementarity, that allows us to collaborate and develop together within a shared light rather than.
It’s that African concept of ‘ubuntu’ which is: “I am because you are”. I can't exist and I can’t complete my sense of purpose as a person unless you're there helping me along the way. We are bound together by ties of kinship and of community. And so together we generate belonging; on top of this belonging, we encourage performance; and on on top of this belonging and performance, we might eventually reach the doing of what is good and right. When we wrap all of this up in a sort of messy, chaotic, imperfect and yet beautifully human system of relationships focused on creating today’s learning for tomorrow’s word – well, suddenly we’ve got a school with real energy and purpose and connection.