Developing Integrity in Our Students – Teaching Tip Tuesday

I want to develop integrity in my students. I think it is the most important thing that we can do as teachers. To that end, I have designed large banners that are proudly displayed in my classroom. Across the front of my room, I have a banner that reads . . .

It is a shortened version of our classroom motto – Be in the Right Place, at the Right Time, doing the Right Thing.

Along the side wall in my room, I have this banner . . .

I have a classroom discussion about what this phrase actually means. Sometimes doing the right thing is not popular and it can actually be rather difficult. I relate this to the anti-bullying program we have in our school board about being an upstander.

I also have this banner displayed on a third wall . . .

We need to work together in this classroom. We cheer each other on and, when needed, cheer each other up.

During the first few weeks of school I set up routines and procedures. I have classroom discussions about what is required to have a smoothly running classroom.

Of course, having rules, routines, procedures, and mottos in place are great starting points but we need to move beyond that to develop integrity in our students. We should move in to the mindset of having Practical Wisdom.

Barry Swartz says, “The rules are like the notes on the page, and that gets you started, but then you dance around the notes on the page, coming up with just the right combination for this particular moment with this particular set of fellow players.”

Swartz wasn’t specifically talking about students but it’s an apt metaphor for the classroom. Any experienced teacher can tell you that what works for one group of students in one particular classroom, might not work for others.

Schwartz sums it up like this; “A wise person knows when to bend the rules. A wise person knows when to improvise. And most important, a wise person does this improvising and rule-bending in the service of the right aims. If you are a rule-bender and an improviser mostly to serve yourself, what you get is ruthless manipulation of other people. So it matters that you do this wise practice in the service of others and not in the service of yourself. And so the will to do the right thing is just as important as the moral skill of improvisation and exception-finding. Together they comprise practical wisdom, which Aristotle thought was the master virtue.”

Acting with integrity means being a morally upright person who is concerned with the needs of others. It means showing compassion and cooperation. It means doing your best. This is what I expect of myself and my students.