You Say Tomato, I say......
When you drive south from Trinity-Pawling School on Route 22 you eventually hit Brewster, NY. Nestled amongst the various strip malls sits a building with a sign that reads “Wholistic Physical Therapy.” The sign immediately catches my eye because of its spelling. In fact, the sign is somewhat of a joke for many of us at Trinity-Pawling as we wonder how the owners of the facility could have spelled holistic with a “w.” Teachers are trained to pick up on such details. Catching a spelling mistake provides us with a Pavlovian-type reflex to look for our red pens.
Perhaps the sign’s spelling attracts so much attention for us at Trinity-Pawling because we often tout the benefits of the School’s holistic approach to education: the growth of the mind, body, and spirit through a student-centered approach to teaching and learning. While Trinity-Pawling is certainly not alone in its holistic approach to education, it is a value that we deliberately and passionately pursue as educators. It is because of this that the sign’s spelling catches our attention so quickly as we drive south. Each time we pass, we wonder why the owners of the facility don’t correct their sign’s spelling.
The reason they do not change their sign is because it is not spelled incorrectly. In the world of language geeks there can be fierce debate over the usage of wholistic versus holistic. While the two words have similar meanings, some argue about their specific usage. Wholistic generally refers to the whole of the body. Holistic, on the other hand, originally referenced the philosophy of “holism” which is the treatment of different parts of the body to impact the whole of the body. Despite their slightly different meanings, the words “wholistic” and “holistic” are often interchangeable. One is neither right, nor wrong in terms of their usage. Their use is a matter of preference or, perhaps, perspective.
This sign is a strong reminder for me to never assume my perspective is solely correct. This is particularly relevant for educators in our work with young people. Teachers at Trinity-Pawling have a profound impact on the growth of each boy. Trinity-Pawling is grounded in a mission that compels its teachers to challenge young men to grasp the greatness that each possess. As a faculty, we are guided by this approach to teaching and learning. As individual teachers, however, we each bring our own individual perspectives and, at times, preferences to our craft of teaching. Sometimes these perspectives will differ from those of our colleagues. Often, they will differ from those of our students.
Different perspectives that are part of a larger framework of a common purpose are healthy components of a learning community. They are not to be feared, nor should one perspective seek to shape or mold another. Teaching is a dynamic process and learning is the product of mutuality. As a teacher and as a school leader, I discovered long ago that I learn more from my students and my colleagues than I have probably taught. Their perspectives inevitably enrich and inform my own. And, hopefully they have found some value in my perspectives.
And, to those students who I corrected their spelling of “wholistic” to “holistic:” I apologize.
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