Chelsi's Educational Musings

Posts Tagged ‘Moral Intelligence

I have now completed my final project.  Well, by completed, I mean completed it for the time being.  I will continue to add to each month for the rest of the year, even after this class has finished.  I had blogged about my Moral Intelligence page previously, and it is now much improved since then!
 I worked like crazy to finish December’s Moral Intelligence Virtue of self-control so that our staff would be able to look at the page today after the staff meeting.  My staff was again very impressed by this month’s page, so I was quite pleased.  They still can’t believe that I’m able to make a website!Throughout the month, teachers have been letting me know how they have been using the site, and they have shared some very positive experiences.  I’m pleased that the site is very simple to use, and even the teachers who are not “technologically advanced” are finding success with the site.  Many teachers left such positive comments this month, and I am very grateful for the feedback.  Moreover, it is wonderful to hear from teachers on staff how they are using the site and have really embraced it, rather than seeing it as something else on their plate.  Teachers from pre-K to grade 8 have told me about how well-received it has been, how engaged the students are, how much they are learning about their students, and what mature discussions they have been having.  This is exactly what I wanted to happen!  I am also extremely grateful that my admin, Brent and Chris, is so on-board with my website.  The Moral Intelligences have been very important to them, as they had been wanting to have a solid program in place to use when dealing with disciplining students at the office.  At over 550 students, we have a very large school that is bigger than some of the high schools in our city.  Having all of the teachers on our large staff on the same page is important, and my principal has remarked that the site has allowed everyone to understand what they should be teaching, and how to teach it.  Thus, when students visit the office for inappropriate classroom or playground behaviour, our admin is able to talk to the students, using the Moral Intelligences as the basis for their conversation.  “How are you not using self-control?  How did you not show empathy for the other student?” are examples of statements that they can use that the students understand.  Brent and Chris had each grade group meet today to discuss how they used the website this month, and to take some time to review December’s page.  I am extremely grateful that they are giving the staff the time to peruse the website, as providing the time ensures that the teachers will look at the site and be more inclined to use it.  Furthermore, teachers are sharing lessons that they have created themselves, sending them to me, and I have been posting them, so the website is becoming a collaborative project!

When I started this project months ago, I never expected it to grow to what it has become.  I have put A LOT of work into this site – more work than I have applied to any other Master’s class project.  My learning curve has been huge!  However, the difference between this project and others that I have completed is that it does not feel like I am doing this “for the marks.”  I am not constantly thinking, “Is this what is required?  Is this what my prof wants?  Am I following the guidelines?  Will I receive a good mark?”  Instead, I have taken this project and have run with it.  I am always thinking about how I can add to it, and not because of project requirements, but because I want to make it better, share with my colleagues, and have something effective to use with my OWN students!  I have been using the site quite regularly, and I am so proud of it because the most important part is that the students are learning from it.  They always love when we work on the Moral Intelligences, and their answers are so mature.  They are really engaged, and I know it is because of the technological aspect of the site.  As well, it feels great to help my fellow colleagues.  I have made teaching this aspect of the curriculum so much easier for them.  Some are even planning to start their students blogging after Christmas – a project that I am going to start as well and with which I am going to help them.  I have been able to use so many sites and tools that we learned about in class when creating my website, AND have included them in my website.  Again, I was not thinking, “Oh, I should use Wordle, Picnik, and Compfight on the site so that I’ll get a better mark!”  Instead, I was thinking, “Sandy would love Wordle – her class would probably enjoy it too!”  “The grade eights will love using Picnik – I should include that somehow!”  I am so grateful for everything that I have learned in EC&I 831!

I have thoroughly enjoyed creating this project and it has been the most worthwhile Master’s class project that I have completed.  I am going to continue to add to it after this class has wrapped, and that way, there will be a page per month for the entire year.  When Dean Shareski spoke to our class, he asked us where our best work was located, and if it was online.  At the time, mine was not.  I remarked that it was sitting in boxes in my basement and in lessons that only my students saw.  Now, however, some of my best lessons are included in this website, and some of my NEW best work, this website itself, IS online!  I hope that other teachers outside of my school are able to use it, and that they will continue to share it with others for years to come.

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!