Every great teacher I have ever talked to has had aspirations to change the world. After all, that’s what being a teacher is. Since none of us are super-heroes or magicians, we simply cannot change the whole world. However, as Teddy Roosevelt once said, we can “Do what we can, with what we have, where we are.”
This I believe: If we are to have any kind of impact on any part of the world, then we must have a hidden curriculum in our classrooms. This hidden curriculum is beyond the math, beyond the reading, beyond all the basic course content. Our hidden curriculum is social responsibility- the behavior that we expect out of our students, more than just rules or conduct, but morals to live by.
Our hidden curriculum needs to teach accountability to get your homework in on time. It must teach responsibility for your actions, by admitting that it was you who broke the pencil sharpener, even if it was an accident. It needs to teach acceptance for the new kid who might be a little different. It teaches teamwork by showing that 1+1 can equal 3 if you work together well. It needs to entail perseverance and the pay-off of a job-well done.
Further, our hidden curriculum needs to teach tolerance- to accept the weird kid on the playground. It needs to teach compassion- to have students only apologize if they mean it, and if they do tell why. It needs to teach kindness- to be a friend to the kid who no one wants to sit by. It needs to teach diversity, the idea that everyone has something to offer. It needs to teach doing the right thing, even if there’s no reward or if it’s not the popular thing.
I believe that teaching lessons like this are more important as than spelling or geography and needs to be integrated into (and around) our standard curriculum. To teach these morals, we must do more than just hang a few proactive posters in our classrooms. As teachers, we are professional role models and so we must make sure that we teach by example. We need to look for and take advantage of opportunities to teach lessons like this in our everyday regular lessons. We can teach our hidden curriculum by publicly rewarding the goodness we see. Field trips or after school volunteer opportunities to things like Habitat to Humanity, God’s Kitchen or retirement homes can help build solid character through morality.
Once considered a primary responsibility of parents at home, it’s clear that the idea of teaching morals to our children has been deteriorating for some time now. There has never been a time in America where we have needed morality more. This is evident in all of the horrific news stories that we watch every day on the evening news- so much so that we become desensitized to them and accept them as just a part of our society. Never have we needed more understanding and acceptance. Never have we needed more kindness and tolerance.
A good teacher teaches their curriculum well. But a great teacher understands that a country is only as strong as its people and the future lies within its youth, and therefore does what they can, with what they have, to help make the world a better place by teaching morals in the classroom.
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