Respectful & Ethical Minds

Posted on November 25, 2010

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I have mostly taught in pretty diverse schools, but I grew up in one that was almost 100% white. I am happy that through my friends, family and experiences, I was taught respect of all other people from a very young age. As Reed writes, “Knowledge of other cultures around the world leads students to understanding and compassion”. I feel that this has been my experience. I have been molded to show compassion due to my study, experiences, and influences.

My first teaching job brought me into a suburban Washington DC classroom that was similar to the United Nations. I had to learn how to not only respect, but also incorporate many opinions, backgrounds, beliefs, religions, politics, etc. I found the common ground quickly. Kids like to laugh.  It might be at me, or it might be about a clever comment I have about the subject matter, but regardless, laughter brought our class together. We were not laughing at each other, but we were laughing together, which is incredibly powerful.

I have continued to incorporate laughter in my classes. I tell (often cheesy) science jokes often. It not only helps the students understand the concept, they are also sharing a learning experience through one of the most common human experiences.

My classes also develop their own podcasts for other students to use as study guides. That may not sound that remarkable, but when I say my students are making these podcasts, I am talking about the low tracked students. The students that are looked at as lazy, dumb, or a variety of other demeaning adjectives are making the study guides for the honors classes. The students are aware of their position in the school hierarchy, but because of our culture of acceptance and appreciation, both groups see these podcasts as mutually beneficial. Respect and ethics do not necessarily have to be modeled across a physical divide as suggested in the article, but it could happen within the close-knit community within our schoolhouse.

In regards to the global aspect of curriculum sharing to build the respectful and ethical mind, I have thought of creating a pen pal group with the classrooms of two of my Ukrainian students. These two students have come directly from the Ukraine this year and seem to be very homesick. If we could share our science classes, these two students would get to spend some time with their friends from across the globe, and our students would understand that Fredi, Yaraslov, and their former classmates are not much different than we are. This will also give two students a voice that they have been reluctant to use so far. I think this is pretty powerful stuff and I am excited to see if I could integrate this in our school and continue a connection back to the Ukraine.

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