Social action...moral development....problem solving. I read chapter 7 the day after I finished Wonder by RJ Palacio. My mind was already turning before I began this new chapter of Opening Minds about teaching kids to choose kindness, about teaching empathy. (Side note if you haven't read Wonder, you should. If you have kids in middle school, you must read it with them. I know this will be a book I will save to read with my own kids when they are old enough to discuss choosing kindness in our world.)
Nurturing moral development isn't something that I will be assigned a color on, based on my performance but it is something that we all know is essential to build, discuss and teach in the classroom. We may never know how we touch student's lives by building their character, but we know we do when we help them look at situations differently, and help them solve problems, and chose kindness. When we talk about books or study writers we aren't just developing reading and writing skills we are learning about people and thinking about our own lives as well as the lives of others in a larger context. Yes, these talks build comprehension but I want kids to read books as a way of understanding themselves and others. Big comprehension is found when kids can take their thinking to the next level after reading and think about how what they read applies to their own lives, to their own world.
As the heading in chapter 7 reads, "Taking moral development seriously", this chapter was a good reminder of how we as teachers can do this and help kids solve problems through language.
"Conflicts offer opportunities to make clear that we value considerate, empathetic behavior and disapprove of non considerate behavior, making casual links to emotional consequences."
My hope for my own daughter is that their teachers all take moral development seriously. It is not enough to just learn the content, I want my children to also learn how to be good people, productive members of society that care. I know that what I teach at home may not be enough. They will need teachers helping them problem solve along the way when school conflicts arise. This reminds me that I am teaching kids throughout the year to choose kindness, and nudging them to understand others who are different from them.
Chapter 8 reminds us of the power of thinking together. It reminded me of how I need to model what it looks like, sounds like to REALLY listen. (I myself need more practice at REALLY listening to others in my life!) To have dialogue with each other that is meaningful. I hope to as the chapter says, to teach my students to become adept at listening, set goals to learn their partner's views. This is something I worked hard on last year. We talked a lot about how other people's comments, thoughts and experiences help build our own understandings whether we agree or disagree. Hearing another point of view makes you think more clearly about your own point of view, whether it changes your mind or not.
I loved when Johnston reminded me that "turn and talk" doesn't mean merely turn and talk; it means building a conversation. Building a conversation means building on each other's ideas. Listening is the foundation of our conversation and it requires that we are open to the possibility of changing our thinking.
I LOVE this language for introducing turn and talk at the beginning of the year!
Thank you to everyone who has been posting about this book. This reminds me of the power of sharing refelections. So many posts have made me think about this book in ways I would not have done on my own.