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Virtues ShineApril 28, 2015
- in a South Pacific College
Well, I have to tell you, I am all smiles today. I just spent a joyful hour with the dedicated teachers and principal Tracy Spiers at Araura College on Aitutaki. Even though it is pouring rain today, the sun of excellence was shining amongst that steadfast group. If you walk around the Araura campus, you see clean grounds, a huge outdoor mural of a virtues tree with koru shaped branches holding the fruits of virtues, painted by the students. You will see virtues words, and posters on the walls, and now a new art form -- classroom virtues metaphors – symbols the students have chosen to represent their quest for excellence, love, loyalty, joyfulness, and other virtues of their character.
A few weeks ago, I spent some time with the teachers helping them to create a whole school metaphor, a symbol of the virtues of Araura College. They chose the Tree of Life -- the coconut tree, and broke into teams to draw it, or to write a virtues legend to go with it. I was moved by the reverence with which they spoke of this God given gift, the tree which is such a sustaining part of life in our islands. The words in the legend they created had to do with planting deep roots of commitment, caring, and other virtues, sheltering and nurturing students with fronds of love and encouragement so that they could produce good fruits (coconuts) of excellence, confidence, self-discipline and service. Now several weeks later, teachers shared metaphors their individual classes had created.
One story really touched me. A teacher said that when he asked students to brainstorm ideas for a metaphor for their class, a quiet boy who rarely if ever spoke up in class called out an idea: "Bob the Builder, Ngati TV". Wanting to encourage and nurture his enthusiasm and confidence, the teacher went with this metaphor. A drawing and legend now posted in the classroom was then created. Now when students forget their courtesy or their self-discipline, the teacher can point to Bob's tool belt of virtues and remind the class, "Can we fix it? Yes we can!"
Another teacher said his students chose as their metaphor the shark, which destroys all obstacles in its path. It is hungry for knowledge and moves forward with absolute determination. One student used virtues words to outline the shark's body.
Another teacher shared several drawings students teams in her class had made of various trees, all showing the blossoms or fruits of virtues. Another class had chosen the Tiare Maori flower to represent Cook Islands culture and there was another metaphor of a Vaka (traditional boat) moving forward swiftly with oars of virtues.
When I asked what was helpful or meaningful about creating these classroom metaphors, one teacher said, "The students just lit up that day. They kept running to Ms. Spiers with their drawings, they were so excited. It uplifted them. They loved working in teams. I have never seen them so excited." "Perhaps," I said, "it is because the virtues are the qualities of God and the powers of our own spirit." As the Bible says, they are the "fruits of the spirit" (Galatians 5:22) A fruitful life is a life of continual striving for compassion, diligence, honesty, faith, hope and charity.
I then announced the new English/Maori Virtues Cards, hot off the presses (for info contact firstname.lastname@example.org). We did a Virtues Pick, and the virtue randomly chosen was Caring, a very fitting virtue for this group of devoted educators. Then I spoke about how they are creating a school culture of virtues where teachers continually bring out the best in students. We are in the midmost heart of the ocean, and from here, the ripple effect can spread throughout the entire world. We ended our time together with a gratitude circle and one teacher said the gift she had received was hope. There is hope, whenever any one of us reflects the virtues in our lives. They are simply Divine.