Blueprints for Success
"By lifting our vision, the petty quarrels of our daily existence will be overcome by a view of our future, and then our communities will emerge as sacred places." ---Vine Deloria, Jr. (Lakota), in American Indians, American Justice, 1983
"If you can draw it, you can do it." ---Walt Disney (from an old Disneyland brochure)
In the last chapter, we shared ways to help you sustain your commitment to character education across the curriculum and we focused on one of the most important virtues, courage. In this chapter, we introduce specific guidelines for our approach to the implementation of your character education program. These relate to professional vision and mission statements; a conceptual model; the Pedagogy and Procedures Checklist; and lesson plan format and examples that we will be using in subsequent chapters. We also touch on assessments here, though we devote an entire chapter to this subject later.
Vision and Mission Statements
We recommend that your first map for a successful voyage into character education take the form of vision and mission statements. Ideally, your school would create one or modify its existing one to address the character education priority. Whether or not this happens, your mission will be served well if you and your class write both a vision statement and a mission statement relating to the teaching of the virtues across the curriculum. Your vision statement will be most effective if:
The mission statement reflects more measurable objectives that point toward this vision. In it you can list or describe aspects of your character education vision that you and the class will do daily. You can include whatever details you and your students feel will help everyone stay on track. Your vision should be compatible, of course, with that of your school. If there is a problem with congruency here, a grand opportunity for reconsidering the school's vision may emerge.
Success of your program is correlated directly to how often you and your students refer to the vision and mission statements. Many organizations have wonderful visions, but no one knows what they are. Or, if they know what the vision is, day-to-day decisions or rationales for choices do not reflect the vision. At the end of this chapter, we offer a Weekly Goals Log and a Universal Virtues Application Log to help with remembering to do the things that are important for us to do. These logs, or similar ones designed to fit your unique goals and objectives, may keep you and the students in line with your vision statement.
The Conceptual Model
The illustration on the facing page that attempts to conceptualize our model for character education. Do not be unsettled by what may seem at first to be very complex. Good character education recognizes many interconnections. (For definitions of all terms, see chapter 3.)
Once understood, however, these interconnections seem natural to the process of teaching virtues across the curriculum. By becoming familiar with the model, you will find it to be a useful tool that will allow character education to emerge naturally and effectively in your class. (Note: In the following chapter we describe the meanings of the words, phrases, and terms used in the model and in the Pedagogy and Procedures Checklist.)
The first thing to notice in the model is that the inner circles are encompassed by a larger one representing the concept of spirituality, defined as "a sacred realization of interconnectedness with all in the seen and unseen realms." Spirituality pervades the entire process of learning that leads to good character.' Knowledge ultimately is always connected to our spiritual, ecological, and intra- and interpersonal relationships. However, the overly anthropocentric assumptions of our current culture cause us to forget this fact, even when we use collaborative models for our teaching. We hope that our use of this idea and understanding of spirituality will prevent such an error.
In each of the seven circles, successful learning means understanding that all of life is interconnected, albeit sometimes in mysterious ways. As we grow in character, we gain in this spiritual awareness, and in so doing become more full of compassion, love, and caring. We then circle back to learning opportunities from which we spring to even higher degrees of this understanding. Thus, character is ever evolving and requires a revisiting of the virtues, skills, and methods of learning that are listed.
Since the outer circle surrounds this evolution toward character, we may infer that spirituality has no beginning or ending. This implies that spiritual awareness is not at the end of a linear upward climb. It already exists in our consciousness at birth, even before we participate in life's various learning experiences. In American Indian cultures, this sacred aspect of the child is nurtured from birth so that the sense of interconnections colors all of the person's subsequent learning.
The four spheres at the bottom of the model (experience, inner skills, external skills, and virtues) are joined together within a circle that represents pedagogy. By this term we mean all the ways that life and our many teachers teach us. We identify 31 strategies or objectives that open doors for integrated teaching of content and character. Many of these strategies are well known from school reform rhetoric and holistic education journals. They also represent ideas about how indigenous people learned how to survive and contribute to their society.
As pedagogy brings into play the four circles it embraces, it fosters respect and wisdom, which lead to good character. Good character, in our interpretation, exists when someone has both integrity and a sense of peacefulness. (In Lakota, this sense of peacefulness is referred to as wolakota.) Thus, pedagogy is the engine for the continuing cycle of these interactions among Experience, The Five Inner Skills, The Six Virtues, and The Three External Skills, which are interdependent in this learning process.
