A Guidebook to Relational Teaching
Post Modernism, rapid technological developments, our struggling economy, the disintegration of the family, and a fractured political system have taken their toll on the health of our society. Just like any infection, the weakest and most vulnerable parts of the body show the effects first. In every community across America the young are suffering the horrible effects of our societal illness. Many of our most vulnerable have been fragmented off and abandoned.
We live in a drastically different world than the one our parents and we adults grew up in. There are a lot more pressures and distractions on today’s youth. Today’s kids live in a society dominated with:
- Individualism: What’s in it for me?
- Hedonism: If it feels good, do it!
- Minimalism: I’m going to do just enough to get by.
- Relativism: There are no “truths”.
- Materialism: Whoever dies with the most toys wins
Isolated and Alone: Ask any kid, penetrate their veil of fear and you will discover that they feel isolated and lonely. They feel like they are on their own against the world. They don’t know who to trust. They feel like society has left them on their own to figure out how to grow into an adult. Kids are born into isolation. They no longer are welcomed into the community. They are not cared for, embraced, and nurtured as valued members of our society simply due to their status as a young member of our community. They are not the recipients of unconditional love. They have to prove their worth in order to be accepted and they learn that this only happens through their performance and their image. If you can “perform” (scholastically, athletically, and socially) and you have a good “image” (good looks, good clothes, money), then you are cool and you will be accepted. If not, you will be fragmented and isolated as an outcast.
Abandoned: A recent survey concluded that today’s parents spend 40% less time with their kids than parents did 30 years ago. The pressures of our society have consumed the parents time and our kids have been abandoned. Latchkey kids (a child who returns from school to an empty home because his or her parent or parents are away at work, or a child who is often left at home with little or no parental supervision) are now the rule not the exception. Studies have clearly shown that kids left home alone for more than three hours a day reported higher levels of behavioral problems, higher rates of depression and lower levels of self-esteem. Many parents have decided that child rearing is too messy to deal with, so they have outsourced the parenting to teachers and coaches. Parents love their kids so much, that they would rather pay a personal trainer, mentor, teacher or coach to deal with their kids, than have to spend 30 minutes talking with them face to face.
Life’s Pace: Parents and adults are so busy just trying to survive in our modern “rat race” that they don’t see what a terrible toll that it’s taking on the lives of our kids. True, our hard economic times have put a lot of pressure on parents to provide for their families, but at what cost? Many parents operating at this “break neck” pace are either too fearful, too exhausted, or too dependent on it to be able to step back and see the real effect that it is having on their kids.
Denial: Many adults and parents, when confronted with the reality that we have isolated and abandoned our kids, are simply not willing to commit to doing what it takes to correct the problem. It’s too messy, it’s too hard, and it requires too much effort on their part. They choose to look the other way. They say, “Let someone else deal with it, it’s not my job”.
What is the solution? The solution is for us adults to communicate clearly to our kids that we love them unconditionally, that we will be there and stand by them no matter what happens, and if they want, we can help them achieve a transformed existence.
HOW TO TEACH VIRTUE FIRST
A “Virtuous” teacher looks beyond and through the layers of external performance, behavior, attitude, dress, or anything else that would shield a child from being vulnerable and known. They are then able to appeal to the inner sanctuary of the student who is attempting to find their place in a generally hostile and unforgiving world. A “Virtuous” teacher sees gifts and talents that standard measures deny; a “Virtuous” teacher expects creativity and talent where society evaluates conformity; and, a “Virtuous” teacher believes that every child is a product of themselves and an important resource to be nurtured, and should therefore be treated with the utmost respect and gentle care so as to draw out the innate best from the student.
FOUNDATIONAL TEACHING ELEMENTS
- MORAL VIRTUES GROW THROUGH: Education, deliberate virtuous acts, perseverance in struggles, and by following examples set by others.
- VIRTUE OF THE WEEK: By focusing our attention on one “Virtue of the Week”, we are able to convey the message of Virtue through simple words, stories, and activities using examples from everyday life. These activities challenge the perception of the participants and force them to choose between self-centeredness and other-centeredness.
