Teaching Selflessness

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

The Reflective Teacher blog prompt for the week is: How do you teach selflessness? The kind that is healthy when you do something caring for someone else expecting nothing in return.

There is so much for teachers to focus on that is written for us or told to us that relates to academic progress. The other half of our job description, and sometimes more on any given day, is left up to us and that involves the mighty charge of guiding our students to be caring individuals. On paper this charge doesn’t appear that earth-shattering. When I talk with others who  aren’t involved in education I always receive a “Wow, I couldn’t do your job.” But when I describe a small snippet of a day in my life in the classroom they often say something like, “Well, I guess they are only 9-10 year olds.” As if, the lives of individuals this young couldn’t possibly be that complicated. Educators know otherwise.

The Bauhaus artist, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, wasn’t interested in taking photos in the traditional sense. He experimented with teaching and creating photograms. The philosophy that guided his teaching was much like my own. Students had the chance to work with a lot of different materials to encourage independency and personal development.

A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light. To me, this is the perfect way to describe the unwritten aspect of a teacher’s job. I build character by bringing to light the best within each child.

Here are some recent examples of how I did this in my classroom this past week:

  • We launched our unit on economics. We will have a simulation in the classroom. Discussion also revolved around the purpose of government and the role of citizens. How do we take care of those in need?
  • Classroom roles and responsibilities: How do we take care of ourselves while supporting others in our learning teams? When we clean up do we only care about our space or do we happily take care of the whole room? When we witness someone needing redirection do we model and ignore or make an attempt to help? When we find a piece of work on the floor in the hallway do we stop to tend to it or consider it someone else’s problem?
  • We used the free chat room @Todaysmeet yesterday to spread kindness in the room. They are learning how to comment appropriately and I was thrilled with how they took it upon themselves to make sure that everyone had a personal comment to read.

I am so happy with how my class is evolving. I spent much of the first half of the year stressing over how far behind they were and how much they had to learn about taking responsibility for their learning. I believe that much of the positive change I am witnessing is not only because they are growing up, but also because we are now taking the time to have important conversations that bring the best of them to light and boy does this group need to share!

Enlighten someone on this Valentine’s Day with an act of kindness. The world certainly needs more of it.

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