María de los Ángeles Agrinsoni
Values and Families
Teaching values is a process that begins within our student’s families.The family is the foundation of the educational process. Within it children are exposed to their first social experiences. Through it they learn about the world surrounding them (Berger, 2008). Accordingly, it’s important to integrate families into the process of fostering values. With the goal of benefiting the student, we should cultivate solid relationships with families and support their needs.
Why is it important to integrate families into the process of fostering values?
Home experiences play an important role in the early development of a child. Families can learn appropriate activities for their children, which can provide benefits in the long term. Research shows that family engagement helps develop beneficial parenting practices (González-Mena, 2006). Besides, the use of appropriate strategies for family engagement provides them with the information and support they need to feel safer and more confident. Similarly, research suggests that engaging children’s families has a positive effect on their development, success, and academic future (Gestwicki, 2007; González-Mena, 2006). If we want to integrate families in relevant and appropriate activities for teaching values, we should begin by understanding the theoretical framework concerning families and communities.
What is the theoretical and philosophical framework concerning families and communities?
We must prepare and empower families so that they can effectively engage in their children’s education (Rockwell et al., 2006). This view is based on Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) human ecology theory and Erikson’s (1998) psychosocial theory. Both offer information essential to understanding how families interact.
Bronfenbrenner presents an ecological approach to the development of human behavior. This approach conceives the ecological environment as a set of stratified structures, divided into multiple subsequent levels so that each level is inside the previous.
Erikson argued that children develop in a predetermined order. He was interested in understanding how children socialize and how it affects their individual identity. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development consists of eight stages, each with two possible outcomes: (1) Basic trust vs. basic mistrust; (2) autonomy vs. shame and doubt; (3) initiative vs. guilt; (4) industry vs. inferiority; (5) identity vs. identity diffusion; (6) intimacy and distantiation vs. self‑absorption; (7) generativity vs. stagnation; and (8) integrity vs. despair and disgust.
Moreover, Erikson suggests encouraging and supporting children’s initiative. Doing so makes them feel industrious and confident about their ability to achieve their goals. If, on the contrary, parents and teachers discourage and limit children from exercising their initiative, they begin feeling inferior and doubt their abilities. Therefore, they cannot realize/fulfill their potential.
A family is considered a system. A system is a set or array of related or connected items forming a unit or a whole (Olson, DeFrain & Skogrand, 2008). It’s called a family system because all the family members are interlinked, working as an ensemble. According to the family systems theory, what happens to one member of a family impacts every one of its members (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2013). Take the case of a family consisting of a mother, her son, and his grandmother. The grandmother helps the mother by picking the child up at preschool and looking after him while the mother works. If the grandmother gets ill, the mother has to make arrangements at her workplace so that she can pick the child up at school and take care of the sick grandmother. This example shows how within a family system there are situations that affect all of its members. The systems theory shows that what happens to one member of a family can have an effect on the whole system, that is, the rest of its members, because social systems and its members are interdependent. Each family system may be different. In the next exercise we will discuss the way we understand our own family system.
Exercise: Create your own family system
Think about a situation that has affected your family system
WRITE and reflect about the way this situation has affected or changed your life…
The way people think and behave is influenced by their family experiences. We are able to better understand people if we know their families, their experiences, and the situations that take place within their family life. We can also positively influence the development of values by working collaboratively with families.
“There are no individuals in the world, only fragments of families (Carl Whitaker, Family therapist, 1992).
Urie Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) human ecology theory suggests that we should take into account the social support a family has access to, their needs, and their family styles. This means that everything that happens within and around a family influences and becomes part of the experiences that shape each child. There is no time to lose. We must get to work, search, create, plan, and provide enriching experiences aimed at making a difference in the life of human beings.
From the ecological perspective, educators bear the responsibility to help develop relationships between families and communities. Educators are also responsible for developing abilities aimed toward promoting and modeling values to young children.
Basic principles that should guide our work with families to develop values.
Providing resources and support – According to Bronfenbrenner (1979), families need both formal and informal support and resources to develop the knowledge and skills, and find the time and energy to promote the child’s development. As educators, we must serve as a resource for families and help create and identify support systems for them. By identifying the resources available at our school’s community, we can offer families many options that are possibly unknown to them. When we provide support and resources to families we are modeling solidarity, because we show solidarity for their needs and we try to support them and to find resources that allow them to strengthen as a family. Support means providing families with the tools they need to feel safe and on the right track to make decisions based on diverse points of view.Exercise
Name three community resources that you can share with families. Choose at least one and explain how it contributes to the development of values.
Training and empowering families – Several studies show that providing social support to families has an effect on their well‑being, their child‑raising styles, and in their children’s behavior and development. It’s a fact that each family has their own needs and situations that sometimes prevent them from engaging in their children’s education. For example, some parents need extended childcare because the parent who is in charge of the child leaves work late. Another example could be a family that does not have access to basic rights such as employment and health insurance, or a family in which a parent has a chronic disease that prevents him from taking care of the family. Also, some families could live in an environment that doesn’t promote healthy family relations, one marked by violence, drug addiction, alcoholism, etc. These are some of the circumstances surrounding the reality of some families. In the face of these situations, we must prepare parents so they can feel empowered and able to contribute positively to the lives of their children.
Therefore, preschool teachers have the responsibility of identifying the needs of each family, serving as a resource and supporting families, offering advice and referring them to the agencies that can help them. When we try to attend to the needs of families, we are promoting their participation in their children’s education. The approaches we take toward preparing and empowering families should always be guided by the parents’ knowledge of their children and their desire for their well‑being (González-Mena, 2006). When collaborating with families, we must teach them what they need to know to promote the growth and well‑being of their family. That way, what they learn will allow them to make decisions that benefit their family. Preparing families means offering them tools without telling parents what to do. Beware of the attitude we sometimes adopt by saying: “Professionals are the ones who know what is best for children and their families.” This attitude defeats the purpose and it disregards the parents’ importance in the educational process. Therefore, if we want to put justice into practice we must change our attitude toward families. Doing so means not passing judgment on their actions or dealing with a teaching situation while having prejudices about the lifestyles of the families we work with. Bestard (2004) states that: “Being fair does not mean acting with severity and rigidity, but behaving peacefully, correctly, and coherently with everyone.Inflexibility, weakness, and arbitrariness are not good counselors for justice.” (Translation ours.)ExerciseWrite down three activities to prepare families through diverse strategies. Then, share them with your colleagues.
What did you learn in the exchange with your colleagues?
Families should be treated with respect. We must respect families’ social, religious, ethnic, and cultural differences. This is a very hard skill to develop, because we tend to put our own values, preferences, and world‑view above those of others and we try to impose them on everyone. We do this when we make decisions about people’s needs. In order to affect families positively, we must respect the singularities of every family and community.
Currently, the idea of family engagement is closely linked to the concept of family‑school partnerships (Halgunseth & Peterson, 2009). This partnership is a reciprocal relationship between families and the school and is characterized by trust, respect, shared values, ongoing two‑way communication, and attention to each party’s needs. These characteristics show the mutual respect that should permeate the relationships between families and schools. Let’s explore some examples of how these elements can be put into practice.
