Chelsi's Educational Musings

Seeing the Light

Posted on: October 9, 2011

I somewhat neglected my blog this week (not for lack of trying!) due to my work on my final project assignment.  I spent a couple of hours last night reading through everyone’s entries and again, I’ve acquired new sites to try, new information, and feel that I’ve gotten to “know” people in our class a little better with each entry.

When we were assigned our final project, I was in the midst of working on a project at my school.  We have quite a large staff, as we have nearly 550 students at our school, making it one of the biggest elementary schools in the city.  Our staff is broken into committees where we oversee such projects as improving literacy and numeracy, student wellness, and extra-curricular events.  Having been a part of the extra-curricular committee for years, I joined a coworker on the “Moral Intelligence” committee this year to try something new.  Over the past three years, Regina Public has been promoting the teaching of Moral Intelligence – empathy, conscience, kindness, tolerance, acceptance, respect, self control, and fairness – in the classrooms.  These virtues are to be taught and their language used throughout the duration of the year.  For the past two years, our school highlighted a virtue every month.  Our former vice principal had compiled resources and information based on Michele Borba’s Moral Intelligence:   The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to do the Right Thing book for us to use each month.  The paper booklets were a wealth of information, but I think that some of our staff was overwhelmed, as there was so much information, but not much in the way of clearcut “lessons” to be created.  Thus, last year it seemed that teaching the Moral Intelligences was just an add-on at the end of the month, rather than an important part of a child’s whole education.

I’m a huge advocate for teaching moral virtues.  We are living in a world today where we are constantly bombarded by negative statistics about the increase in crime, violence, school shootings, bullying, drug and alcohol use, and broken homes.  Children often witness much of this toxic culture firsthand, or through the media.  They often do not know how to handle their feelings in regards to these situations, and lessons in morality may not always be taught at home as they once were.  Likewise, some children rarely experience violence and crime due to their social-economic level, and teaching them to be empathetic towards these situations is invaluable.  Thus, teachers often must fill this void.  This may seem like a daunting task, but it is one that is definitely worth the time and effort.  Certain classes may need to be explicitly taught certain virtues, while others may have learned these virtues at home.  I have taught in a classroom where I had to have a specific time period each day to simply work on “Manners” as its own subject, as this virtue was at such a deficit when the students entered my classroom.  However, I am a firm believer that once students first identify, then understand, and finally, USE morality, the entire dynamic of the classroom changes.  Anyone who has taught disrespectful students knows how difficult it is to accomplish anything, even if the students are working at a higher level academically.  Once students learn to be virtuous (as often as possible), there will be more patience, listening, and self control in the classroom.  Achieving a classroom of moral learners will not be an easy task, but we must begin somewhere!  When all of our staff was fully on board with this project three years ago, the students knew and used the language of the virtues.  If dealing with an issue, the teachers and admin also used the terms, such as, “How are you not practising respect?  How do you think so and so is feeling right now?  How could you show empathy towards him/her?”  It really did make a difference.

When it came time to meet with my coworkers to decide how we would incorporate the Moral Intelligences into our school this year, we had planned to create lessons for each grade level to use for each virtue, every month.  The committee last year had already found particular grade-level appropriate books and created questions, so those were to be photocopied and handed out each month as well.  That was when a lightbulb went on in my head.  Are the teachers REALLY going to appreciate and use MORE paper copies of lessons?  Is it going to be the same as last year where sifting through booklets to try to create a lesson per month would just be another thing to do on an already full plate?  Why not compile the information into a more visually organized website for my staff, and ANY staff, to use?  Our school is now almost completely paperless in regards to newsletters.  Our staff announcements are done online every day, some of us blog weekly rather than sending home newsletters, and the parents have access to the school site filled with information and a calendar that is updated daily.  If we had a website for the Moral Intelligence information, I felt that the teachers would be much more inclined to check that than to pull out all of their paper copies and find a lesson each month.  I asked Alec if I could create a Moral Intelligence website, and he said yes.  My principal and vice principal were very enthusiastic about the project, so I was good to go!

