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EDU 6085 – Moral Issues in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 1

EDU 6085 – Moral Issues in Education – Meta Reflection – Standard 1

Standard 1: Teacher leaders model ethical and moral behavior.

 

After 11 years of teaching, I realized I never really considered the why behind many of the practices I hold to be paramount in my classroom. Practices not related to my content area, or to the school where I teach; instead, practices directly related to the adolescents who sit in front of me every day. Practices like sharing stories of my years of growing up, or reading thought-provoking articles and discussing what this might mean to people individually, or writing thank you notes to each student throughout the year to thank them for unique qualities that make each student an individual, or exploring novels together – when I teach math.   There must be a reason why “Respect” is the only rule in my classroom, and why it is the only rule I have ever needed to have. There must be a reason why I strive to make sure each student in my classroom knows that I value each student as an individual, and that getting to know them, and helping them become better thinkers, inventors, creators, and learners is my number one priority each year. Throughout this course, I have been asked to consider what morals are: where they come from, why they matter, and what place they hold in today’s education system. From this self-examination, I have concluded that my values — my subconscious understandings of how the world works, and how people work best within it — drive every decision I make when I consider my vision of a classroom and my role in achieving that vision.

The process to come to this conclusion has been a journey, to say the least. The majority of the learning in this course came from reading multiple texts, creating discussion board posts in response to the texts, and then reading and responding to other’s posts on the same topics. This virtual discussion allowed us to consider our responses to the content and express it in ways that you don’t always have in a class that meets in person on a regular basis, and I value the chances I have to interact with people from multiple advanced degree education programs, not just the Teacher Leadership focus that my degree has. Additionally, we had to consider our own background and ethics, to determine where our individual moral framework came from and how it impacts us as educators.

The class began with an exploration of Christian ethics, which was a challenging start to the class. Although we ultimately focused on ethics and morality as it relates to educators, the first text challenged me to consider where my own beliefs and morals have come from. I found repeatedly that many of my basic beliefs that I have simply never considered the origin of have come from biblical principals. Although I am a Christian, I was not raised in the church, so this section of the course led me to really consider how I developed those ideals without a biblical background as a young child and how that can translate to students who are sitting in my classroom on a daily basis.

Next we read a text that focused on the history of how moral education has been handled in America. This was an interesting focus for me, and somewhat of a struggle because I don’t love history. However, I found that when it was related to something that I care very much about – educating children – that I was more interested in the topics of study. My take away from this section of the course was that the definition of moral education is going to be ever changing. As our world changes and our societies adapt, the definition of what is important, who is in charge of teaching it, and how to best teach it will continue to change. It is important, as educators, that we are aware of this, and continue to learn and grow as the world around us does.

The third text of study focused on how to help students find character and compassion and connection in the public school setting. This was written from the eyes of an educator without a connection to religion, but instead with a consideration of what our students need on a daily basis to feel like they have an emotional connection and support system within the public school. This book truly touched on what it means to be an educator to me – not just a math teacher. It is imperative that I continue to reach out and support my students, that I educate their entire person and not just their mathematical ability. There are certainly colleagues I have who would disagree, but this text really validated my belief in educating the whole child rather than just the subject matter of my classroom. One chapter of this book discussed joy, and how to teach and share joy with students. This was a really interesting chapter for me. First, the definition of joy provided by the author, “..a delight and gratitude in being alive” (Kessler, 2000, p.73). I realized I have never really thought about what joy means to me, or how I would define it, but I love that definition. Then the section about how teenagers often hide their joy was also quite thought provoking for me. I see this often; my students can share about things that went wrong, or injustice that has been done to them by their parents/peers/pets/etc., but they struggle to really celebrate and be thankful for what they have experienced and all that has gone right. Even though I am a math teacher, I can easily incorporate joy into my classroom. I always share events about my life with my students, and I often share events that went well or caused joy. I can easily do more of that. I can also take a little time to ask students what went well, or what they are thankful for. It is easy for me to take a bit of time to touch base with students and see how they are doing, and to encourage them to celebrate and be joyful. Even just greeting the class with music playing can be enough to create joy for some students.

Last, we studied a text that discusses how to take religion seriously regardless of the curriculum area. This book did not have a section on religion in the math classroom, which was disappointing to me, but did offer insight on how religion fits into education, and the role of the teacher.

This course gave me reason to pause and consider why I believe what I do and how that impacts my job as a public school teacher. I feel very strongly that my place as an educator remains in the public school classroom, and that my job is more than just teaching math to high school students. Being challenged to consider why that is, and how it fits in the broader idea of moral education as a whole was a unique experience for me. In the future, I plan to continue to research and learn about ways to teach the whole child, and how to support emotional and spiritual growth without it coming from a Christian perspective (as it is public school, and I have many students who have a different religious background).

Resources:

Bennett, C. A. (2014). Creating Cultures of Participation to Promote Mathematical

Discourse. Middle School Journal, 46 (2), 20-25.

Fedler, K. D. (2006). Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Morality.

Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Haynes, C.C. & Nord, W.A. (1998). Taking Religion Seriously Across the Curriculum.

Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Kessler, R. (2000). The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and

Character at School. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

McClellan, B.E. (1999). Moral Education in America. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Miller, R. & Pedro, J. (2006). Creating Respectful Classroom Environments. Early

Childhood Education Journal, 33 (5), 293-299. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10643-006-0091-1

Sammons, P., Kington, A., Lindorff-Vijayendran, A., & Ortega, L. (2014). Inspiring Teachers:

Perspectives and Practices Summary Report. CfBT Education Trust.

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