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Creating an Ethical Classroom

Creating an Ethical Classroom

An ethical classroom, like a good home, is ideally a place of learning, sharing, trust, nurturing, personal and spiritual growth, and peace. Places that engender such feelings among those who thrive there are built around a consciousness and respect of ethical concepts. Beneficence (goodness), veracity (truth), autonomy (sense of self), justice (meaning fairness), and non-maleficence (the responsibility to do no harm) are the supporting beams of your ethical classroom. Intentional teachers are those who chose their careers based on a need to make a positive difference. For them an ethical classroom is the ultimate incubator of learning by their students and the litmus test of their skills, experience, and creativity.

In your ethical classroom the following characteristics form a scaffold that your students will climb toward enriched learning, cooperation, thoughtfulness, self-awareness, and partnership with each other and you:

Ethics language and concepts reside here!

Every subject taught in your ethical classroom can be enriched when you include in its presentation, an awareness and exploration of its ethical qualities and/or applications. A reading lesson that once focused on age appropriate literature, its theme, characters, and vocabulary words will take on new meaning in your ethical classroom. For example, a discussion facilitated by you can help students to identify when and where within the reading material ethics concepts and language are found. Science studies have countless open doors regarding the ethics of technology, food production, modern medicine, all of which can be introduced in age appropriate ways. Such lessons can provide students with more than information, but also food for thought. In your ethical classroom, your students will come away with stimulation of the mind, practical skills, and the knowledge of ethical language and ideas that will transcend their lives.

Classroom practices are about more than school rules.

Every classroom has its standard operating procedures, basic rules authored by you or your school, or a bit of both. Often, they read as directives, “No pushing, No running, No backpacks on floor, No gum chewing, No talking” and so on. In your ethical classroom, you teach beyond rules, to the underlying reasons why certain behaviors are necessary for the greater good of all. Another way to approach ethical codes of conduct is to form an agreement with your students describing a certain standard of behavior expected to be met by all. For example, “No pushing” could be translated in your agreement to “We do not touch one another without permission, and never in a way that could cause harm.” Each agreed upon guideline for daily interactions in your ethical classroom comprises a life lesson that your students will carry well beyond its walls.

The Golden Rule, rules.

In your ethical classroom, you create a community that learns, explores shares, cooperates, and supports the important work that occurs there, based on a core philosophy, the golden rule. When in doubt, each member of your classroom community is expected to behave in the way in which he or she would hope that all others would behave. This simple, powerful communal pledge creates a platform upon which you and your students can securely and safely accomplish each day’s objectives.

All classroom members accepted here, unconditionally.

If there is one priceless lifetime gift you can give to your students, it is a setting in which each of them is an integral part of a valuable group with a common and important goal. For those who may never have had this type of unconditional acceptance before, it will be an experience that provides a sense of positive self esteem that will serve them for a lifetime. For those who may not yet have learned about the personal enrichment a diverse group can deliver, your ethical classroom will deliver an opportunity to enjoy just that. In your ethical classroom, automatically, every member of its community is unconditionally accepted, supported, and respected, and thus, is an environment everyone, including you, can grow and reach for the stars.

The classroom community includes you, your students, and their parents.

There is an interesting thing about people, both children and adults, who experience unconditional acceptance, respect from others and a resulting positive a sense of self. People who feel a part of something meaningful and important experience a sense of calm and purpose that is powerful and obvious to those around them. What parent in the world would not be grateful to a teacher who models excellent, ethical behavior and encourage his/her students to bring home all the goodness, truth, fairness, and respect for others enjoyed in an ethical classroom? When you meet with the parents of your students, and especially when they visit your ethical classroom, they will understand and appreciate its impact on their children. You should not be surprised when you hear their positive comments and feedback.

Ultimately, your ethical classroom with its unique spirit will provide the framework and support for the hard work that you and your students need to accomplish. The communal, accepting environment you create with your students will be a place where you can all be successful. Your ethical classroom, will define a space in which the greater good is the motivation, where kindness prevails, where defenses can safely drop so knowledge can be fully engaged. Your ethical classroom is a place where you and your students will look forward to being every day, a place of peace, a place of learning, and a place of personal and spiritual growth.

By: Rosanna Pittella MA PhD abd and Philip Rotstein ME

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