Following up from the honor of being selected in Huffington Posts Top 12 Global Education Blogs of 2014/2015 I have been chosen again in this amazing group and for 2016/2017 will be contributing to Huffington Post’s Education blog once a month. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “How important is teaching ethics in the classroom? How do we instill a moral compass in every student?” – here is my response:
4 ways to embed morals and ethics in your classroom
We live in a very different world than the world we were born into. As a dad, the moral and ethical state of what is portrayed in mainstream media scares me and as an education leader, I know that these areas are not actively taught well enough in our schools. So when I was challenged to write on morals and ethics I knew I had to create a list to help others teach and embed morals and ethics into everyday classroom routines. Here is my attempt:
- Help Students Believe in Themselves
We need people that stand up for their rights and principles, believe in themselves and have a strong moral compass. We need to model a clear set of values and follow through by positively acting on those values. Show them how passionate you are and how you are giving back to society! Tell them why you do what you do and discuss ways in which they can do the same. In the international school setting, we actively teach about different cultures and ethnicities and that everyone is the same on the inside!
- Develop a Moral and Ethical Vocabulary
Moral and Ethical vocabulary should be part of every teacher’s toolkit when discussing historical or current event topics. I encourage teachers to actively talk about honesty, respect and how this is portrayed in the “real” world. We encourage students to seek out examples of this in the media and even bring “fake news” into the conversation (for more about Fake News in Education, click here).
Image Source: http://www.playbuzz.com/chrisanthemum10/which-direction-does-your-moral-compass-lead-you
- Basics of Human interaction (and physical classroom space)
Your classroom contracts, mottos, and design all become essential elements of establishing a positive moral and ethical culture. This should be present from the moment someone steps into your classroom. Think about quotes and images you have in your room, who are your students inspired by, is it fair and equal, think about culture, gender, and ethnicity. I always make sure that:
- Students face whoever is speaking – No backs turned
- I never sit when talking – I want them to see me and I want them to be active listeners
- I mention students’ positive behaviors and successes 3x more than anything negative (Positive 3:1 is my rule)
- I clarify good ideas and make notes to dig deeper into later
- I use the ‘comma’ rule by saying ‘comma’ between ideas to encourage ‘piggybacking’ so that the discussion is fluid. I don’t jump in with a throwaway compliment like “great”, let the conversation flow!
- Accept everyone, ALWAYS!
This one is simple! Create a culture of acceptance – anyone in my classroom is accepted, ALWAYS! Everyone is part of our collective group who are working together towards a common purpose. Write this in your class contract and refer to it frequently. Go beyond negative comments and make them positive statements that can be on-going teaching points. As an example, instead of stating “No running”, change this to “Walking is what we do, we will be on time so that running is not necessary”. Life lessons occur daily that your students can link to real life events and situations beyond your classroom walls.
Image Source: https://www.scmagazine.com/a-new-ethics-moral-compass/article/530298/
Your ethical classroom is a place where you and your students will look forward to being every day, a place of peace, a place of learning, and a place of personal and growth. As educators, we don’t just teach content, we must also teach the ethical behavior that has too long been neglected in society.
I hope this list helps you integrate and embed the teaching of Morals and Ethics into your classroom. Please share what you do or what you plan to do and how you are creating empathetic, kind and compassionate citizens in your school.