From the cycle, students learn to embrace respectfulness and wisdom. As wisdom and respect are applied and experienced, responsible behavior emerges. The sincere love of this way of life creates ever higher degrees of good character. As this ever-evolving, ever- spiraling processes continues, children realize more and more how interconnected we all are, which in turns helps us to rediscover our spirituality.
If this model no longer appears complex to you, it may now seem idealistic. Can a sincere love of this way of life evolve? If this cycle of connections is revived and practiced in our schools, will children truly realize their bond with all parts of life and their unique role in it? We know this can happen, from our combined experience as classroom teachers, from work with at-risk youth, and from oral histories of many indigenous cultures. It will not happen over night, but the cycle we describe can become a reality with all of our children if we give it a chance.
You have been reading and excerpt from Chapter 2 of Teaching Virtues ..please continue on
Pedagogical Strategies Checklist
The following "pedagogical checklist" is an aid to implementing the formula for integrating effective math and character education. The list of 31 teaching strategies represent proven ways teachers can increase relationships with relevant contexts. The more of these "strategies" that can be used in a lesson, the more relevancy and relationships are likely. The more relevance and relationships that can be associated with teaching math, the better the learning experience. Since virtues do not exist in a vacuum, but actualize in relationships, they should be taught only in situations where such relationships operate.
Thus the pedagogical strategies are used with the intention of enhancing both mathematics and character education. Examples abound. Teaching mathematics with the "interdisciplinary" strategy can make math and virtues relevant to an issue in social studies or science, perhaps even giving opportunities for application of concepts. If a mathematics lesson includes "community involvement," opportunities for real-life applications emerge for both mathematics and such virtues as generosity and perseverance. "Dramatization" in the mathematics class can help students internalize material and can provide an opportunity to practice courage or better understand empathy that calls for other virtues as well as afford an alternative modality for learning math in a creative way.
"Team-learning" strategies automatically afford opportunities for learning about generosity and honesty because of the actual interactions with others they require. "Critical thinking" exercises bring issues into play that can mix math with virtues, making both subjects more meaningful. "Service learning" can awaken feelings of generosity, while giving practical math problem solving opportunities. "Field experiences" for math projects might call for patience because we never know what obstacles the real world may throw in front of us. "Mediation," used either to resolve interpersonal conflicts in the math class or perhaps for an innovative resolution of a debate about mathematics principles is a natural environment for learning humility.
Note that these strategies tend to make learning relevant to real life. They make it easy and natural to teach the universally recognized virtues that only make sense in real-life relationships. They set the stage for problem-based approaches to studying math content. These teaching strategies naturally make it easy to embed ideas about virtues into every subject because any such holistic approach to education cannot avoid issues relating to virtues. Similarly, real-life applications of mathematics naturally emerge, thereby increasing the motivation and opportunity to learn. The lesson plans that follow include some more specific examples.
In creating lesson plans, a teacher should try to include as many of these strategies as possible in order to give numerous opportunities to teach character. (Note: Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences for the checklist because each domain brings up new opportunities to evoke or discuss the virtues. Here the orientations are not presented so much as individual intelligences but rather as different ways of accessing and expressing relatedness. (Gardner, 1983).
Teachers should use the checklist while writing lesson plans to generate ideas. It can also be used as an assessment tool in evaluating teaching by recording how often one uses each strategy and how successful the lesson is as a result. Using a variety of these orientations will expose new ways to relate virtues and math to everyday living.
The various other techniques on list below are, in themselves, "effective" teaching strategies and are referred to and described in more detail by many published educators (Jones, Palinscar, Ogle, & Carr, 1987, Fennimore & Tinzmann, 1990) and organizations (Program in Support of Teaching and Learning, Wisconsin Education Association Council, NEA affiliate). My theory contends that if they are used to integrate considerations relating to character with the teaching of any subject, such as math, these results will finally accomplish the highest goals for education.
Pedagogical Checklist Descriptions and Examples of How They Enhance Virtue/Math Integration for Authentic Character and Math Education
1. Cooperative learning groups- any activity in which students collaborate with one or more people in the learning process. When students work in collaborative settings, "teachable moments" for discussing such virtues as honesty, respect, generosity, etc., are more likely than in lecture style pedagogy. If such moments are not reduced to strictly behavioral issues, then an awareness of virtues in a mathematics setting can breathe relevance into the math discussion.
