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Home Room: A Lesson Plan on Ethics

"Put others before yourself and every day will be a good day." - A MHUSD teacher.

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In the spirit of “Back To School” there are emotions and anticipation that lead to this year’s special edition of “First day of school”. Summer has gone by quickly with accelerated learning and training required of our educators, to prepare them for the much anticipated distance learning in the pandemic. As I am reminded of a series of Dalai Lama’s books that intensify the importance of mindfulness living, I want to echo many discussions in these books that I have seen taught and practiced by our teachers, and extend that understanding to fellow Home Room parents who are now obligated to become critical partners for the success of their students.

Educating future generation is down right difficult. It is even more so to be a great teacher. The majority of modern universal education systems, at least in pre-COVID time, are seen as imparting literary and technical knowledge, with an understanding that the students will automatically be educated in ethics as part of “going to school.” When students in a given school come from diverse religious or cultural backgrounds, on what basis should our teachers conduct ethical education that is unbiased and inclusive?  It seems clear that the responsibility of teachers in this era – teaching moral education on top of academic – has greatly increased.  A lot of us would agree that there are many qualities admired in educators: patience, enthusiasm, ability to inspire, being energetic, good at presenting lessons, etc.  Above all, they are regarded as the marks for academic excellence, moral integrity, and kindness.  It is important for us, Home Room parents, to understand these qualities in order to have meaningful contribution to the distance learning syllabus.

“I am aware that teachers in modern societies often face tremendous challenges. Classes can be very large, the subjects taught can be very complex, and discipline can be difficult to maintain. Teachers must be applauded for choosing this career. They should congratulate themselves, particularly on days when they are exhausted and downhearted. They are engaged in work that will influence not just students’ immediate level of knowledge but their entire lives, and thereby they have the potential to contribute to the future of humanity itself.”

Dalai Lama, Beyond Religion: Ethics for The Whole World.

The question was and still is, what do home and school partnership expect from one another? It is no longer the question of whose responsibility that is to teach and model ethical behaviors. It is how the blend of both can improve the caliber of moral compass! What Home Room parents need is to find ways of promoting inner values that our students can embrace without prejudice.  We do so by re-enforcing growth mindset that our educators have already planted the seeds; by helping them learn how to self-regulate; by encouraging respect towards others as conducive to our own well-being; by acknowledging that matters of ethics are often not black and white and as a results, provide our students the space and time to internalize their own personal value system. It is when everyone is genuinely motivated by concern for the welfare of others can partnership between Home Room parents and Distance Educators be successful.

I asked my child this question: “What grade would you give me for being your mom?” His response: “It depends on your attendance and participation!” Indeed, if we re-fashion our behaviors by way of intentional attendance and thoughtful participation, our moral compass can be enhanced.

“Every action you take, every thought you have, changes you, even if just a little, making you a little more elevated or a little more degraded. If you do a series of good deeds, the habit of other centeredness becomes gradually engraved into your life…. If you lie or behave callously or cruelly toward someone, your personality degraded, and it is easier for you to do something even worse later on.”

David Brooks, The Second Mountain.

The pandemic has forced many hands, raised many challenges, and taken tolls on our emotional and physical well-being. It no doubt has influenced our behaviors and how we treat others in academic backdrops. I have witnessed community virtual meetings where members clashed over one another on the belief how our educators should teach. I have been on the email chain where educators sent out communication in the wee hours or on weekends to ensure their students is well-prepared. I also attended virtual back to school night where a handful of students were presence without parents or guardians (in case my readers aren’t aware, back to school night is for grown-ups. Student is optional). And I found myself loss for words seeing my children perform yoga stretches during virtual physical education. Every educator is at their tipping point, yet is resiliently striving for excellence regardless of the circumstances. That motivates me to measure up as a Home Room parent, to at least prevent the scale from tipping over, and to make known the fact that we are all limited in energy and time. When you receive that next classroom newsletter or weekly updates from our distance educators, please join me in this small effort, to be the Home Room that our educators need us to be. We can love them every day and not have to wait for Teacher’s Appreciation Week.

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