Each person defines respect according to his or her own experience and to his or her own conception of respect. We show respect through multiple ways and situations, including the way we dress, our personal hygiene, our grooming habits, and our treatment toward other people. We demonstrate it, for example, when we respect opinions that differ from ours, when we interact with and speak to family members; in short, how we each portray ourselves. That is why we must show respect to parents and their children from the first time they walk into our center or school. Likewise, we show respect not only through the language we use (both verbal and nonverbal), but also through the ways we interact with parents and treat children.
In the following exercise connect a strategy and a general example with an experience you’ve had.ExerciseInstructions – Fill out the last column with your own experiences.StrategiesExamplesYour own examples
Building trust Sharing information with families about their children confidentially and privately. Showing respect Inviting the family of a child that comes from another country to share with the group his or her country’s Christmas traditions and a cooking recipe. Sharing academic values that benefit children Sharing with families the importance of reading at home and engaging in projects that help develop family literacy. Promoting two way communication Communicating through phone calls or individual meetings with parents. Addressing the needs of both parties Conducting a workshop for parents on a topic of their choice, which they deem necessary to address. After discussing the school needs with families, they volunteer to help by painting the school terrace where physical activities for the children take place.
Work must be collaborative – Parents should make their own decisions. When we affirm that work must be collaborative we set the example of being responsible toward others. To achieve collaboration, it’s essential to develop partnerships with families, considering that they can collaborate with the school in many ways. In developing collaborative relationships, we must build trust and respect in our daily contact with these families. We build trust through our everyday actions, for instance, by greeting parents cordially, by talking to children about their families, or, if one of their family members were sick, by asking them about his or her health, and by talking with families about their tastes and interests. These actions will make families feel a sense of trust and safety. We foster trust by showing we are authentic and honest about what we tell families. That way, they will trust what we say about their children. It’s the responsibility of educators to systematically assess a child’s development to provide families with the information and proof that support our recommendations so they can make their own decisions. It’s likely that parents will sometimes disagree with our view on things. However, we have the responsibility to share and discuss this information, so that parents can make the most appropriate decisions about their children. When we are responsible for people, we must observe and get to know them, identify their needs, and prepare them so they can use the information we give them to make the best decisions. Responsibility implies many actions from the educator and it demands an authentic commitment with the families of the children under our care.Reflection exerciseGive three examples of daily displays of responsibility toward the families of your center or school.
Example: Greeting parents every day and asking them how they are.
All families have their strengths – The family should be considered a social system. The hardships parents face and the way they operate within their families respond to an existing social structure that has failed to provide the resources necessary for their optimal development. As a result, these families lack the competence necessary to thrive in society. It’s therefore important to focus on each family’s strengths and on how we can help them develop them further. When we acknowledge each family’s strengths, we treat them with dignity give them hope for their future. Treating families with dignity means we must put aside our biases. It means always expressing our gratitude for the help we receive, being especially attentive when parents communicate with us, showing empathy with their problems, and being authentic in our demeanor with families because they all have their strengths and are equally valuable. We must remember that dignity is a basic human right. Therefore, respecting families is safeguarding the rights to which every human being is entitled.Reflexiones de una maestra…
Oscar llegaba todos los días tarde a la escuelita y la maestra siempre le decía a la mamá cúanto le preocupaba esto, ya que el periodo de tiempo en el cerco se trabajaban los temas del día y aunque esto permeaba en todas las áreas de juego él estaba en desventaja con el resto de los niños por que casi nunca tenía esa experiencia de participar sobre el tema, conversar y compartir otras experiencias diferentes que se llevaban a cabo en ese periodo de tiempo. La maestra ya no sabía en qué otra forma explicarle a la mamá por qué era importante llegar temprano. Hasta un día en que … la mamá le dice a la maestra casi al punto del llanto. “ Maestra ya no sé que hacer… si supiera lo que paso cada mañana para que Oscar pueda venir a la escuela. El se levanta, pelea para lavarse la boca, pelea para desayunar, lo visto y se quita la ropa y cuando finalmente ya estamos listos yo estoy extenuada y pensando que tal vez no vale la pena que siga insistiendo en que venga… Estoy tan cansada de esta rutina. En ese momento la maestra realiza cúan equivocada ha estado y le dice la mamá “ olvídate de lo que te he dicho cuando él llegue, llegó. Ya no te preocupes más por eso. Estamos para ayudarte”.
Parents should be acknowledged as the experts on their children – Los profesionales deben crear una atmósfera de igualdad. Se debe ayudar a que las familias encuentren la forma en que puedan apoyar a sus hijos en relación con su desarrollo. Nadie nos enseña a ser padres y madres, tenemos que aprender en la marcha y en ocasiones hacerlo diferente a como lo hemos aprendido de nuestros propias familias. La mayoría de los padres y las madres se preocupan por sus hijos, pero en ocasiones carecen de destrezas que pueden ser aprendidas y desarrolladas. Los padres muestran el amor a través de todas las manifestaciones y detalles. Los educadores, por otra parte, estamos llamados a modelar el amor hacia la niñez con nuestras acciones en la sala de clases. Cuando le proveemos experiencias significativas al niño, le modelamos a las familias una forma de expresar amor. Amar a la niñez significa, entre otros, ofrecerles experiencias de aprendizaje sensoriales, con objetos concretos, con música, con movimiento y ricas en lenguaje. En la medida en que involucremos a las familias en actividades apropiadas para la niñez, ellos aprenderán nuevas formas para expresar e interaccionar con amor.
Professionals must create an atmosphere of equality – We must help families find ways to support their children’s development. No one teaches us how to be parents. We must learn as we go and sometimes we need to do it in a way that differs from what we learned from our families. Most parents worry about their children, but sometimes they lack certain skills that can be taught and developed. Parents can express their love in countless ways and through many gestures. Educators, in contrast, are expected to show love to children through our actions in the classroom. When we offer children significant experiences, we show families a way of expressing love. Loving children means, for example, exposing them to sensory learning experiences in which they work with concrete objects, music and movement, while incorporating a rich use of language. As we engage families in activities appropriate for children, they learn new ways of expressing themselves and interacting with love.
Match the following phrases with each of the principles presented above.PrinciplesPhrasesPersonal opinion
Providing resources and support Preparing and empowering families Families should be treated with respect Work must be collaborative All families have their strengths Parents should be acknowledged as the experts on their children
Some strategies that have proven effective in facilitating work with families and communities are: having personal contact with the families; communicating without being judgmental or holding bias; being persistent in encouraging families’ participation; being patient (this type of processes take time and develop overnight); exercising leadership; having support from the school administration; and, finally, training the staff so the school can reach the community.
Why is it important to foster values in our children?
Values are rules and attitudes developed through our beliefs, families and cultures. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand that with the help of families and teachers we can foster values in children from an early age. We promote values through what we do, say, and demonstrate. We experience values since our early childhood and we adopt them even without being aware of it.
Fostering values like dignity, respect, justice, responsibility, solidarity, and love is important for society, since they offer the tools needed for a better coexistence. Shared values make us feel good about each other and about our environment, so that we are able to create a better world and improve our quality of life.
