This project concerning holistic education and school climate in the United States and specifically in the city of Phoenix has been both insightful and worrisome. This journey has included extensive research on holistic education and school climate alongside their numerous intersecting issues. Along the course of my research, gained insight on these prevailing problems facing students across America.
Why Phoenix? I decided to look closely into the city of Phoenix for my issue investigation of holistic education and school climate because of my own personal experience. I grew up in Phoenix and attended public school from preschool all the way through senior year of high school. Initially, my simple curiosity drove me towards targeting educational issues in my hometown. I hoped to examine my own relationship with education that I had developed over the years. Throughout my schooling, I understood America’s schooling system had flaws. I even first-hand experienced some of those flaws. However, during the entirety of this project, I had many new realizations about both areas of improvement and areas with opportunities.
While exploring different problems and challenges connecting with education in the United States, I was not completely certain with what path I was going to take. I searched and looked through professionally and peer reviewed articles discussing social and emotional learning. The concept of social and emotional learning instantly became very intriguing. However, I decided to examine the problem on broader terms. This resulted into the ideas of holistic education and school climate. By extending my research, I overcame my obstacle of not requiring enough information or finding an adequate amount of grassroots organizations. At the same time, my study multiplied. As research continued, the list of components related to the definitions of holistic education and school climate grew larger. Bullying, student well-being, mental health, whole child frameworks, mindfulness, and social and emotional learning were set as the finalized version of important factors. Through my preliminary research, I extended what I understood about these very impactful issues and possible solutions.
In a broader framework, my knowledge about grassroots community organizing and urban education was expanded. Throughout this semester, the different perspectives of leadership and various terminology associated with community organizing fascinated me. These varying standpoints of leadership were kept in mind as I classified local Phoenix and national organizations as grassroots or non-grassroots. In addition to definitions of leadership and organizing, the recognition of the individual humanity in a collective consciousness was helpful in identifying the structure of an organization.
Many, if not all, of the grassroots organizations I came across were founded by those closely impacted by the problem at hand. Connections were often made through the creator’s own or a family member’s personal relationship with the issue. This foundation closely follows Ella Baker’s description of the broad strategy of community organizing. She viewed organizing a community as fundamentally “start[ing] with where [the people] are” (as cited in Mueller, 2004, p.84). In the cases of the grassroots organizations I examined, students were often part of their establishment. Educating others was also a major aspect of the organizations. Programs or training were created to “first see the world as it is and not as we would like it to be” (Alinsky, 1971, p. 12). By starting with the people and the problem being evaluated at their current state, individualism is emphasized within the framework of the community.
Moreover, it was clear that organization was heavily emphasized on awareness. Spreading information about bullying or mental health, for instance, was often carried out with the integration of awareness curriculum for all levels of individuals. By levels of individuals, I am referring to students, parents, and educators.
It is significant to note that many grassroots have implemented programs or training which specifically target adults. Targeting adults does not necessarily mean shifting the focus from the students. The acknowledgement of parents and teachers help further advocate for the students facing matters like mental health. With this support student voice can be validated and understood by others in their community.
Overall, it is important to foster the creation of dialogue about these issues which many students face. By enabling and supporting awareness, the stigma that comes along can be teared down. Community organizing and especially organizing with a grassroots framework works ideally to target educational issues frequently found in urban settings. Although I hit several components about holistic education, I only scratched the surface and opportunities for further research are available.