- VIRTUOUS LEADERSHIP: In order for Virtue First to work, someone needs to take the lead in your school. Typically this is the Principal of the school. A real leader personifies the certitude of the creed. He\She kindles the vision of a breathtaking future so as to justify the sacrifices of a transitory present.
- TEACHERS: Teachers need to be recruited and retained because they are men and women of virtue first and foremost. They need to completely buy into teaching ”Virtue First”. They need to be disciples of the program. They need to know it, value it, live it, and then teach it. Some of them will have to “Fake it until they make it”.
- BODY VS. SPIRIT CORE CONCEPT: Quality class room time should be spent familiarizing your students with the “Body vs. Spirit” concept. Students should learn that their “Body” is made up of several physical components that can be made strong by eating properly, getting enough rest, exercising, etc. Likewise, their “Spirit” is just as, if not more important than their physical body. Their spirit is made up of their intellect, conscience, and will. Their spirits can be strengthened just like their bodies by studying and practicing virtue.
- VIRTUE LESSONS AND VIRTUE BLOGS: Virtue Lessons is a collection of spiritual and teaching wisdom assembled over many years, by many teachers. Students can be provided with a copy of “Virtue Lessons” for them to use as a reference guide to virtue. Teachers can also use “Virtue Lessons”, “Virtue Blogs”, and emailed weekly Virtue information as resource guides for “Virtue Talks” with students.
- UNCONDITIONAL LOVE: Teachers need to help students come to terms with verbalizing their love for each other. Use the words every day. Teachers will use the “School Mantra” (See School Mantra below) as often as possible with students. Teachers must make sure that their love for the students is openly verbalized and clearly unconditional. We don’t care whether you get straight A’s or straight D’s, we love you. Our love is not performance based, it’s unconditional. For many of the students this is a view of love that they are not familiar with. Students love it.
- FORMED IN THE FIRE OF AFFLICTION: Teachers should emphasize with students that life has a way of transforming our trials into stepping stones for future blessings. This happens all the time in life. No pain – No gain, No trial – No treasure, No gall – No glory, No cross – No crown. If you get knocked down, get up. If you fail one time –persevere. Hard work and self sacrifice are the road to success. These concepts will serve students well in the future as husbands/wives, fathers/mothers, and providers for their families.
- COME TO SERVE AND YOU WILL NEVER BE DISAPPOINTED: Teachers should make a big deal out of community service and serving one another. There is no greater love than to lay down ones life for another. This not only applies to community service, but also to selfless humanitarian love for classmates, helping a classmate with a math assignment, or helping Mom around the house.
VIRTUE FIRST ACTIVITIES FOR SCHOOL
1. SCHOOL PROMOTION OF VIRTUE OF THE WEEK: In as many ways as possible, the school should promote and advertise the Virtue of the Week. Here is a list of ideas on how to promote the Virtue of the Week:
A. Morning Announcements (feature a famous quotation about the Virtue of the Week.)
B. Electronic Reader Boards (Post all week the Virtue of the Week and the short definition)
C. Promote the Virtue of the Week in School Newspapers
D. Publish the Virtue of the Week on School Weekly Schedules
E. Post the Virtue of the Week on the School Website.
F. Feature the Virtue of the Week in all Sports Programs.
G. Posters, Banners, and Signs about the Virtue of the Week.
H. Have every teacher in every classroom post the Virtue of the Week.
2. SCHOOL “MANTRA”: Every time the students come together for any activity, the teachers will recite and students will respond with the school “mantra”. Teachers will ask “What’s our job?”, and the students will respond back in unison “To love us.” The Teachers will then ask the students “What’s your job?”, and the students will respond back “To love each other.”
3. VIRTUE TALKS: Before the start of each class, during advisory periods, and at other appropriate times, Teachers should give short 5-10 minute lectures on the “Virtue” of the week. Virtue Talks are a key element in the Virtue First program. Short “Virtue Talks” at the beginning of classes send the students the right message that virtue is first in our school. Teachers can increase the Virtue Talks relevancy by connecting the virtue of the week with something that is going on in school, in class, with an upcoming lesson, local or national event, or a holiday.