When we talk about fostering values, we talk about transmitting the right attitudes, based on cultural knowledge. The education children receive at home competes with media, the Internet, and social networks, among others. Quality time with family is affected and limited by the numerous and heavy responsibilities created by the workplace. Migration and unemployment have generated increasingly diverse communities and families. These and other challenges make fostering values a complex task. To develop an adequate willingness toward values we must live them and model them every day. To achieve this we must have the desire to make changes in ourselves, our attitudes, and the way we express ourselves.
In our classroom each family is different, and we must respect the children’s family composition without judging them or expressing bias. The educator’s responsibility is to support and serve as a resource to families so they can acquire tools to foster values in their children.
How do we foster values in our children?
The best way for children to learn is through interaction with objects, other people, and their environment. They learn from what they see and experience, which is why our actions lay the foundation for the learning of values. If we aspire to build a more equitable and just world, we must lead by example. If we want to teach love and respect, we must be patient. If we’re not patient with children, yell at them, and talk harshly to them, it’s likely that they will learn to be impatient and inconsiderate toward others. However, if we’re able to listen to them and try to understand what they tell us, they will learn to be patient.
The Family Corner
Recommendations to parents for fostering values:
The best way to foster values is by living them and modeling them. This means that we must be affectionate with our children, establish rules of behavior, listen to them, and talk to them so they develop a system of values. Values may be influenced by various elements, be they religious, familial, or ethical. We suggest that you:
Verbalizing values:“I was wrong to scold you before giving you the opportunity to explain to me what had happened.”
- Talk openly about values. Explain and discuss which values you are exercising with your actions. For example, you might say “when we listen to what another person has to say, we show respect for that person.” Acknowledge your mistakes. This will teach the child that making a mistake is not wrong, and that what is most important is acknowledging it, rectifying it, and doing better next time. This way the child will feel confident.
“Forgive me, would you mind telling me what happened?”
“It’s important that I continue to practice listening to other people without judging them.”
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”
Some parents have the habit of solving their relationship problems by fighting and arguing in front of their child. They yell at each other, insult each other, and show anger toward the other person. These couples are surprised when their child behaves similarly with them. Also, they are severe with their child and accuse him of being rude to them. I wonder, who is supposed to learn to be respectful: the parents or the child?
- Understand how your actions affect the development of values in your child. Children tend to copy their models’ actions. If you scream, your child will most probably learn to scream. If you have a defeatist attitude toward life, your child will assume that same attitude. Therefore, you will hear your child say things like: “I can’t do it.” You will notice that your child cries, gets easily frustrated, and feels everyone does it better than him. He will then give up trying. Children are mirrors of their experiences with their families. The actions by adults influence a child’s development and the adult he will become. At the same time, we might be sending the child mixed messages, therefore confusing the child. He won’t know to which message to react.
A dad asks his son to answer the phone and say he is not available. This confuses the child. On the one hand, he knows he is supposed to do what his father tells him, but on the other hand, he feels uncomfortable because he knows it’s not right to lie.
- Consider how the inconsistency between your words and your actions can be troublesome. We want to teach our children values, but sometimes we don’t realize that our actions will influence what they learn. Therefore, let’s be honest and not allow ourselves to give the wrong example. For instance, don’t tell your child to always tell the truth if you lie to your partner. Children pick up on everything, even if they are young. In order to foster values, we have to be honest and know how to explain the real reasons behind our actions.
Discuss the following situation with your childWhat would you do?
- Make sure your child understands the values your family stands for. When you come upon a situation which demonstrates your family values, ask your children what they learned. Sometimes, children can get their parents’ intentions mixed up. Values are learned, not absorbed. Discuss with your children some common situations; explain how you would react, and what you would do if you were in that situation. Better yet, ask them about their day and talk about their experiences while you are in the car or during dinner. A lot of situations related to making decisions that may be hard for your child to handle come up during that kind of conversation. Take the opportunity to make suggestions and give them options, ask questions, and listen to what they have to say. Do not get angry at them if you do not agree with their behavior. Instead, use the opportunity to clarify the situation and discuss the values implied in it.
A boy is walking around his school and he stumbles upon a valuable object (a camera, an iPod, or another object). He picks up the object and wonders what to do with it—should he keep it or should he take it to the school office?
The Teacher’s Corner
Activities for teachers to help parents foster values
- Put into words the love you have for your children (on Kraft paper, write positive things about your children).
- Have a pet in the classroom and let children take turns taking the pet home on weekends. Lay down the rules for taking the pet home so the child understands that, by following these rules, he is being responsible. Share the activity with the children’s families. Let them know how this activity promotes the development of values like responsibility.
- Invite parents to help during a field trip, classroom activity, or another event. Talk to the family about the activity and about what you expect from them. Model the type of interaction or treatment you expect from the adult during the activity. For example, say out loud in a reflective manner: “When we speak to children instead of screaming at them, they learn to speak using a low tone of voice. That’s why I talk to them like that.”
- Organize an activity or project in which every child must participate and collaborate. For example, making cookies together for people who have cooperated with the school or have visited as guest speakers during classes, while another group makes a greeting card. Make sure everyone participates and praise their efforts to complete the activity in the best way possible.
- Design a project aimed at promoting the dignity of human beings and children. Read and familiarize with the book For Every Child and prepare you own version of it with your group’s pictures and drawings. Come up with your own situations to illustrate the children’s rights presented in the book.
Activities to propose to parents
- Display your children’s projects on a special spot in the house where everybody can see them and comment on them. Ask them about what they had to do to complete their project, and focus on the effort and work they had to put into it. Praise them cheerfully and enthusiastically for their achievements, even for small ones.
- Attend meetings and activities offered by the school. Talk about how being able to visit the school and speak with their teacher is important to you.
- Participate with your child in extracurricular activities such as Girl or Boy Scouts, dance, and sports. Emphasize that if they make a commitment to participate in something, they must honor it. Explain to the children why it’s important to keep one’s word.
- Voice the reasons you request them something by saying, for example: “I am asking you to take out the trash because it’s important that you cooperate with the household chores. If we collaborate, we will finish our chores soon and then we can enjoy other recreational activities.”
- Have a board game night and let the child pick his or her favorite game. At another time, give the opportunity to another member of the family so everyone has a chance to decide on what game you will play.
- Baptiste, N. E. & Reyes, L.V. (2008). Understanding ethics in early care and education: Revised code and administrator’s supplement. Washington D.C.: NAEYC.
- Bestard, J. (2004). Diez valores éticos. Madrid, España: PPC Editorial.
- Bronffenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Massachusset: Harvard University Press.
- Erikson, E. & Erikson, J. (2013). The life cycle completed (8va ed.). Nueva York: W.W. Norton.
- Espinosa, L. (1995). La participación de los padres en los programas preescolares. ERIC Digest EDO-PS-95-13.
- Epstein, J. L. (2001). School, family and community partnerships: Preparing educators and improving schools. Philadelphia, PA: West View Press.
- Gestwicki, C. (2007). Home, School and Community Relations, A Guide to Working with Families (6ta. ed.). Clifton Park, NY : Thomson Delmar Learning.
- González-Mena, J. (2006). The child in the families and the community (4ta. ed.). Columbus, Ohio: Merrill Prentice Hall.
