MUSE School leads with the Whole Heart

Alan Gottlieb, Compositive Staff

“How do we encourage our students to be good people? You start with the heart and you go from there.”

MUSE School consciously and deliberately focuses on educating in all four B4Kids domains — brain, heart, body, and community. But MUSE clearly leads with the heart.

“How do we encourage our students to be good people?” is one of the school’s guiding question, said Caitlin Roche, MUSE’s early childhood and elementary school director. “You start with the heart and you go from there.”

Nowhere is the focus on heart more evident than in the central place the Process Communication Model (universally known at MUSE as PCM) holds at the school. PCM helps educators and students alike understand the varied ways different personality types approach the world, learning, and relationships.

“You’re hard-pressed to have success in a learning community if you don’t place a premium on relationships,” said middle and high school director Dennis Campbell.

All teachers take the PCM Personality Pattern Inventory and are trained in PCM as they enter the school community. Students take the inventory when they enter middle school.

PCM lingo pervades the school. Even the youngest kids will tell a teacher “you’re not in my channel,” if communication has gone awry. PCM lists four communications channels: play, care, ask, tell. Younger children tend to float among the channels. As they get older, they tend to settle on one or two preferred channels.

“Any given day, students will walk in and they are empowered to decide how they want to be spoken to,” MUSE co-founder Rebecca Amis explains in a MUSE video. “This is their way to say ‘I’m Rebecca and today I want to be played with.”’

MUSE also recognizes that different students have different “environmental preferences.” Some prefer to work alone, others one-on-one with teachers, others in small groups, and some in large groups. Teachers encourage students to try all four environments, but classrooms are set up to facilitate time in any of the four.

The best example we found of the effectiveness of MUSE’s Whole Heart approach came from Sarah Gerth Jones, mother of five, all MUSE students. One of her youngest, a second-grader, had struggled at other schools, including some of LA’s most exclusive private schools.

“He was far behind in reading, struggling so much, he hated school,” Jones said. “I had moments, days of crying.” She was told the boy had ADHD and needed medication. But she doubted the diagnosis.

When she moved him to MUSE, the problems vanished within weeks. “They figured out he was the PCM ‘rebel’ type, and needed to bounce around and do things in his own way. His teacher even bought him a wiggly chair.”

A month after enrolling at MUSE he was reading at grade-level, and soon thereafter, he surpassed his twin brother.

“They love him so much here. He’s thriving.”

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