4. VIRTUE PACKS: Schools should break the student body into “Virtue Packs” (small groups of no more than ten students each). Give each Pack a number, V1, V2, V3, etc. Assign one Teacher to each Pack. If you don’t have enough teachers to assign one for each pack then use counselors, coaches, administrators, secretaries, etc. The purpose of the Virtue Pack is:
A. To break down the student population into smaller segments so that opportunities for communicating and personal contact between school “adults” and “students” can be maximized. Creates opportunities for “One on Ones”. Don’t let anyone slip through the cracks.
B. To create opportunities to break down “clicks”, mix students with different cultural backgrounds, welcome in new students, and foster a mentoring atmosphere between older and younger students. This element requires you to put a good deal of research and thought into how you select students to form “V-Packs”.
C. To create small groups of students whose primary mission becomes to ensure that the culture change of “Virtue” continues every day. They do this both collectively in their “V-Packs” and individually with other students that they interact with daily.
D. To foster a friendly atmosphere of competition (centered on Virtue) between “V-Packs”. Time should be scheduled during school hours for V-Packs to meet for 10-15 minutes at least once per week. Adult V-Pack Leaders (Teachers, etc.) should be present to lead the meeting.
5. TEACHERS “ONE ON ONES”: Before School (Walk in’s), after school (Walk out’s), during lunches, in between classes, or other appropriate down times , each Teacher (or other adult V-Pack leader) arranges for or selects one student in their V-Pack to have a short 5 minute “One on One” talk with. The “One on One” should always be in a “public” place. ”One on One Talks” give Teachers (or other adult V-Pack leaders) the opportunity to provide personal virtue guidance for each student, and provide an opportunity for the student to reach out to an adult with any personal struggles. Students needing further counseling should always be referred to appropriate school counseling resources by the adult V-Pack leader.
6. DAILY VIRTUE TEXTS FROM THE PRINICIPAL TO STUDENTS AND TEACHERS: The principal of the school should send each student, teacher, school employee a quick inspirational text message every day either before school or after school. 99% of your students are communicating this way and if you are not in this loop you are not communicating as effectively as you could be. This is a great use of technology and a great way to stay in touch with students and teachers. Every day students get dozens of text messages that are garbage, how about a “good” one? The Virtue First Foundation can send each Principal a master text to be used as a reference each day or they can create their own.
7. INSPIRATIONAL VIRTUE EMAILS TO TEACHERS: Your school community needs to be inspired. The Virtue First Foundation can create and send administrators, teachers, parents, or school employees inspirational emails on a regular basis. Anyone can sign up for this service or the principal can receive these emails and modify and or circulate them to the school staff directly.
8. INSPIRATIONAL VIRTUE POSTS ON FACEBOOK: The principal of the school should post an inspirational face book comment every day. This is a great use of technology and a way to stay in touch with students using the technology that they are familiar with. This practice also helps keep the principal in the mainstream of student communications.
9. VIRTUE CELEBRATIONS: Host a “School Year Kick Off” at the beginning of the school year and a “Year End” celebration to introduce and celebrate the “Virtue First” program. These school time assemblies can include:
A. A charismatic guest speaker.
B. Music or and outside band.
C. Food, Barbecue, etc.
D. Short speeches by local heroes.
E. Small undeserved hand-out gifts for the students (wrist bands, t-shirts, hats, lanyards, etc.)
10. TARGETS OF VIRTUE: Most popular during the Virtue Week of Thankfulness, instruct the Virtue Packs to focus an entire week on giving thank you cards, small gifts, and personal attention to “Targets of Virtue”. The unspoken heroes of your school, janitors, cooks, laundry people, secretaries, etc. etc.
11. MAKE BREAKING BREAD (SCHOOL LUNCH TIME) SPECIAL: School meals, eating, and dining together with your school is a very important socialization and bonding tool for the students. Families eat together, so should your school. Find creative ways to increase the family (socialization) factor of school lunches.
12. WALL OF VIRTUE: When students do random acts of virtue, have other students or teachers “nominate” that random act of virtue to the principal and if approved, have someone create a colorful 8.5” x 11” poster sheet and place the sheet on a large wall in the gym or in the hall way. Have some art students create signage for the “Wall of Virtue” to promote these random acts of virtue for all to see.