- Halgunseth, L., Peterson, A., Stark, D. & Moodie, S. (2009). Family engagement, diverse families and early childhood education programs: An integrated review of the literature. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
- Hepworth Berger, E. (2008). Parents as partners in education: families and school working together (7ma ed.). Columbus, Ohio: Pearson.
- Olson, D., De Frain, J. & Skogrand, L. (2008). Marriages and families: Intimacy, diversity and strengths (6ta ed.). Boston, MA: Mac Graw Hill.
- Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU). (1948). Declaración universal de los derechos humanos. Recuperado de http://www.ohchr.org/SP/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights. aspx
- Rockwell, R., Andre, L., & Hawley, M. (1996). Parents and teachers as partners: Issues and challenges. Belmont, CA: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Annette López de Méndez, Ed.D.
The Angel Ramos Foundation (FAR, for its Spanish acronym), aware of the importance of values in the training of individuals and of the need to raise the quality of life of Puerto Ricans, has entrusted the Preschool Initiative to address this issue within the teachers’ professional development workshops. For the FAR, it is essential to focus the efforts and emphasize in “education, beginning with our children, especially in the period from 0 to six years, since this formative stage impact the way they learn, think and behave for the rest of their lives” (Dapena Rafael Cortes, president of the FAR).
ALCANZA is one of the projects in the FAR’s Preschool Initiative. Therefore, it shares its goal of promoting and transforming educators’ appropriate practices at this level. This is achieved by offering workshops to educators and providing free access to all of the project’s modules to any interested parties. We hope that through these materials we can reach all educators, families and teachers at the pre-school level.
This module aims to provide preschool teachers the opportunity to reflect on the values, their importance and the challenges their promotion pose on students and their families. Values are principles that guide our actions and reflect the ideals, dreams and desires of a society. Hence the importance that early childhood educators intentionally foster values in their preschool settings.
Values serve as goals and aspirations for individuals and societies. They reflect the interests, feelings and preferences in terms of behavior. They are beliefs that act as a compass to guide, choose and appreciate some things over others, or certain conduct over another. They also moderate people’s behavior and are rules that govern our actions within a group. Therefore, they help us to make decisions in the world to achieve a healthy human society and quality life.
The families are children’s first educators. Thus, children learn the values from the adults with whom they live. The values are transmitted through the interactions that occur among children and their relatives at home. Everything the adult does and says reflects their values. The young will learn the behaviors and attitudes that adults model on a day to day basis, as well as what they see, hear and feel. That is, children’s behavior mirrors the things that are valued by the adults that surround them.
Child care and development centers can strengthen the values that children bring from home, but they can hardly replace them. Therefore it is important that there is consistency and harmony between the principles that promote the family, school and society.
Teachers have a special responsibility to foster values. Their purpose is to help to clarify the meaning of values and ensure that all children understand and share the same principle. To promote and implement these values require an understanding that they are mirrored in each of our actions and decisions. Values are taught when we foster them in daily life. If every day we treat families and children with dignity, they in turn will understand the meaning of that value.
To ensure that the staff working in child care centers, as well as the families and children can practice the values, it is necessary to “model” and “put them into practice.” It is also important to foster the practical use of values during childhood, and to understand that when these are internalized they become guiding principles that will be present throughout our lives. Therefore, each value gives us the chance to maintain a healthy human coexistence in society.
We hope this module will become a sort of glossary for educators and families to help clarify the meaning of the six values presented by the ALCANZA Project and the Preschool Initiative: Love, Respect, Dignity, Justice, Responsibility and Solidarity. We also include a short essay on the responsibility we have as educators to train and integrate the family when defining and promoting the values. I invite you to read and reflect on each of them and to contribute with our actions to build a better Puerto Rico.
María de los Ángeles Agrinsoni
Responsibility is a virtue that helps us coexist within society in a peaceful and equitable manner. At its most elementary level, responsibility means carrying out what has been promised. But a responsibility that is much more subtle (and harder to live by) is moral responsibility. Responsibility lies within people’s consciences. It lets them administer, orient, weigh, and reflect upon the consequences of their actions, always on the moral level. Responsibility has a direct effect on another fundamental concept: trust. We trust those who are responsible. We put our faith and loyalty in those who consistently keep their promises.
Responsibility is an essential virtue for the rest of our lives. It’s something that should be instilled at home since childhood, for it will be further developed at school. It will affect us in adulthood. Responsible people tend to be more successful both professionally and personally, because they tend to have more stable jobs and better relationships. They also tend to fulfill their obligations because they focus all their attention and care on their actions and their consequences.
Have you ever asked yourself what responsibility entails in an educational setting? Think about the following…
- Recognize the importance of the work you do with the children and families you help.
- Esteem the task you’re working on, every day.
- Be capable of listening, understanding, and looking at things from multiple points of view.
- Propose ideas, look for solutions, accept and manage challenges, think and be creative. It’s your…
- Obligation in a moral sense.
- Never abandon the objective of education when you encourage the development of thought.
- Seek to be part of the solution.
- Identify and accept the consequences of your actions.
- Seek the well‑being of all and the common good.
- Irradiate understanding and remain alert because people need your initiative.
- Lead others towards unity and integration of all.
- Initiate groups to study dilemmas, and investigate.
- Give importance to shared decision‑making.
- Take the opportunity to analyze your actions every day.
- You should analyze your actions every day, set new goals, and begin anew… Responsibility never ends.
Think about the concepts presented in each line of the acrostic. Analyze at least ten of the ones presented. Give each one a score according to the following criteria:
- I never do it, or I had never thought about it and I should do it.
- I very rarely do it but I should.
- I sometimes do it and I will give it more attention.
- I do it most of the time and I recognize its importance.
- I am very interested in it and I have consistently made it a part of what I do.
Create a table with three columns like the one presented below. (Figure 1) Write your results with a score of 4 or 5 in the left‑hand column. Think of these affirmations as something you should continue to practice. Write your results with a score of 1, 2 or 3 in the right‑hand column. These will represent your areas of opportunity, the ones you should pay more attention to. Write your responsive action plan in the third column, that is, what you intend to do to achieve your goal.
Remember: responsibility requires honesty.
Example (figure 1)
(4 or 5) To continue
(1, 2, or 3) Areas of opportunity
Responsive action plan
|I accept the consequences of my actions.|
|I analyze my actions every day.||I will discuss with my colleagues the work performed daily. We will summarize the tasks and create a list to continue the next day.|
[…] insofar as I, who am responsible for someone, am always, by living among men, also someone’s responsibility.
El principio de la responsabilidad, Hans Jonas (2004).
-Why have you done that?- they asked.
-It’s the only way that the person who finds the first sandal may use them.
Abrir caminos. Historias para inspirar sueños y formar líderes
Daniel Colombo (2008)
Think about this story and answer the following:
- Why do you think Gandhi does this?
- Analyze Gandhi’s action from the following standpoint: “[…] responsibility is first and foremost of men for men, and this is the archetype of all responsibility.” (Jonas, 1984, p. 98.)
- What does “throwing the other sandal” represent in our daily lives as professionals in education?
- Write the positive attitudes related to responsibility in the boxes on the left. In the right‑hand boxes, write your challenges to “throw the other sandal.”
