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.
Self-discipline is hard for students. It requires that they shut out distractions, develop routines and exercise impulse control. Authority figures tell students that self-discipline is worth it, that at the end of the day their work will be rewarded. But it doesn’t feel that way sometimes because the pay off is way down the road.
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.
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.
Sacrifice requires that we do things today that don’t have immediate benefits for ourselves; but help others instead. Students have generous hearts but, for the most part, are focused on their own successes and sometimes resist the moral obligation to sacrifice for others.
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 interact with others, they have lots of moral decisions to make. It’s hard for them to decide exactly how to treat other people, especially strangers, since many times they don’t have much information to go on and so they must rely on their intuitive judgements and best guesses. How they decide to act reflects deeply upon their characters.
Many students assume they are just a number and don’t really matter in the world. They don’t think of themselves as role models with responsibilities to other people. Yet, like it or not, their behavior is being watched and they are having an influence on those around them in important, unseen ways. Becoming more aware of their impact makes students more compelled to act in ethical ways.