Artifact: “moral ed framework”
Artifact: “spirit key disc”
Ethical and moral behavior has been a central part of my entire personal and professional life. This Masters program forced me to examine my ethics and moral and specifically enunciate how they impacted my work as an educator. Specifically, writing my Moral Education Framework (abbreviated MEF, See Artifact: “Moral Ed Framework”) allowed me to bring a strong structure and basis to my ideas, and the online discussions related to the spiritual principles of leadership from Blankstein and Houston (2007) helped me examine specific concepts and connect them to my spiritual side (see Artifact: “spirit key disc”).
Through the effort of developing the MEF, I was able to distill my reform Jewish beliefs down to three core concepts. I will share one of these concepts in detail as an example; tzedakah is integral to being an American public school teacher. צדקה, pronounced tse-dáh-kah, is a Hebrew word that literally means “justice”, “righteousness”, or, more specifically in a modern context, “righteous giving”. Tzedakah is a commandment that is elucidated in the Torah and the Talmud, and has since been closely examined by countless Rabbis and Jewish thinkers. One of the thinkers, the Jewish scholar Maimonides (1135-1204), organized tzedakah into eight levels. The eight levels find their apex when one gives in a way that allows a person to “strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent on others.” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7). I strongly believe that each day I work I am helping students become more independent in their learning. I am helping them become more independent in their ability to complete complex tasks and solve problems. I am helping them become more independent in their ability to keep track of and organize their belongings. I am helping them become more independent in setting and tracking their own goals. I am helping them become better at communicating and collaborating with others. Collectively, these supports are pushing them towards a future when they will be able to depend on themselves to be self-sufficient as an adult. This is the logic I follow that enables me to feel like I am performing tzedakah each and every day I am a teacher.
Despite being Jewish, Wirzba’s (2016) thinking regarding unconditional love aligned closely with my personal beliefs and became the second foundation of my MEF. That is, that I will never give up on any student. In fact, I have a poster that states this right by my desk. A caring, positive relationship is very powerful motivator for students. In fact, Hattie (2012) found that “teacher-student relationships” ranked twelfth out of 150 influences on student achievement which were compared by combining the results of over 900 meta-analyses.
My final MEF belief, that diverse schools are strong schools, allows me to strive for mutuality as defined in James et. al (2014); ““Mutuality in democratic education means that ‘it is in the interest of all to care as much about each other’s self-development as one’s own” (p. 12)
Together, my core beliefs as developed in my MEF will allow me to more clearly apply my morals to my educational practices. Moving forward, I intend to revisit my MEF over time so that it remains relevant and current to my beliefs and practices.
The online discussions related to Blandstien and Houston’s (2007) principles resulted in important personal insights. For example, after reading about the principle of intention (p. 14) I clarified that my ultimate goal at school is that students are able to learn, grow, and develop at the greatest rate that they, as individuals, are able to grow. Furthermore, I desire that they are able to grow in this way while feeling confident and valued as an individual. Finally, I was able to identify my personal motivations for having this intention. That is, the feeling I get when I see students feeling confident at school, working hard, and learning to the best based on their abilities. I get a feeling that I can only describe as very strong gratification.
For me, prior to the program, moral and ethical behavior was already a given. The Masters program allowed me to make a more meaningful connection between my religious and spiritual beliefs and my professional practice. This connection will provide a sustaining strength to my work for many years to come. I hope that I am able to help others make the same connections, while (of course) respecting their own personal religious and spiritual beliefs and backgrounds.
Blankstein, A.M, Cole, R.W., & Houston, P.D. (2007). Spirituality in educational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Hattie, John (2012-03-15). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
James, Jennifer Hauver; Schweber, Simone; Kunzman, Robert; Barton, Keith C.; Logan, Kimberly (2014-11-13). Religion in the Classroom: Dilemmas for Democratic Education. Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition
Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, Soncino English Translation.
Wirzba, Norman (2016-03-01). Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.