Positive attitudes that should accompany me in my daily responsibility with children and their families
Daily challenges for “throwing the other sandal”
Actions and responses in favor of responsibility
Our responsibility towards others requires that we have affirmative responses of solidarity. Practice a language that allows you to establish safe relationships with those around you. Show empathy and consideration, and turn your words into actions. Statements in parentheses can be your responses to who is speaking to you.
I can do it. (I like to see you being positive.)
I’m going to try it for the first time. (I can accompany you while you try it.)
I think I found something that will help us. (I want to learn.)
I read this article and found a new strategy. (I’m listening carefully.)
That was a mistake on my part. (It can happen to anyone. Thank you for admitting it)
Write your own! Share them!
An educator’s responsibility towards the learning community
We’re all part of the learning community.
Responsibility of the educator
|Learning to know||The child learns through the pleasure of gaining knowledge, experimenting, and being fulfilled as an investigator.
The transformation of thought is perceived as a natural act.
Education should be aimed towards the child’s success. No child should be destined for failure.
|Teachers are responsible for:
1. Being in tune with the child so they can offer direction towards a real, relevant, and significant curriculum.
2. Visualizing the child as a creator of questions that can become centers of investigation, experiments, and other units of learning.
3. Creating learning units (with and for the child) that give opportunities for holding discussions, manifesting ideas, and being aware of learning.
4. Celebrating the child’s achievements and encouraging the child to continue.
5. Putting all their effort into creating coherent and non artificial environments for the child.
An artificial environment is one in which the child only memorizes information, using materials to produce exactly what the teacher asks; this production is so uniform that it looks printed out or mass produced.
|Learning to create||Creative capacity belongs to everyone.
Learning means using natural curiosity to understand and know the world.
|1. The teacher is capable of recognizing that the environment requires spaces to experiment with the body and the mind.
2. The teacher provides opportunities for hands on activities and stimulates creativity.
3. The teacher develops flexible routines in which children have time to complete their activities with transitions that respond to their needs and not those of an adult.
|Learning to live together||Learning is a social activity.||1. The teacher works with each child and promotes interaction.
2. The teacher offers hugs to comfort and words to help children think about their feelings.
3. He teaches children strategies to relax, concentrate, think, decide, and work with their peers in harmony.
|Learning to be||Personal responsibility and the capacity for autonomy and judgment are developed.
Personality manifests itself.
|1. The teacher speaks truthfully to children.
2. The teacher helps children understand their temperament.
Complete this activity:
The unity tree. Let the children put paint on their hands and stamp them on Kraft paper or on the wall until they’ve formed a tree. Let them choose the colors they want to paint their hands with. They will use their handprints to create a tree house. If they want, they can also make the trunk. Invite the parents to add their own handprints. Invite the children to think about the ways their hands are useful for others. To promote responsibility, each child will write inside their hands what he or she will do with them for society.
Examples include: hugging, drawing, helping others, collecting garbage, doing their homework.
Remember: Responsibility requires the will to act.
“The child must be awoken to the life that surrounds himm and to the firm purpose of serving it.”
Inés María Mendoza (translation)
- Colombo, D. (2008). Abrir caminos historias para inspirar sueños y formar líderes. Argentina: V&R Editoras.
- Jonas, H. (2004). The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Love is one of the values known as a universal concept concerning the affinity between human beings. It’s interpreted as a feeling and a commitment aimed towards the well-being of others, and in which attitudes, emotions, and experiences affect happiness.
Love, as a universal feeling, is the most valuable thing that unites human beings. It’s intangible. Nevertheless, it provokes strength and a state of peace, tranquility, and joy because human beings need love to live. Love must be taken in hand, cultivated, and protected to make it strong and thus be able to enjoy its effects. It’s necessary to enrich love with shows of affection, such as caresses, kisses, hugs, and affectionate words, seeking only well‑being
As a society, we agree that the best part of education is teaching and learning to treat each person as we would like to be treated, with love. Love recognizes the essential value of human beings, regardless of their appearance, their conditions, abilities, or limitations. It’s present whenever we do, think, or feel something good and it brings us closer to other people.
Both at home and at school, children learn to live feeling loved and valued, which allows them to discover that they are worthy of being loved. It’s essential to convey the importance of love and its manifestations in their lives and in those around them. Although it can be a challenge, it’s necessary to integrate children into everyday relationships, especially when their well‑being depends on our demonstrations of love towards them. Tenderness, affection, care, consideration, empathy, and protection are some of the most important components that show love to children, making them feel important in their school environment and in their household.
The Educator and Love
Educators have the responsibility to combine all their efforts and ensure that our children value what they have—their families, their teachers, their companions, and their own lives. They should also promote good social relationships based on respect, acceptance, and tolerance with their work teams, families, and children. It’s essential to use positive language through words, gestures, and actions that help maintain responsive and effective communication with everyone. Moreover, educators are responsible for planning group experiences that promote teamwork, active interaction, and the integration of families in various school activities. It’s an essential priority to educate the family concerning the importance of values and the ways in which children can express love from an early age.
To promote positive, effective, and responsive communication, it’s important to be mindful of how we do and say things with love. Some examples are provided below
How we do things with love..
How we say things with love…
|Provide security||You’re with your teachers and they care about your well-being|
|Listen to children||I like to listen to you! What you say is very important to me!|
|Consider their needs and integrate them into the planning of educational activities||I’ll help you! Take your time!|
|Strengthen their self-esteem||Thank you for helping others. You’re very cooperative! You are unique and authentic! You are important! We love you!|
|Use positive gestures, words, and attention to reinforce the children’s actions||You can do it! I believe in you! You’re very empathetic with your classmates!|
The educator promotes love through:
Now read each situation and give an example of how to respond to each one:
What are you doing?
How do you say it?
|You see two children in conflict.|
|You mention your concerns for a child to the parents.|
|You share new responsibilities with other teachers.|
The Family and Love
Love must be the central axis exemplified by the values that are modeled in the home through language and interpersonal relationships. We learn how to love our families and our social environment. For this reason, it’s essential to establish values as fundamental and essential elements in the construction of any society. If we cannot achieve peace, love, and happiness in our homes and in our families, there is no hope of creating peace, love, and happiness in our society. Therefore, there is much work to do at home to continue strengthening our love for our children and the whole world.
One of several aspects that the whole family must work on is learning to communicate with children. Let’s talk with them! When you listen to the other person with interest and attention, you develop respect, self‑esteem, bonds of affection and trust, and family love is strengthened.
Below are some examples that model and put the virtue of love into action.
How we do things with love…
How we say things with love…
|Giving caresses, kisses, and hugs||I want a bear hug with lots of kisses that will last me until the afternoon.|
|Sharing quality time||We’re going to have fun and spend more time together today, doing things that we enjoy as a family. What would you like to do today?|
|Meeting their needs||Today we are going to vaccinate you. I want you to be well and grow up healthy.|
|Valuing and respecting their lives||You’re the person that I love most in my life.|
|Showing positive words and gestures||I love your smile. You make my heart happy.|
How do families participate in your school?
What strategies do you use with families to develop the worth of love?
Which activities would you plan to clarify and promote values?