13. VIRTUE GEAR: Promote “Virtue First” with your students, parents, and community by equipping your students with T-Shirts, wrist bands, lanyards,decals, patches, stickers, etc. featuring “Virtue” based themes. It’s a great way to let people know that you are part of a virtuous community.
14. VIRTUE DAY OF WEAKNESS, HUMILITY, AND TRUST: Select a day when Virtue Packs and Teachers can talk with students about our shared humanity. Have teachers, administrators, students, coaches, etc. talk about their own struggles with personal weaknesses. Have them share their own moments when they have experienced crisis of limitations. Have them talk about the hardest day of their life. This exercise is a great way to help us all get in touch the with reflections of our own humanity in others. Students learn that teachers have problems just like they do and teachers can illustrate how they got back up after being knocked down.
15. VIRTUE AWARD STICKERS: Reward virtuous behavior with the awarding of virtue award stickers.
Students can put them on their lockers or notebooks. Present the stickers during a public awards ceremony. Battlefield Commissions are awarded as a means of immediate gratification for virtuous acts. If a student makes a virtuous act in the hallway, cafeteria, etc, give them a sticker right then and there. Battlefield commissions are a great motivator.
16. WEEKLY COMMUNITY AWARDS: Have your teachers select and invite one community member to regular awards ceremony. Have the teachers pick the community member based on their personification of a specific Virtue or some recent action that directly personifies a Virtue. At the ceremony have the teachers thank the community member for everything they do for your community and school and give them a small token of the schools appreciation.
17. STRENGTH CARDS: Virtue First provides business card size cards used by teachers, V Pack leaders, and administrators as reminders of various virtues. Strength Cards should be used during “One on One” Talks and as hand outs to students.
18. WELCOME WAGON: Have one member from each V Pack serve on a Welcome Wagon Committee to welcome new students to the school, to create programs to make new students feel welcome, and to ensure that members of all V Packs help new students fit into the school community.
19. MIX IT UP DAY: Pick a day when all students have to eat lunch with someone other than they normally eat lunch with. Break down clicks, share the humanity, unify the student body.
20. PARENT “VIRTUE FIRST” MEETING: At the very beginning of the school year, conduct a Parent Meeting and use it as a time to educate parents about the “Virtue First” program. Solicit their support of the program at home.
21. VIRTUE IN PRACTICE AWARDS (VIP AWARDS): The Virtue First Foundation will provide your organization with free Medal/Ribbon awards that you can present to your members who are shining examples of putting “Virtue into Practice” (VIP Award), for valor, service, and exhibiting Virtue above and beyond. The purpose of this free award program is:
A. To express appreciation, recognition, and positive reinforcement for the recipients.
B. To benchmark Virtue successes so that everyone knows that we are on course for the future.
C. To remind us that for a brief moment, one person did something that elevated us all.
D. To provide free press and public relations moments when awards presented
Order your free Virtue in Practice (VIP Awards) simply by contacting The Virtue First Foundation.
VIRTUE FIRST SCHOOL CORE BELIEFS
- We will value the journey (the maturation of our students spirits – intellect, conscience, and will) more than the destination ( a diploma).
- We will value the spiritual more than the temporal.
- We will develop “Character and “Work Ethic” in our students.
- We will put “others” ahead of “self”.
- We will strive for Academic Excellence. This will be a priority and will not be undermined.
- We will develop “Mental Toughness”.
- We will all put forth a “Great Effort”.
- We will work hard to achieve greater social and academic benchmarks than comparable schools.
- We will communicate with one another openly and honestly.
- We will not talk behind each other’s backs.
- We will study and prepare for tests.
- We will run a “first class” school in everything we do.
- We will strive to have the best teachers in the state.
- We will structure our curriculum so as to build both our “spirits” as well as our “academics”.
- We will serve others. Teachers will serve students, students will serve each other. Come to serve and you will never be disappointed.
- We will always put student’s virtue first and academic achievement second.
- We will have fun at school.
- We will use a cooperative teaching style that uses compassion, family values, and brotherly love.
