Having no real experience with public education due to only being educated in private religiously affiliated schools, it is refreshing to discover that nationwide there are ideals agreed upon to be central to the job of educators and the lives of all people. These ideals are service, honesty, civility, kindness, participation and commitment and can be referred to as the Architecture of Moral Education (Scheuerman, 2014). These ideals are the responsibilities that all people have in order to receive the fullness of their rights as American citizens and are built off of the foundational respects found within societal, personal, religious and environmental beliefs. It is inspiring to think that there are common moral ideals that are important in America and the possibilities they create for educators in all subject areas!
In a social studies class, there are various opportunities to teach students the ideals of service, participation and commitment. One way I would hope to instill these in the lives of my students would be through working with people studying to take their Naturalization Test. Students could do this as part of a unit on the waves of immigration in the United States and experience the process people go through to become American citizens. This in itself is a type of service through the giving of student’s time to help another person study for their important test. There are aspects of participation in the type of service, partnering with someone from another culture and working with them to become a citizen of the country as the student. This is definitely something that would be a huge commitment as students would need to commit their time and work hard with someone who needs their help to succeed.
In an English classroom, students could learn the ideal of kindness through writing activities meant to encourage students younger than them as well as other members of the school community. Students could participate in random acts of kindness by writing anonymous letters of encouragement to faculty and staff letters. Students could do something similar by reaching out to students younger than them knowing firsthand the challenges they might be currently facing. This is something that could be part of a poetry unit or could be integrated into the curriculum year long. Students could learn how far kindness can go even in the simplest of actions and would be able to see the positive impact they made on other members of the school.
The last two years I have had my students participate in Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Shoeboxes of Joy (SOJ) program. Each year I work with the other teachers in my department 6-10 to partner up the middle school and high school students to put together these shoeboxes meant for individuals who are homebound and alone for whatever reason during the holiday season. The students learn about SOJ and CRS in light of Catholic Social Teaching and the call to discipleship as it applies to each grade level curriculum. The students love working together on this service project and learn the first hand the importance of participation by working in pairs to create a SOJ, they give their time to service during the school day and during their free time when they go shopping for the various items meant to go in the box and they develop kindness, not only through the process of working together with a younger or older student, but through the power of giving such a simple gift and receiving the notes of thanks from CRS once the boxes have been delivered. This is something I look forward to continuing each year as it brings what they are learning in the classroom into action.
Moral Education is something that any teacher of any subject can implement into their curriculum. Service learning projects can be planned for any grade level and can bring curriculum to life in a new way for students. These hands on experiences not only help students comprehend and process what they are learning, they help to instill the moral ideals in their lives. The possibilities truly are endless when it comes to intentionally integrating moral education into curriculum and I think it is safe to say that many teachers are already doing so subconsciously. Imagine what education would be like if all educators came to realize the last effects of intentional moral education!
Scheuerman, R. (2014, October). Session 2 Podcast A: Paideia.EDU 6120 Foundations. Lecture
retrieved from Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA.