This is a guest post by Dara Feldman who is a Master Facilitator and Director of Education Initiatives for the Virtues Project International. She is facilitating introductory and facilitator workshops in the Washington, DC area in February. Dara is Disney’s 2005 Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year, an Apple Distinguished Educator, a Nationally Board Certified Teacher and is passionate about inspiring educators to bring out the best in themselves and others.
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Gandhi
Changing the way we think, and the language we use to express our thoughts, can help us be the change we wish to see in the world!
As a “recovering” kindergarten teacher, instructional coach, educational consultant, and the mother of two teenagers, I have witnessed first-hand how using virtues language can change our thoughts, which change our actions, and ultimately our lives! Now when I look at people and situations, I see them from the perspective of virtues, their universal positive qualities of character.
The Five Strategies of The Virtues Project help bring meaning and purpose back into teaching and learning and empower students to realize their full potential. When this happens, true learning takes place, and our schools can be places of purpose, peacefulness, and excellence!
The Virtues Project is a global grassroots organization that INSPIRES INDIVIDUALS to live more authentic, joyful lives, FAMILIES to raise children of compassion and integrity, EDUCATORS to create safe, caring and high-performing learning communities, and LEADERS to inspire excellence and ethics in the workplace. It is practiced in more than 97 countries and has been honored by the United Nations as a model global program for all cultures.
Below is an overview of the Five Strategies of The Virtues Project that, when utilized, can be used for personal, professional, and organizational transformation.
1. Speaking the Language of Virtues
Language shapes character. The words we use have great power to discourage or to inspire. The Language of Virtues inspires cooperation and replaces shaming and blaming with personal responsibility and respect.
Students rise or fall according to our expectations, and we as teachers can act like mirrors. How we respond to our students sends a powerful message to them as to whether we believe they are capable, worthy human beings.
2. Recognizing Teachable Moments
Recognizing the life lessons and virtues in daily situations strengthens our humility and confidence to learn from our mistakes. Instead of negatively labeling students, we call them to act on the qualities of their character. There are no mistakes, just learning and growth opportunities.
3. Setting Clear Boundaries Based on Restorative Justice
Clear boundaries based on respect, restorative justice, and reparation provide a positive approach to school-wide discipline and create a climate of peace and safety. Personal boundaries protect our time and energy.
4. Honoring the Spirit
We energize positive school and community spirit by treating each person with dignity, and by creating a shared vision of who we are and how we want to treat one another. The most empowering way to create a safe, caring, respectful learning environment is not only to require it, but also to inspire it through acknowledgments and celebrations, creative expressions through the arts, and daily modeling of the virtues.
5. Art of Companioning
Often when we are having problems or feeling down, we don’t want someone else telling us how to fix things. We merely want to be listened to. By being deeply present, listening with compassion and detachment, and offering clarifying questions and virtues acknowledgments, this counseling approach empowers individuals to find their own wisdom in answering life’s challenges.
These five strategies have transformed my life as an educator, wife, and mother and continue to help me live a more joyful, peaceful, purposeful, and meaningful life.
I invite you to check out the 30-minute introduction I created for the NEA (National Education Association) which gives an overview of The Virtues Project in schools. To get to the heart of the matter, you may want to jump to the end of the introduction and listen to what a high school junior says about our “civil mission.”
“Idealists dare to have big dreams and then act as if they are possible … Idealism does not mean that you are an idle dreamer. Idle dreamers just WISH that things were better. Idealists do something to MAKE things better.” (The Virtues Project)
What will YOU do to make things better?
We have no idea what tools and knowledge the first graders of today will need to be successful in the world when they graduate from high school in the year 2022 (if they haven’t dropped out first). However, we can be sure that they will need virtues, performance character such as purposefulness, diligence, perseverance, strong work ethics, positive attitude, creativity, self-discipline, as well as moral character such as integrity, justice, caring, respect, responsibility and cooperation to be happy, healthy, contributing members of society.
“Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character.” ~William Arthur Ward
Thank you for your commitment to transforming education and the courage and idealism it takes to realize our potential as Radical Learners.
With much enthusiasm,