I have been working diligently on this website over the past two weeks and have probably spent a good 20 hours or so compiling resources, creating lessons, learning how to make a site using google sites, and putting it all together.  I have run into a few snags, mainly the fact that our school has been using Borba’s book for much of the previous Moral Intelligence training.  I wanted to include activities and information from the book on the website, but quickly realized that that would be breaking a number of copyright laws!  I emailed Michele Borba to ask her if I could have permission to post a few select pages.  She graciously emailed back from Rwanda, where she is working with children, to tell me that she would grant me permission, but her publisher would not.  She said that I could post snippets of up to 100 words on the site or anything from her blog, so that is what I have been doing.  I have had my librarian order extra copies of the book so that if I refer to a page number, the teachers have access to it.  The only problem is that if teachers from other schools are using the website, they will have to order the book to understand a few of the lessons, but I could not figure out a way to get past that problem without breaking copyright laws.

I am really excited how this project is turning out and by the fact that I am getting to use some of the things we are learning in class.  I found some of my Moral Intelligence lesson resources via a Twitter search.  I am compiling a list of the resources using Delicious.  I created a page for the teachers on how to get the senior students set up with a blog and how the teachers can use the RSS feed.  I have a Comments section on each page so that teachers at my school, and hopefully eventually other schools, can share ideas, tell what worked well, and contribute websites.  Most importantly, I am excited that I am creating something that we will actually USE that will simplify a once daunting monthly task.  Now, each virtue will be found in its monthly page, complete with lessons for each subject area and for each division of K-2, 3-5, and 6-8.  I am hoping that throughout the year, I can add Google Docs so that teachers from our school and any other school can contribute in multiple ways.  I still have a lot of work to do, but from what I have shown my staff so far, it has been well-received.  Hopefully those of you teaching middle years will be able to use the page as well!

8 Responses to "Seeing the Light"

All of your hard work on this is greatly appreciated by your colleagues, Chelsi! I’m excited by what I am seeing and grateful to you for the nudges to take the Moral Intelligence Project and use of technology another step forward. Thank you!

Hi Rhonda!
Thanks SO much for the comment and for your help cataloguing all of the books! That was a HUGE job, but I know that it will make using them so much easier! Thanks, as well, for promoting technology at our school! It has been awesome having you join our staff this year because we’ve already learned so much from you!

I am excited to see your finished project Chelsi!!! This sounds like a great project, and is allowing you to incorporate many of the social networking tools we are learning about!

Thanks Melissa! I hope others are able to make use of the site!

Wow, Chelsi! What a meaningful project for the course, for your school, and for our society. I appreciated your comment “we are constantly bombarded by negative statistics about the increase in crime, violence, school shootings, bullying, drug and alcohol use, and broken homes. Children often witness much of this toxic culture firsthand.” By engaging in discussions of virtues, you are providing an alternate story for children who hear themselves and their peers portrayed as the lost/apathetic/diagnosed generation. Speaking differently helps us all see differently.

Thanks so much! I completely agree with you that children and teens are often portrayed in a negative light these days, yet there ARE so many wonderful children out there!

This sounds great Chelsi! I find when teaching moral intelligence, it is really important for the students to respect their teacher. This obviously has to be earned by the teacher, usually by building a positive relationship with all learners. Once this respect, trust and love is established, it is a lot easier to tackle the other virtues.

I really appreciate that Regina Public is tackling this. In Regina Catholic we look at these same virtues in our Religion program but I will definitely be taking a look at your site. The next time I find some “free time” I would love to pick up that book too. I just started reading Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon Ph.D. and Michael Thompson Ph.D. It tackles raising and teaching boys who aren’t emotionally illiterate. I am only a few pages in, but it might be a nice link to your blog.

Thanks so much! I agree – it’s so important to develop an atmosphere of trust and respect before you can really extend the teaching of moral intelligence. You’re right – it’s such an important part of the students’ education and it’s so good that Regina Public is on board with this project.
Thanks for the book recommendation! I will check it out and link to it!

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