I never let my schooling interfere with my education.
Parents just took another unfair hit from people who don’t understand education and the role schools play in education.
Recently in the Huffington post Tim Elmore reported that “According to Joan McVitte, president of the Association of School and College Leaders, ‘to instill values and responsibility’ now has to be a top priority. The Harvard Graduate School of Education shared a recent poll indicating that 70 percent of public school parents want schools to teach ‘strict standards of right and wrong,’ and 85 percent want schools to teach values.” He used this as a launching pad for an article entitled “Teachers: Your Job Just Got More Important.”
Seriously? Teacher’s jobs have suddenly changed? Teachers have to work harder because parents have fallen down on their job? There was a time when teachers didn’t have to teach morality, values and “behavior?” That’s like saying that there was a time when car manufacturers didn’t have to worry about wheels but now research shows people want their cars to come direct from the factory with wheels.
How have teachers done without values and morality all this time? Teachers who expect they won’t have to teach “behavior” don’t understand their job. You can’t teach another person anything without teaching the whole person. Teaching morality and values is done in the process of building relationships with students, and a culture of learning in the school, not as a separate “add on,” and certainly not as a special course or program in the school.
When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a student at Morehouse College in 1947, he wrote a paper entitled “The Purpose of Education,” the central thesis of which is: “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” He was by no means the first to say this. In fact he was standing on the shoulders of people like Maria Montessori (whose birthday in 1870 was celebrated last month) and John Dewey (born in 1859) and is by no means the last. Howard Gardner identifies interpersonal and intrapersonal as two critical intelligences, and Daniel Goleman’s research shows that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ in predicting success.
But these five people are just a few famous ones. All educators know this, and so do we all. So why do we so often talk as if we don’t? Maybe because it requires changing how “things are done.”
The culture of the school, itself, is the main vehicle for teaching young people how to behave—at least as important as the home or the church. Church may preach morality and values, and the home wires kids’ brains to be predisposed to a set of behaviors, but school culture is necessarily the primary delivery system for learning behavior, and school culture is hard to change from its original 19th Century factory model.
Yes, being responsible for social and emotional development does, indeed, make teaching important, but there was no time when an educator didn’t have to teach the whole child. In fact educating social intelligence has always been the most important value-added of a teacher. Who-I-am has always been what teachers actually teach—intentionally or not. I would never hire a teacher who didn’t understand that.
Any good teacher starts off the year by going over the behavioral expectations of a class, and smart teachers ask the students themselves to help generate a list of the disciplines required to create an environment conducive to learning. Together they generate a list of behaviors that will help everyone maximize learning. Depending on the age of the students the list may look something like: Listen when others are talking
Speak up, but don’t talk too much
Help others out
Wait your turn
Look out for each other
This is how educators “teach” responsibility and respect. Educators know that students already have a sense of what respectful and responsible behavior looks like, and know that the class will be a year-long program in practicing and getting better and better at taking responsibility and being respectful of others.
What’s this baloney about how teachers now have one more thing to do that they never had to do before? Whoever entertains that notion doesn’t understand education, and whoever talks that way is perpetuating an antiquated notion of schooling that never was educational.