Tag Archives: elementary school

Teaching Morals in School -Character Education

Teaching values and morals in our schools can also be called “character education”. This is much debated on one hand and then much needed on the other. Education is generally focused on three things: knowledge, skills, and character.

Knowledge naturally covers the learning that is actually assimilated and usable in the future. It is also general knowledge that creates a well rounded mind and ultimately a well rounded person. This knowledge base allows students to experience a wide variety of subjects and therein find their particular interest and specialty. This is probably why in continuing education they require two years minimum of “general education”.
Skills refers to what the student can do or perform with the knowledge they have been given. It isn’t good enough to just give the information back on tests, students should come out with skills that they can use in the work place.
Character refers to the type of people that the school produces. If we do not teach character building values and morals in the schools we could be missing a great chance to better society. The debate comes in when parents believe that there is not place for anything but scholastic knowledge in the public schools.
Teachers and administrators will most likely argue the point that values and morals such as honesty and integrity are always okay and that there are no religious conflicts with such teachings. It isn’t that they are “God based” or “Christian” values and morals but that we need more upstanding and honest men and women in the world who are willing to do the right thing and stand up for what they know to be right.
Another attribute of character education is fostering pro-social traits. For example, an elementary school student may mistreat another student and the teacher may have to give a lesson on empathy and/or sympathy. These traits ultimately benefit the individuals, our families and then a society as a whole.
Character education can be taught in a wide variety of ways but it usually is not a specific topic in the curriculum. Rather it is a whole school focus that intertwines with scholastic education. That you are kind, you do take care of your neighbors, you treat the world and all those in it with the respect you want shown to you. Schools can do specific things such as focus on good role models and employ good role models, talk about heroes worth of being called heroes and what a hero really is, and then there needs to be reinforcement to see the kudos for what has been accomplished or shown. All students (young and old alike) like to see the fruits of their efforts.
Other things that can be brought about are critical thinking and problem solving skills, how they apply to the world and how to solve social problems. Helping students see as many sides to a situation as possible is a great thing and helps them in years to come with all of the interpersonal relationships. Students can also be taught how to break a situation down to make the best of a bad situation. For example, you can present a problem that there is no ideal answer to (like the welfare issues in the government). It can be taught that while there is no ideal answer other than to not have that issue you can choose from the options that you have wisely and try to foresee the pros and cons of each answer.

Brain Research

The brains most crucial development time is when you are a baby. The brain evolves rapidly and the environment in which it develops has a direct effect on the child emotional, social and intellectual development. We know that the years before preschool are vital to brain development.

Researchers once believed that a child’s brain was complete when they were born. It was a common belief that genetics were the sole determining factor on intelligence and brain capacity. Modern research has proven this wrong and shown that the environment in which a child is raised had a direct influence on the development of the brain.

There are many outside influences that are known to have a negative impact on the brains development. Toxins, infection, malnutrition, exposure during pregnancy to drugs and premature birth have all been shown to have a negative impact on the development of the brain. Additionally abuse and neglect are also major factors in the capacity of a brains development. Much more is known about what holds the brain back developmentally than we know about what to do to boost brain development.

The first three years of life are the most crucial. In a setting where they are exposed to negative developmental factors a child born with a normal IQ may never achieve their full potential. One that is exposed to negative factors but experiences and intervention may be able to catch up their peers though with property intervention. This ability of the brain to be able to recover is very promising for children in less than ideal environments and shows us the importance of a healthy, nurturing environment for children. This is great news for those with learning disabilities because we know that the brain is flexible and can overcome delays. This is also great news for those with brain injuries because we know that we can help the brain overcome a lot of the trauma.
By the time a child is in kindergarten a lot can be done to intervene in the development of the brain. This, when done properly and with care, can help a child in school. We all know that if the child gets a great start in elementary school, they have a foundation for life. This starts in the womb and carries on for a lifetime.

Policy makers are faced with a difficult task, they must translate how to make brain research policies beneficial to children. Scientist have much more knowledge on how the brain develops than how to change or enhance it. This would lead one to think that public policy should focus on helping to eliminate the factors that inhibit brain growth such as biological and social conditions.

They cannot over stress the importance of those first crucial years though, lest it lead to neglect of the necessary environment in other times of development. Such as the importance of prenatal care when the brain is particularly vulnerable while first developing or during adolescence which is another time of significant growth.

Where Should 6th Graders Go?

During the 6th grade students go through some major physical and emotional changes. They are learning to be more independent now and the relationships within their family change because of this. It can be hard to know if they are still in the maturity level of elementary school or if they have reached the maturity level of junior high or middle school.

A recent study by Duke University showed that it was not good for 6th graders to be lumped into “middle school”. This resulted in lower test scored and an increase in behavioral problems. Some say that 6th graders are not mature enough to deal with the behavior of 7th and 8th graders. They will typically copy the behaviors of the older student but not have the maturity for certain situation. Most are of the opinion that they are just a bit too old for the 5th grade mingling. And most teachers are of the mind that the 5th graders should not be lumped with older students as is the case in some schools where they put 5th through 8th grades together.
This is an odd debate. In some places they have had 6th grade centers where the 6th grade is a separate school of it’s own. They all come from 5th grade, get what they need for this crucial developmental year and then get dispersed into junior high school (grades 7 to 9).
Typical developmental milestones of a 6th grader include:
  • Appetite fluctuates rather sharply
  • May seem disproportionate physically
  • Girls may have growth spurts
  • Interest in sports spikes (watching or playing)
  • Preoccupation with appearance and self imageself esteem easily bruised
  • Very interested in bodily changes
  • Tires easily, may be considered lazy
  • Emotional changes due to puberty
  • Can vacillate between seeming mature and immature from moment to moment
  • Hard on themselves, very sensitive, may try to hide feelings
  • Really needs parental help but tries to resist it as part of becoming independent
  • Likes to be “stylish”
  • Likes to belong to a group
  • Popularity becomes a big deal
  • Gets very critical of parents
  • Awareness of sexual feelings arises
  • Longer attention span
  • Becomes very opinionated
Because 6th grade can be a difficult time due to changes in physical and emotional nature it is hard to say that the whole group belongs in one place. Some kids at this age will tend to be much more mature than others so there really is not a “one size fits all” solution to this problem. However, when you look at studies like the Duke University that show what happens when they are put with older teens before they are ready the result is not good. That may be an indicator that the discussion should continue among teachers, parents and administrators so that the best solution can be found.