The whole child. It’s a phrase that is increasingly used in education circles to describe the idea that kids need more than academics in school - social and emotional elements including self- awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. All are foundational and more critical than ever.
“We needed to double down in this area,” says Superintendent Dr. Linda Quinn. “This year we have gone from six school counselors to eleven. We now have counselors at each of our schools and a brand new Social & Emotional Learning Coordinator who does the work of coordinating efforts across the District.”
That Coordinator is a familiar face around Ferndale. Patti went through the Ferndale School District from 1st grade on, graduating from Ferndale High School in 2001. Some even know her as “Coach” as she has led the Ferndale High School Volleyball program for the last 12 years. Patti, however, began her role as elementary school counselor in 2007 at Central Elementary and has been serving in that role between Ferndale and Nooksack Valley School districts for the last 12 years, most recently last year at Eagleridge Elementary.
When asked to describe what she will do this year, Hoezle says, “My goal is to support all of our schools and staffs to be part of the village that helps parents raise their children in Ferndale. Growing up in today's society has many pressures and struggles that are new and students need a different set of social and emotional skills than they did in the past. I hope to set up families and children for not only a smooth childhood NOW but a successful adulthood in the future as well."
Hoezle goes on to talk about how important social and emotional health is for kids, “Social and emotional health is like a plate. The academic stuff gets piled on top of the plate so that kids can consume what they need to grow in school. We’re working on getting that plate – that foundation – into place for all Ferndale kids.”
Ferndale School District’s Executive Director for Student Services Dr. Paul Douglas oversees this work and spends a lot of time working with staff, principals, and parents in an effort to create the kind of resources that Ferndale families most need and want. According to Dr. Douglas, the District is working to create professional development opportunities for staff. “We want to equip all of our staff with the knowledge that they can provide a safe and effective learning environment for each child.”
According to Douglas, this work goes beyond school buildings. “Our youngest students all the way up to our graduating seniors know that in the Ferndale School District we are ‘safe, responsible, and respectful.’ That expectation translates to life outside of school. We want our community to join us in that expectation for our students as well.”
As this work builds on itself this year and in the future, Dr. Quinn says, “A growing body of research confirms what we already know. We need to pay attention to the whole child. Kids can’t master academics effectively if they don’t have a set of foundational skills in self-management, decision-making, and relationship-building. All of us need those things to function in an increasingly complex world.”
October is National Bullying Prevention Month which will provide a timely opportunity for continued emphasis and education for students throughout the Ferndale School District.