A good education goes beyond teaching content. Students do not come to school to solely learn math or reading. Just like teachers are not just qualified to teach math or reading. It may say “math teacher” in their title, but a good teachers teach many lessons beyond the subject assigned. Shield (2011) states, “Education should develop intellectual character, moral character, civic character, and performance character, along with the collective character of the school” (p. 49). Each day students enter a learning community rich in virtue. They are welcomed into a learning community that fosters respect for individual differences, values respect and responsibility, and encourages intellectual and social growth. Each day my students are learning how to positively interact with their peers. They are held to high behavior expectations focused on respect, responsibility, and safety. Is this challenging? Absolutely. Do all students come to school with the same virtues? Do all students come to school with role model behavior? Of course not. This is why teaching goes beyond teaching content. Good teachers prepare students to be successful and work hard to teach values that students can apply in all areas of life.
Shield (2011) states “When character takes center stage, the learning of content becomes infused with both social and existential significance. Knowledge becomes enacted knowledge. By contrast, when we focus more narrowly on knowledge transmission, on teaching content, the reason to learn becomes opaque to the learner.” I agree that character should be center stage. I think that this is inevitable in a positive learning community. Kirk states,
“Boys and girls will model themselves, if they can, after exemplars. But what sort of exemplars? Rock stars, and the fancied personalities of the heroes and heroines of the soap operas, have become the exemplars for a multitude of young people in their most formative years. Rarely are such persons, or pseudo-persons, admirable mentors” (para. 4).
This is why teachers spend so much time establishing a safe learning environment with effective behavior management. Students need to know what it looks like to show respect to others. They need explicit modeling and practice of how to work productively in group settings and problem solve with their peers. Teachers give positive reinforcement to students who demonstrate exemplar behavior so other students can learn from their peers. Teachers are also models of exemplar behavior. They take time each morning to greet their students and learn their students’ strengths and weaknesses. They value student interests and backgrounds and use this information to adapt and modify their teaching. They encourage students to participate, and help students who need support. Lickona (2011) gives ten virtues of character including: wisdom, justice, fortitude, self-control, love, positive attitude, hard work, integrity, gratitude, and humility. Lickona (2011) states, “A decision to work seriously on one virtue will likely pull all the other virtues up.” I think this is why we can see our students’ growth and have opportunities to reward students’ positive behavior. While we may not be teaching each of these virtues explicitly they are “caught” through their daily interactions with others in a positive learning environment that we as teachers have worked hard to establish.
Kirk, R. (1987). The wise men know what wicked things are written in the sky. Washington D.C.: Regnery.
Lickona, T. (2003, Fall). The content of our character: Ten essential virtues. The fourth and fifth Rs respect and responsibility, 10(1).
Shields, D. (2011). Character as the Aim of Education. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(8), 48-53.