Cheating, bullying, disrespect to others and other unethical behaviors may be prevalent in schools and in society, but teaching students to make habits of honesty, tolerance and positive self-esteem can shape their actions in the future. Moral education in the classroom helps children become better students and citizens both within and outside their schools.
Modeling Tolerance and Respect
The ongoing incidents of bullying and disrespect for authority in schools demonstrate a continued need for teaching morals in the classroom. In grades 6 through 12, 28 percent of students admit to having been bullied, according to a 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Similarly, during the 2011-12 school year, 209,800 teachers were the victims of attacks from students, according to a U.S. Department of Education report. In moral education, teachers can model respectful behavior for students as well as create a sense of community where class members show appreciation, love and support toward each other and where hurtful behavior has negative consequences.
Between the ages of 8 and 12, students develop great concern for their identities, especially how they fit into their school social communities. Moral education related to self-respect and self-appreciation can help students develop a positive view of themselves and prevent actions such as bullying and careless behavior toward others. "Bullied students may not realize those who are the perpetrators are insecure," states fourth-grade teacher Victoria Jasztal on the Scholastic Teachers site. Have students practice setting goals related to self-confidence, such as mastering new skills and developing better organization habits for school. You can also work with them to reframe negative thoughts into positive self-talk, replacing statements like, "I'm a failure," with, "It's OK to make mistakes. I'll learn from this and do better next time."
Raising Responsible Citizens
The Ethics Moral Citizenship Initiative of Seattle Pacific University describes responsibility as moral education put into action, allowing students the chance to take ownership of their behavior and decisions. Teaching personal responsibility in the classroom helps students practice these behaviors by seeing schoolwork as a job they need to perform to the best of their ability. Enforcing good listening behaviors and deadlines for homework can help them to learn the expectations for their actions and decisions. Creating a democratic classroom environment can also help develop this moral trait, as students can embrace the responsibility of participating in making choices that affect the class community.
Promoting Academic Honesty
The Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics' 2012 survey of 23,000 high school students revealed a drop in academic dishonesty for the first time in over a decade. However, while 99 percent of respondents believe that it's important to be a person of good character, half admitted to cheating on an assignment or exam in the previous year. Lessons about ethical academic performance are an ongoing need. Teaching the value of honesty can help students understand consequences of cheating through activities like hypothetical scenarios, role playing and stories that show them how to use good moral judgment when making decisions in and out of a classroom setting.
- US Department of Health and Human Services: Facts About Bullying
- US Department of Education: Indicators of School Crime and Safety
- Seattle Pacific University: Ethics Moral Citizenship Initiative
- Scholastic Teachers: Boosting Self-Esteem: A Guide for Parents, Teachers and Students
- Pleasant Valley Community Schools: Personal Responsibility
- The Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education: Fostering Students' Moral Development
- Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics: The Ethics of American Youth: 2012
- Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
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