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The Virtues Project Educators' Guide:
Simple Ways to Create a Culture of Character

Chapter 3: Set Clear BoundariesWe have to give up being a pal who sometimes educates in order to be an educator who sometimes can be a pal.

Authority is Leadership

The element which most shapes the culture or climate in a classroom is the leadership style of the teachers and administrators. Do they use their authority to overpower or to empower? Are they merely punitive or are they educative? If we are willing to accept the responsibility of leadership as service, we must sacrifice the wish for our students to like and agree with us at all times. A good coach doesn't consult an athlete about whether he feels up to a regimen of running every morning at five AM. A good coach takes the responsibility to take the athlete to the edge.

There is a lot of confusion among teachers about an appropriate way to use authority. It is almost a dirty word in some education circles, being associated with an outmoded authoritarian approach. In the educative model of authority, the boundaries are rules for living – not mere retaliations or punishments.

Don't Put Kids Down. Lift them up.
The language of virtues is specific, clear, and most important of all, easily internalized. It builds authentic self-esteem without over-dependence on approval. General terms, even when they are positive, do not hit the mark. Terms such as "good girl", "atta boy", "good on you", "great job", are too general for students to internalize. These terms promote people-pleasing as they only indicate that you are pleased with the student, without giving them any specific information about what they did that was excellent, helpful, or creative. Giving a specific virtue acknowledgment is different than making general statements of praise, which can create guilt. It is not helpful to label a child in any way, positive or negative. We don't say: "You're such a kind boy". We say "It was kind of you to show our new student where to sit. I'm sure it made him feel welcome."

Don't lock them up. Lift them up. - Rev. Jesse Jackson

-- Excerpted from: The Virtues Project Educators' Guide --


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