- We will instill discipline in our students. It will be fair, firm, and consistent.
- We will learn about everything. (We will learn to tie our shoes if we have to!)
- We will always strive to have one of the best schools in the state.
- We will identify a special role and/or talent for every student and we will work to make that role worthy and give that student opportunities to exhibit their talents.
- We will have empathy for the families of our students.
- We will encourage all students regardless of academic abilities.
- We will not tolerate foul language.
- We will not tolerate “mediocrity” in our school.
- We will set our academic goals high. We will talk about them frequently.
- We will work “one step at a time” to achieve our goals.
- We will all (students and teachers) focus on the “next test” when we do poorly on a test or blow an assignment.
- We will be humble. Students and their parents don’t care how much teachers know, until they know how much teachers care.
- We will make school a priority in our lives. Example: God, Family, School, Sport. Things like Girlfriends/Boyfriends, cars, text messaging, face book, World of War Craft, etc. are not a priority.
- We will recruit every eligible student in the school to be involved with some extracurricular activity. Our extracurricular programs will be so valuable that students will want to come to our school just to participate in them.
- We will “Dream” of great things.
- We will not use alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.
- We will do everything possible to ensure that every student gets some form of accolade at least once per month.
- We will challenge the strong and save the weak from discouragement.
- We will not tolerate “negativism” from teachers or students.
- Students when asked a question by a teacher will respond “Yes sir/mam” or “No sir/mam”.
- We will work to embellish the belief that both victory and defeat are imposters. That we all live somewhere in between. When we win…be humble. when we lose….have hope for tomorrow.
- We will treat everyone who goes to our school with honor and respect.
- Teachers will correct a little and love a lot.
- Teachers will praise in public and punish in private. Teachers will never verbally assault students.
- Attendance is important in our school. You can’t learn anything if you are not here.
VIRTUE FIRST STUDENT EXPECTATIONS
Students should expect:
- Individualized teaching time.
- A reasonable opportunity to compete for good grades.
- Excellent role modeling, grooming, dress, behavior, and ethics.
- Guidance with personal problems or direction to appropriate school resources.
- An organized structured athletic environment.
- Safe Refuge. (A place they can go and be safe).
- Discipline and structure.
- To play and have fun.
- To learn to work with others.
- To learn to overcome weakness in ones self.
- To actively participate in social events.
- To support a superior.
- To master a body of knowledge
- To receive help.
- To overcome adversity.
- To be aggressive and learn how to control it.
- To learn how to dispose of an inferior still be humble.
- To accomplish something difficult.
- To console one another.
- Some freedom and autonomy in their life.
- To control and dominate another without losing perspective.
- To impress others.
- To accept blame.
- To explore their emotions through victory and defeat.
VIRTUE FIRST TEACHER STANDARDS
- All teachers will have total loyalty to each other and the “school”.
- Teachers will never disagree in front of students.
- Teachers will resolve their differences behind closed doors.
- Teachers will strive know the first and last names of all students in the school.
- Teachers will be the first to arrive and the last to leave school.
- Teachers will be the perfect model of the characteristics and virtues that they demand from students.
- Teachers will accept the jobs they are given.
- Teachers will anticipate the needs of the school and students.
- Teachers should shield the Principal from insignificant distractions.
- Teachers need to be organized. The classroom is for learning. A bad “lesson” is better than a good “story”.
- Teachers need to be prepared.
- Teachers need to be technically sound at their positions.
- Good Teachers get students to believe in them, great teachers get students to believe in themselves.
- Teach every class. Teach every minute.
- Teachers need to give students lots of feedback. “We can win with that.” “Nice job”. “Great effort”. Put every criticism in between two compliments. Tell the students they are good over and over. Students must “believe in themselves”.
- Teachers should be a great ambassadors for the “School”. Teachers should talk to people in the community about student safety, student achievement, character, work ethic, positive student behavior, and teamwork. Teachers should maintain a “positive” teaching image wherever they go.
- Teachers should never lose sight of the fundamentals of their subject area and should return to them often.
- If anger enters the conversation between a Teacher and a Student during class, the teacher needs to make sure that “fence is mended” before the student leaves the classroom. Never let a student leave the classroom doubting themselves or the teacher.
