Students must make decisions in life about how to treat themselves and others. There is a tension here in deciding whose needs should assume greater importance. Sometimes the selfish instinct takes over, other people are shut out and there is a laser-like focus on individual needs. Other times the selfless attitude leads the way. Making wise and balanced decisions about when to serve the self and other people is an important component to living a good life.
Students learn a great deal about respect inside the classroom walls. Not only do they notice how their teachers and classmates treat them, but they also carry expectations for how they should act in return. Mutual respect in the classroom is a noble goal in theory, but hard to achieve sometimes because of people’s varied personalities and motivations. Without this mutual respect, learning becomes much more difficult.
Students are in the midst of making so many ethical choices about the types of people they should be hanging out with. There is peer pressure to spend time with people who may make questionable life choices but whose approval is important for a student’s self-esteem. And then there are parents whose messages often conflict with what students believe inside. Decisions on which company to keep are not easy but they are integral to moral development.
Building healthy human relationships requires really good communication skills. To master the skill of communication students must figure out not only what to say but also how long they should talk. Speaking too much raises suspicion in many settings whereas speaking too little leaves the listener confused and needing more. Finding the right balance here holds the key to forging short and long-term relationships based on trust.
Respect is something all students want. The question is how to get it. Students are told that if they hold themselves in high regard, people will want to be around them. They are also told that respect comes from doing things for others. Though the path towards respect is different for people, all agree that it is a worthwhile pursuit and leads to greater self-awareness and self-efficacy.
The ability to work in a team is touted by teachers, employers and coaches as an indispensable skill. Alone, people can accomplish great things but when people work as a team the potential for success skyrockets. Students know this in theory but when it comes to accepting the reality of working with others who have different styles and motivations, all of a sudden teamwork feels like a heavy burden.
We experience life with other people. This is true in our families, schools and workplaces. We are taught the importance of being individuals and being responsible for our own actions, yet many of our life experiences involve others and our successes and failures are determined by how well we are able to work with other people.
The Coronavirus outbreak of 2020 has driven society into isolation. Schools are closed. Businesses are shut down. Our social lives have stopped functioning. And we’re at home with much more alone time. Isolation can breed some sadness and despair but also offers a chance for us to reflect and evaluate our lives in a positive and meaningful way.
Every student knows a little something about enemies and conflict. They don’t get along with everybody and these inevitable conflicts force them to make choices about how to treat other people. These choices have real consequences as they impact their capacities to build and sustain friendships.
Students understand the dynamics of leadership firsthand, both from the perspective of being a follower of their teachers and being role models for their peers. They have strong opinions about how leaders should behave and what ethical responsibilities they should have to others. It’s important to give students space to reflect upon the qualities of good leadership.
When students hear the mantra “You can make a difference in the world,” there’s often an eye-roll. Students struggle to see how the actions of a few can have big consequences for the many. The fallout of this attitude is that many won’t decide to participate in that school-wide fundraiser, start that club or vote in the next election. What’s the point? It’s not going to make a difference.
Students have very strong opinions about when to talk and when to remain silent. Sometimes, students speak out of nervousness. Other times, students speak because they have something they have to say to the world. Then there are other students who are shy and never want to talk, or who remain silent because they are afraid to look foolish.