The ability to love is the result of experiences that a human being has during his or her first years of life. The family, as well as the school, has the responsibility to offer love to children, to teach them to love and to express it to others, as well as projecting it onto society. It’s within the family where we start to cultivate values. Like a second home, school encourages children’s ability to think critically about, delve into, and reflect on the importance of respect and love.
Love also helps family members, especially children, fulfill their potential and encourages them to achieve their life goals. Love promotes learning and encourages intelligence because it provides us with security and confidence. These traits are developed gradually throughout infancy, childhood, and adolescence until we become fulfilled adults.
Instructions: Read each statement. Check the “Yes” column if you agree and the “No” column if you disagree. Then add the total of your responses under the “Yes” column and compare with the key to determine how much love you show your family.
|We show signs of affection with caresses, kisses, and the hugs for our child.|
|We organize activities to enjoy together.|
|We take care of the particular needs of my child.|
|We use positive expressions as a means of communication.|
|I explain to my child the reasons why things are not as he or she wants.|
|I participate in school activities.|
|We spend quality time together.|
|I play with my child.|
|I care about the well being of my child.|
|I respect my child’s learning pace.|
10-7 Congratulations! Your family shows a lot of love for each other.
6-4 Beware! Your family needs to take care of their spaces of love, care, and communication.
3-0 Warning! Your family requires a lot of love, attention, and communication on a daily basis.
Childhood and love
Children have the ability to value themselves and learn to forgive as a manifestation of love. This allows them to solve everyday problems or difficulties with other people. They learn to maintain appropriate relationships based on respect, acceptance, and tolerance with their companions and friends. Limits and rules teach children to be aware of their actions and consequences. When children are brought up with love, they enjoy the freedom to explore the world with greater confidence and security, and thus reach their potential.
We present some examples of how to help them do and say things with love:
How we do things with love…
How we say things with love…
|Being empathetic and helping.||Can I help you?|
|Sharing.||What would you like to use? Do you want me to lend you…?|
|Forgiving if a friend makes a mistake.||Sorry, you’re my friend.|
|Greeting.||When we greet each other, we say: Hello, good morning! How are you?|
|Asking for the things we want.||Please and thnak you are courtesy words.|
Love requires us to demonstrate appreciation for others with our actions and expressions. Promoting and fostering love in children lets them know that they are loved, appreciated, and valued. We have to be examples, models, and agents of love in this life. Our duty as teachers is to work with love to promote the well being of our children and our society.
Dignity is a quality that we can find in ourselves and see in others. It’s the fundamental basis of all human rights that are granted to people, regardless of their race, color, age, or social and financial status. Dignity implies that we all have a right to a dignified life, in which our nutrition, health, housing, education, and recreation are protected, as well as our physical, moral, and social integrity. It’s likewise a key aspect of our feelings, beliefs, and culture—helping us realize who we are as human beings. It means feeling good about our way of being and thinking, and it’s closely related to our self esteem. Appreciating the dignity of all people strengthens and helps maintain a good emotional balance.
When we practice virtues such as respect, tolerance, justice, freedom, and solidarity, we become dignified people. People with dignity value their skills, strengths, and interests, and acknowledge their needs, problems, and feelings. In addition, dignified people seek balance in life by respecting themselves and others.
Dignity is a quality that all adults must model to children in order to contribute to the development of a better society. Therefore, human dignity refers to the nature of human beings, who are unique in their ability to know, value, and love the reality in which they live. It’s the basis for building a genuine sense of respect that leads to solidarity. All human values that involve the action of giving and receiving, such as generosity, gratitude, sharing, accepting, and offering, are reflections of dignity.
Something to reflect on:
Join the pieces according to the concept and its definition:
Describe how you promote these concepts:
At school: _________________________________________________________________________
With family: _________________________________________________________________________
With boys and girls: _________________________________________________________________
In your personal life: _____________________________________________________________________
Dignity is linked to merit; it’s associated with people who are deserving and demonstrate excellence in human behavior. Therefore, dignity is regarded as a human quality that depends on the ability to make decisions based on free will and individual freedom. In other words, people can and are free to change and improve their situation in life. Below are some examples contrasting ideas related to having or losing dignity:
|Deserving love and respect.||Feeling envy towards people who succeed.|
|Being important and valuable.||Being afraid of success.|
|Being unique and authentic.||Underestimating your ability.|
|Maintaining self-confidence.||Being wary of your own ideas.|
|Respecting others.||Criticizing more than you praise.
Avoiding expressing your feelings and refusing to accept the feelings of others.
Education is essential to ensure that the human being is free and autonomous. Through education we acquire the knowledge, skills, and values that allow us to make wise and intelligent decisions. Educators are key components, because their role is to provide the conditions for students to develop their full human potential and their will, in order to contribute with their actions to building a better society and a better world.
Educators integrate dignity in the classroom when they…
In order to teach others about the value of dignity, it’s important for educators to know, respect, and promote the inherent rights of all human beings. These internationally recognized rights were created to promote a more just society and to recognize, above all, the importance of learning to respect and communicate. Freedom, justice, and world peace will only be achieved if we recognize the dignity and equality of all human beings.
Something to reflect on:
Hold a meeting with the teachers of the center. Choose three of the functions of an educator that you wish to strengthen in your classroom and design an activity to foment dignity.
Functions of the educator
Dignity in families and children
The family has a duty to develop the dignity of each person and promote it with its actions. Expressions such as “you are a unique person”, “you are valuable” and “you’re a person worthy of respect” are examples of phrases that all parents should tell their children. They should also frequently demonstrate them through their actions within their family, their surroundings, and their community. Developing and promoting dignity means knowing and upholding the rights of children and understanding that dignity is protected by social principles. That being said, do you know the rights of children?
All the children in the world are protected by certain rights. These rights were created by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a program of the United Nations (UN) that provides humanitarian and developmental aid to children and mothers in various countries around the world. UNICEF’s mission is to protect children’s rights to life; a full development; protection against dangerous influences, abuse and exploitation; and full participation in family, cultural, and social life. These rights are based on respect for the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of race, color, gender, language, religion, opinions, origin, wealth, birth, or capacity, and therefore apply to all human beings everywhere in the world. All these rights are inherent to human dignity and the harmonious development of all children (UNICEF, n.d.). Therefore, it’s time for families and society to reflect on and realize that the dignity of each human being begins by knowing these rights, keeping them at the forefront of life, and respecting them in their actions.
Listed below are the 10 principles or rights of the child (UNICEF, n.d.). As a teacher or educator, you must know them and promote them in both the school and family environment.
Principle 1: To have rights without being discriminated against
Every child, without any exception whatsoever, shall be entitled to these rights without distinction or discrimination on account of race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, whether of himself or of his family.
Principle 2: To enjoy special protection
The child shall enjoy special protection and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner, and in the conditions of freedom and dignity.
Principle 3: To have a name and a nationality
The child shall be entitled from his birth to a name and a nationality.
Principle 4: To enjoy social security
The child should enjoy the benefits of social security. He shall be entitled to grow and develop in health; to this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to him and to his mother, including adequate prenatal and post natal care. The child shall have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services.
Principle 5: To receive special care and attention when suffering from physical, mental, or social disabilities
The child who is physically, mentally or socially handicapped shall be given the special treatment, education and care required by his particular condition.