- Teachers will be experts on both the school’s academic and spiritual curriculums.
- Teachers will be great listeners.
- Teachers will be willing to lose battles to win the war.
- Teachers must earn respect. When we start, our respect tank is full. Where it goes from there is up to the Teacher.
- Teachers must be willing to admit their mistakes and even shoulder the mistakes of students at times.
- Teachers will meet every morning immediately before class for a short meeting with the principal.
- Teachers will become “experts in their fields” and will study their discipline through regular readings of Technical books, manuals, and ongoing education.
- Teachers will always put their own family obligations ahead of school.
- In order to promote good communication between teachers, students, parents, and administrators, the principal will create a “Teachers Directory”. The Teachers Directory will include, names, positions, responsibilities, addresses, phones, cell phones, and email addresses for all teachers in the school. All teachers will be completely accessible to the parents of our students and the community in general.
- Teachers will make sure that student parents are communicated with regularly with up to, schedules, and class information. Do not assume that students are passing the information on to parents.
- Whenever possible teachers will attend extracurricular activities.
WHAT IS VIRTUE?
Virtue is universal good. Virtue is an admirable quality. Virtue is whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is worthy of praise. Virtues can govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct. The practice of virtue leads to self-mastery, and the joy of leading a morally good life. Virtue can be grown through education, deliberate acts, perseverance in struggle, and following the examples of other virtuous people.
To refrain from sexuality that is contrary to ones morals.
Intense emotionalism towards an interest or pursuit.
Advice, opinion, or instruction to a friend needing help.
Using ones talents as a means of earning ones livelihood.
To be genuine, honest, not falsified or duplicated.
Favorably disposed and inclined to be kind and helpful to others.
Kindly, amiable, mild mannered and respectable.
Honesty, fairness, or integrity in ones beliefs, to hold in high respect.
The ability to perceive the comic or absurd quality of life. Good temperament.
Training of ones self, usually for improvement.
Willingness to comply with or submit to authority.
Conformity to the rules of right and virtuous conduct.
Control or restraint of oneself or ones actions or feelings.
To surrender personal freedom and subject yourself to the will of another.
The quality of being free from vanity. Not boastful. Humble.
Fair and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions or practice differ from your own.
The actual state of affairs, honest, accurate, verity, platitude.
The readiness and ability to initiate action.
Good or benevolent nature, considerate, helpful, humane, gentle, loving.
Acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles from study.
The ability to go before others and show them the way. Guide. Direct.
The state of being faithful to commitments, obligations, causes, and people.
Esteem or deference to a right of another, to honor, be courteous to.
Answerable or accountable for one’s own actions.
Proper esteem or regard for the dignity of one’s character.
Devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country.
To undergo a penalty, pain, or loss in defending a principle, ideal, goal, or movement.
True to one word, promise, allegiance, or affection. To be loyal and constant.
To yield to the possession or power of another person, influence, or course.
Being tough, not giving up, coming back time and time again.
To grasp the significance, importance, or meaning of.
Keeping a dignified composed manner even under stress.
Being wise and judicious in planning practical and future affairs.
What is right, righteous, guided by truth, reason, and fairness.
Mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty and adversity.
Moderation or self-restraint in action.
Belief, confidence or trust in a person or thing, not based on proof.
To look forward, to believe, desire, and trust that events will work out as desired.
Affectionate concern for the well-being of others.
The ability to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear.
Vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, emotions, or attitudes of others.
Readiness or liberality in giving to those in need.
Having a modest estimate of ones own importance. Not proud.
Adherence to moral principles. Congruence in thought, spoken word, and deed.
Benevolent feeling toward those in need, generous actions.
The ability to suppress restlessness when delayed. Waiting without complaint.
Feeling or expressing gratitude or appreciation.
Surrender or destruction of something prized for the sake of something of higher value.
The ability to discern what is true of right, judicious and learned.
An act of helpful activity or aid.
Great delight or happiness caused by something good.
The act of restraining ones self, avoiding extremes. Temperance.
BODY AND SPIRIT