Life lessons have been best relayed through parables, stories, songs, movies and experiences, thereby “catching” the attention of the receiver through a resonating effect. A child receiving information this way remembers the lesson and is more apt to retrieve it more concretely than an abstract statement about values and virtues. The architecture of citizenship education includes service, honesty, civility, kindness, participation, and commitment. These are virtues children should be witnessing, reading about through classroom curriculum, and experiencing in their everyday lives.
Children are often told “honesty is the best policy,” but no one really explains why. Surely every child has told a little white lie and gotten away with it. Through stories, examples and experiences children will learn that honesty is generally the best policy and why. The lessons from the stories will most likely stick with the child more than an adult just telling them why. Furthermore, the first time a child gets caught in a dishonest act and experiences the repercussions, they begin to learn firsthand why honesty is the best policy, and begin to develop strong values about honesty.
Because lessons are often absorbed through stories, songs, and the media, children can get the wrong message from the wrong kind of programming. Therefore, students should obtain a value system by witnessing those role models and mentors they are in contact with every day. As educators it is our duty to demonstrate what it means to be a good citizen and involve our students in our actions. For example, being “green” is very important to me. I don’t own a car, I recycle as much as possible, I shop thrift stores and donate items when I am finished with them. I live in a “green built” home and generally do my part to save the environment as much as possible within the reasonable bounds of my lifestyle. I could instill these environmental values in my students by supplying recycle bins in my classroom, use paper infrequently and recycle paper when we do use it. If an opportunity arises to discuss environmental issues within a lesson, we could talk about them folding them into the discussion.
As an English Language Arts and English Language Learners teacher, there will be many ways to include moral instruction in the curriculum through literature. I also believe in the power of suggestion and would display posters, pictures and famous quotes around my classroom for students to absorb peripherally all year-long. With regard to technology and social media, there are many opportunities to ‘teach’ about values and citizenship in the ways students use these tools in and out of the classroom.
In our ever-growing multicultural environment, the importance of education for a global citizenship is even more important. Through working on projects together, role-playing and learning about each other’s cultures in a diverse classroom, student learn the basis of global citizenship. Role –playing specifically teaches children many lessons in both personal and social dimensions of education (Joyce, Weil and Calhoun, 2009). It provides a sample of human behavior so student can:
• Explore their feelings,
• Gain insight into their attitudes, values, and perceptions,
• Develop their problem-solving skills and attitudes, and
• Explore subject matter in varied ways. (p.291)
Role-playing exercises help children develop an empathy and compassion for the other viewpoint.
Through examples, personal experiences and observation, values are “caught not taught.” According to Kirk (1987) virtue “can be learnt, though more through a kind of illative process than a formal program of study…”
Joyce, B., et. al Models of teaching, 8th Ed. Allyn & Bacon: 2009.
Kirk, K. (1987). Can virtue be taught? The wise men know what wicked things are written in the sky. Regnery Publications.