Principle 6: To love and family
The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother. Society and the public authorities shall have the duty to extend particular care to children without a family and to those without adequate means of support.
Principle 7: To education
The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture and enable him, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgment, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society. The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for his education and guidance; that responsibility lies in the first place with his parents. The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education; society and the public authorities shall endeavor to promote the enjoyment of this right.
Principle 8: To be the first to receive care in emergency situations
The child shall in all circumstances be among the first to receive protection and relief.
Principle 9: To good treatment
The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. He shall not be the subject of traffic, in any form. The child shall not be admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age; he shall in no case be caused or permitted to engage in any occupation or employment which would prejudice his health or education, or interfere with his physical, mental or moral development.
Principle 10: To protection against all forms of discrimination and to education for showing tolerance towards differences.
The child shall be protected from practices which may foster racial, religious and any other form of discrimination. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, and in full consciousness that his energies and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men.
In short, a sense of dignity includes a set of values that should not only be possessed but also maintained for the duration of one’s life. This sense of dignity should be cultivated, developed, and transmitted not only to others but also to all future generations.
- Grupo Clasa. (Ed.). (2002). Asumiendo lo mejor, Deberes y Actitudes. Valores Éticos y Formación Ciudadana. Buenos Aires, Rep. Argentina: Cultural Librera Americana.
- Serna, A. (s.f.). Los derechos del niño. Santo Domingo: Susaeta Ediciones.
- UNICEF. (2000). Para todos los niños. Los derechos de la infancia en palabras e imágenes. Venezuela: Ediciones Ekaré.
- UNICEF. (sf). La Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño. Recuperado de http://www.unicef.org/mexico/spanish/mx_resources_textocdn.pdf
María de los Ángeles Agrinsoni
This form of justice, the, is complete virtue,
but not absolutely, but in relation to our neighbor.
And therefore justice is often thought to be the greatest of virtues,
and “neither evening nor morning star” is so wonderful;and proverbially
“in justice is every virtue comphended.”
And it is complete virtue in its fullest sense,
because it’s the actual exercise of complete virtue.
It’s complete because he who possesses it
can exerise his virtue
not only in himself but towards his neighbor also.
The Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle
Book V of Justice
Teachers that promote justice respect, protect, and believe in the dignity of others. They seek truth whenever they act; they affirm everyone’s rights, duties, and consequences, and recognize merits in every individual. Justice seeking teachers reject exploitation and support solidarity in the community. They identify possibilities for all, so that education becomes a process in which everyone can develop, identify their abilities, know themselves, manage their frustrations and accept challenges, discover themselves, and reflect. Justice rejects subjugation and favors fulfillment.
Teachers who carry justice as a shield make it their virtue and align every action they take with the principle of equality, thus repudiating the abuse of power. They demand that their actions be consistent with coexistence and integration. Their claims are born out of “the conviction that the only criterion for moral action is found in human dignity and justice” (Maliandi, 2004, Translation ours).
The following are suggestions for developing the concept of justice in the classroom.
Choose an area in the classroom and name it “Let’s work for justice”.
Each week choose a motto to act justly. You can choose a motto that you can turn into a challenge for the children to think about how this affects them and what feelings accompany this thought or action.
- Always treat everyone alike, because we are all equal even though we might be different.
- Lying to look good can harm others.
- How can you help at home to act justly?
- Never be prejudiced towards another person; choose to interact with them instead.
Time to empower studends towards justice: Let’s strive for justice
Talk to your children about what they think of:
- protecting one another inside and outside the classroom;
- how to portray solidarity before others;
- why it’s important to fulfill their duty towards others;
- what are rights.
(Remember to work on one topic per session, and record their answers.)
Plato, in The Republic, treats justice as life’s highest ideal. Penalva (2005) states that justice is reflected as a personal reference through Plato’s Socrates. A just man is a man “adjusted” to a superior model and his justice is consistent with that ideal. He embodies the search for goodness and fairness. Educational environments that enable justice are characterized by fair and impartial decisions and by not tolerating prejudice and discrimination. Thinking is directed towards providing alternatives for all. This implies investing time and effort in people and getting to know children and their families.
The damaged community road was affecting the children’s arrival time, since this was the only road that provided access to the school. He was not the only child who arrived late because of the same situation.
The teacher quickly turns this event into an experience in which they could learn about the search for justice. She proposes alternatives for everyone affected by this situation. One of the children says that the solution is to fill in the hole so that cars can pass. The teacher explains that asphalt is used to cover roads. One of the children suggests they should speak with the mayor. The teacher asks, “What can we do to talk to him?” After several arguments, a girl suggests, “Teacher, we could call him and tell him to come, we can invite him just like the fireman that came. Another child says, “We need to write a letter.” The teacher suggests they should continue to think and asks, “What else can we do?”
The children write the letter to invite the mayor, sign it, and decide to make him drawings portraying what happened. Others suggest making messages explaining the problem. The teacher is able to communicate with the mayor, who upon reading the letter accepts the children’s invitation.
The big day arrives! The children express their problem and their ideas. Although some parents accompany them, however, it’s clear that the children will be the ones talking. They welcome the mayor to the classroom with pictures and posters explaining how they feel the morning traffic affects them due to the potholes. The need everyone shared had become a curricular unit on highways that discussed how they are built, what materials are used, and how to draw blueprints for a road. At the end of the visit, the mayor makes a commitment in writing with the children and signs it.
A week after the visit, the pothole problem is solved. The children unanimously decide to write a letter thanking the mayor for the work. José even wants to include in the letter that his father was happy, arriving early to work, and was no longer “ticked”!
What did you think when you read the story?
Do you think the narration portrays justice?
What kind of learning environment does the teacher foster?
How would this bring about justice?
What other elements are important in the story?
Why do you think the teacher creates the curricular unit with the children? What was her role?
What elements related to justice are reflected in this story?
Why was it important to seek a just solution?
What was the most important thing the children learned?
How did they condemn injustice?
Have you ever had a similar situation?
What did you do to solve it justly?
The educator’s compass should point to justice in order for families to take part in decision making and the empowerment of parents; it should be the basis in the search for alternatives to dilemmas and situations that affect us all. The ultimate goal consists of achieving action alternatives that are based on the value of justice and the common well being of children and their families.
Alvarez de la Torre (2005) states that education and justice seek the freedom of human beings. Freedom is an essential condition of morality, and the consequence of freedom is that we are responsible for our choices. A teacher who intends to establish a just environment in the classroom looks for strategies to enable the participation of families in an informed manner. Think of parents as allies, keeping in mind that everyone has something to contribute and that all human beings are valuable. Value families as active participants in curriculum decision making and as members of learning communities. Molina (2005) lists the features that characterize learning communities that serve to support the development of environments of justice and educational transformation:
- Investment in people – Learning communities build social capital and improve their learning processes through shared language, shared experiences, self‑development, mutual trust, and identification with the community.
- Enriching environment – The group is a network that promotes mutual cooperation, emotional support, personal growth, and the synergy of efforts.
- Social construction of knowledge – Learning is considered a social activity that is based on the intellectual interaction.
- Shared learning – The learning community values knowledge and shared learning experiences.
- Multiple perspectives – It’s based on the respect of those who participate and enriched by different voices.