2. Field experience- when students leave the classroom to learn or apply knowledge in "real life" situations. Many creative math assignments involving field experiences are possible. When associated with natural considerations of how human virtues relate to the field environment, eg. "What virtues were needed to create this natural park?" The entire experience allows for math and character to become partners.
3. Intrinsic motivational strategy- triggers self-motivation and gives students opportunities to reflect on how the lesson relates to them. When genuine intrinsic motivation is tied to a math assignment, the motivation most likely relates to some aspect of good character.
4. Extrinsic motivational strategy- well thought out rewards and consequences that are logical for a given situation used to motivate students. For good character development, extrinsic rewards and punishments should be used minimally. However, competitive structures of any kind offer an opportunity to discuss humility, courage, patience and generosity while minimizing the damage of external rewards and, by decreasing fear, enhance the ability to learn the subject matter.
5. Student ownership of subject matter- strategy involving the students in helping determine what aspects of the subject are most important or in what ways it could best be learned in order to give the students "ownership." When students take ownership, they naturally assume responsibility. Good character traits come into play with responsibility, and can play off of a variety of content-related issues.
6. Critical thinking exercises- when assignments, directions, encouragements or questions are intended to stimulate critical questions and thoughts about the subject, about the presentation of the subject, or about the learning process related to the subject. As mentioned above, critical thinking about math problem solving contexts that might relate to social justice or ecological conservation, etc., bring to light the importance of virtues and good character.
7. Intuitive exercises- Intuition can tap knowledge from unconscious memories of previous experiences or from an awareness of universal knowledge. Having students "guess" something about the subject by "tuning in" to it would be an example of an intuitive exercise. Good character involves a sense of spirituality, or awareness that we are all related. Such "spiritual" considerations are a basis for actualizing good character; otherwise courage or patience might be used in negative ways. Intuitive exercises tend to make real this understanding of our vast and mysterious interconnections.
8. Visualizations- having students relax, close their eyes and imagine being in a place that might help them better understand the subject matter. Any visualization exercise calls for a calming of the mind and body that calls for or at least brings attention to the virtue of patience. Visualizations can also be directly oriented toward becoming more generous or more courageous.
9. Dramatizations- a dimension of story telling in which the students themselves are the characters used to illustrate a lesson. Overcoming "stage fright" of course brings courage into focus, but dramatizations about issues that combine math lessons with relevant social contexts bring possibilities for many teachable moments for character education. A dramatic story of the plague in England might be about percentages or other demographic statistics while at the same time bringing into play an understanding of applicable virtues.
10. Emotional management opportunity- Giving students of all ages opportunities to control their emotions through role-playing, discussions, and real-life situations before problems arise is a vital aspect of character education. Since the study of any subject, perhaps especially math, involves emotions of frustration, anger, etc., giving students an opportunity to reflect on what emotions are involved with difficult assignments is a way to bring awareness about how to deal with emotions into the picture.
11. Musical orientation- playing background music, using rhythm, singing or any other aspect of music to teach a lesson. Music in fact creates or changes emotional/mental tensions that cannot only enhance the learning of a subject, but provide another teachable moment for teachers to at the very least mention the relationship between different kinds of music and its effect on human behavior. Marching music can bring people to an unjust war, for example, unless deeply considered and practiced virtues lead in a different direction.
12. Logical orientation- when our lesson plans, curriculum and pedagogy deals with inductive and deductive thinking, numbers or scientific methodology. Using the various multiple intelligences in teaching teaches causes students to develop different ways of learning. Students with a logical orientation approach will do better in a logical assignment than a student with a spatial orientation until they practice with a special orientation. Such experimentation with different orientations is uncomfortable for students and calls for humility, courage and generosity when teachers use a variety of different "intelligences.
13. Spatial orientation- Students use this orientation when they imagine, visualize or sense ideas in their mind's eye. See #12.
14. Linguistic orientation- activities or lessons that relate to written and spoken language. See #12.
15. Kinesthetic orientation- When lessons involve motor activities, dance, physical movement, balancing, and/or coordination as part of the learning process, like playing catch while doing multiplication tables, then the kinesthetic orientation is being exercised and those especially gifted in this area will tend to learn better during such activities. See #12
16. Interpersonal Orientation- This is the orientation that comes into play during cooperating learning or team learning. It has to do with person-to-person relationships and communication. It also calls for emotional control, generosity and other important virtues and skills. See #12
17. Intrapersonal Orientation- Giving students intrapersonal exercises can foster an appreciation for the virtues as it helps them learn to know themselves. See #12
18. Nature Orientation- when students can take advantage of our natural affinity for nature in the learning process. See #12
19. Community involvement- any opportunities in a lesson plans for involving the community outside the classroom to make learning more meaningful by illustrating the interconnectedness we have with our community members and those of other communities. Involving members of a community in research or academic studies affords numerous chances to talk about the virtues or lack of virtues that relate to community issues, interpersonal relations, family or economic problems, etc.
Remember that all "academic" subjects are or should be related to real life and that the real "problems" usually involve virtuous behaviors and spiritual awareness. This does not mean that, like William Bennett says, a person with good character is all we need to solve the world's problems. But good character combined with the spiritual awareness that we are all related and that social justice and economic inequalities should be a part of math or English or sciences classes can make education become the process John Dewey, Herbert Kohl, Maxine Greene and many other contemporary educators believe it should be.
20. Multicultural aspect- including the study of, or acknowledgment of, other cultures when designing a lesson plan in any of the content areas while cultivating recognition and respect for the similarities and differences of other cultures. Math assignments that involve addresses multicultural perspectives afford obvious teachable moments for virtue awareness.
21. Service learning activity- an opportunity for students to specifically help or give service to others in a community as a way to better learns a particular subject. Even more so than community involvement, service learning, which by definition calls for reflection before and after the service event, is also an obvious structure for both considering virtues and applying them.
22. Interdisciplinary connection- combining math with other subjects such as social studies, science or art. Character education opportunities are more likely to arise when students really see the connections between things by integrating different academic subjects.
23. Dialogue opportunity- open discussion between students facilitated by the teacher. Dialogue, instead of just teacher lecture, about a subject affords many openings for interjecting ideas about universal virtues. In a math class, dialogue might relate to the process of learning or to historical or to context aspects of a lesson plan related to a math idea.
24. Use of Technology-includes computers, visual aides, etc. Many students are impatient or are fearful about using technologies of different sorts and this in itself allows for the teaching of virtues. Internet searches using virtues and math awareness are easy to assign. One even might talk about the successful use of technologies in context with students who do not have access to technology and this might open a brief discussion on virtues and technology as possibly mutually exclusive concepts.
25. Use of humor- opportunities for sharing positive attention to the funny or satirical side of learning a subject with others. Without humor in the learning environment, we lose our connections with one another and began to take our ignorance about so many things too seriously. Humor is often a catalyst for humility or courage.
26. Reference to wellness/fitness- taking opportunities to mention nutrition or fitness or using wellness-related contexts for mathematical problems. The confidence, emotional strength and physical and mental endurance that can come from a fit body should not be separated from learning processes and holistic goals of education. Human motivation for participating in authentic fitness or nutrition habits is often lacking owing to a need for more personal courage, patience, etc. Discussions about wellness issues in a math class can bring awareness to this connection. And an awareness of this connection can be demonstrated with meaningful math statistics and math procedures.
27. Peer teaching- when students learn in the way we all learn best- by teaching others. When students are given the responsibility to teach others, ideas about generosity, humility and patience can easily be brought to conscious awareness in non-behavioral terms (in other words, not just to maintain a quiet classroom, but to deeply consider the value of such virtues in the interactive process.)
28. Mediation-a process of dialogue, understanding and resolution relating to disagreements. A need for mediation can emerge because of behavioral problems in any class and a mediation process is a great way to involve virtue awareness. However, mediation as a strategy for teaching math is also a possibility by inventing a disagreement over a particular problem or formula. Such role-playing mediation can also serve teachable moments for character.
29. Story telling-telling stories or having students create and tell stories that relate to mathematical concepts. Stories can be selected or created with both math and character in mind. Literature has always been a favorite way for teaching virtues.
30. Contribution to school environment- mixing a math project with a way to contribute to other classes or the school in general. While learning, students contribute to other classes, other teachers, administrators, the janitor, or to the physical and aesthetic environment of the school. This not only opens doors for inserting lessons about character, but it spreads the good vibrations of virtue practice throughout the school.
Activism opportunity- students taking action in support of a cause. Like service learning, activism brings awareness to and provides an opportunity for practicing virtues. Math instruction can easily involve research that relates to current social, economic or ecological issues that call for student -directed activism.