- Focused on improving learning – It’s focused on learning to work together for a better education.
- Small size – Small groups help transform learning communities.
“When we understand and recognize the work of the learning communities, we understand the right to fair education; education is seen from justice and in justice. Within the educational context, the categories of ethics and justice are essential to any educational initiative or action. All educational actions in which learning community experiences are developed are based on ethics and justice” (Barrio de la Puente, 2005, Translation ours).
I invite you to reflect on how to create an organized project as a learning community. Towards a just school community.
Begin by considering the following:
- Which people can I approach with the idea?
- How can we be allies during the process?
- Who can help me discover more information about learning communities?
- When can we meet to share articles and evidence on the subject, talk, and start planning?
- How can we build relationships to define goals, objectives, and to reflect on the need of training to develop the learning community?
The teacher as a leader in the learning community acts with justice
Adela Cortina (2007) explains that respecting human dignity does not only mean not using human beings as a means to an end, nor does it only mean to not hurt them. It demands that they be empowered to carry out their actions of self‑realization and flourishing life projects, with the condition that they do not harm other human beings. Mutual recognition in the form of dignity requires viewing people as a positive end of human actions and not only as a restrictive purpose. It’s not only about avoiding manipulation, but also empowering and acting positively to enhance the abilities of people, in such a way that they can carry out the life plans of their choosing, provided that they do not harm others.
You practice justice when…
You should consider that…
|You attend to all children on their specific developmental level and plan an appropriate curriculum that allows them to learn according to their abilities and interests.||The freedom and spontaneity of children are valued as actions that represent the idiosyncrasy of childhood. This reasoning leads you to act with justice by giving each person what is his or hers. What is it that belongs to children? It’s time for them to learn, experiment, ask, analyze, try, err, and try again according to their abilities and interests.|
|The teacher encourages learning that begins with the child and is for the child and his family. The teacher makes an effort to plan activities with the children and their families. This way, everyone will contribute to the creation process in an active and dynamic atmosphere, and where the curriculum follows the child instead of the child following the curriculum. Teachers are aware that the curricular units are derived from the interests of the children and the collaboration of their families.||Believing in an education that is just is to believe in a type of collaboration in which all human beings have the right to participate and be heard. Teachers integrate the children’s ideas into the curriculum because they understand that in doing so they value human will. If you had not initially thought that way, begin by recognizing that children have wonderful ideas to share and that teachers aren’t the only ones that “lead the flock.” Children are leaders. As a teacher, you should accompany them in the process. The willingness of children to collaborate with their ideas is a part of the well doing that accompanies justice. Growing up in an inclusive environment that recognizes children is to express in some way that they have self worth because of who they are.|
|You are convinced that spontaneous activities are used to help children realize their creative capacity, which is inherent in them and simply needs to be discovered. As a teacher, you encourage them to work with various materials and you understand that there can be changes in the initial proposal. This will create a process of spontaneous and natural creation during the creative phase.||By encouraging children to share materials and exchange ideas, you approach justice though solidarity. Human potential is developed by providing spaces for equal creation. We can all create—it’s possible! Teachers believe that it’s part of the process of daring to create. Children have the right to feel free to experience happiness by having paint on their hands without feeling guilty that someone might want to take away the pleasure of leaving their handprints both on their clothes and on the paper.|
|You evaluate why you value children’s development and learning. You think of development and evaluation as how to follow the line of life and consider that each life is a story.||Teachers accompany the children and their families throughout their growth and understand that it’s through their theoretical knowledge focused on development that should help them seek solutions for the changes that occur.|
|“Errors” are called slips. They are considered experiences that are accepted and understood as a reason for introspection, never for ridiculing or judging.||Children can grow in justice and conduct themselves justly when they realize they can be successful and virtuous. They grow up convinced that they are able to prevail and act, and that there is always an alternative when confronted with a hopeless situation.|
“Justice is a habit of the soul, which, with proper regard for the common welfare, renders to each man his own desert.”
Justice in daily living
Our world is full of social discussions that reveal the need for justice.
Becoming just people implies that we denounce what is unjust and also require in the same way. The daily routine offers alternatives for children and their families to understand justice in a real way. The following are several examples.
- While washing their hands after using paint, remind them how to use water and resources in a just fashion.
- Turn off the light when going out to the playground. Remind them that services should not be wasted, but should be used to consume what is necessary. As long as we are responsible, others will benefit as a result.
- Recycle and reuse materials. Protecting the environment is a just action. Develop a love of nature and raise awareness about environmental issues.
- Begin by being just and developing classroom rules with their help.
- Help them understand that they live in a society and their actions affect others. Empathy, respect, and consideration must be proclaimed by all. Helping those in need is part of a just society. Eventually, they will not see needs as outsiders, but as a problem that concerns everyone.
- Everyone should have time to be comforted when in need, which is also just. They will thus learn to comfort others.
- Returning a toy you were using to a friend is part of the reflection process.
- Teach them to ask their classmates for what they need instead of snatching away what the other person has.
- Teach them that their self‑worth is based on who they are and not where they are from. Exemplify it!
- Álvarez, D. & De la Torre, J. (2005). 100 preguntas básicas sobre ética de la empresa. Madrid: Dikinson.
- Barrio de la Puente, J. (2005). La transformación educativa y social en las comunidades de aprendizaje. Teor.educ., 17, 129-156.
- Cortina, A. (2007). Ética de la razón cordial: Educar en la ciudadanía en el siglo XXI. España: Nobel.
- Hartnack, J. (2006). La teoría del conocimiento de Kant. Madrid: Catedra.
- Jiménez, L. (1998). Kant. Madrid: Del Orto.
- Jonas, H. (2004). El principio de responsabilidad. España: Herder.
- Maliandi, R. (2004). Ética: conceptos y problemas. Buenos Aires: Biblos.
- Molina, E. (2005). Creación y desarrollo de comunidades de aprendizaje: Hacia la mejora educativa. Revista de Educación Universidad de Granada, 337, 235-250.
- Penalba, J. (2005). El maestro como mediador. Revista Educación XXI, 8, 201-214.
- Plato. (2001). La República. Madrid: Mestas Ediciones.
Solidarity is being aware of the needs of others and feeling the need to contribute to their well‑being.
Solidarity is revealed when two or more people collaborate to achieve a common goal. Thanks to solidarity, we have not only attained a high degree of civility and technological development throughout history, but we have also managed to survive and get through even the most terrible disasters, such as wars, epidemics, fires, earthquakes, and floods. The power of solidarity is so great that when we put it into practice, we can become immensely strong and can fearlessly accept the greatest challenges while firmly resisting the onslaught of adversity.
Solidarity consists in acknowledging the common good and the meaning of a life that is shared for the good of all.
Solidarity is present in those who care for others and strive to help others effectively when they face difficulties. This temperament is inspired by the desire to feel useful and do good. It’s rewarded when living conditions are improved for those in need of aid. When we pursue a noble and just cause, our solidarity can change the world and make it better, more livable, and more dignified.
Solidarity is both an attitude and a behavior. It’s an attitude because it induces us to respond favorably to the needs of our neighbors and those within our group. It’s a behavior when it materializes into actions.
Solidarity is also observed during certain environments such as natural disasters. Solidarity becomes a virtue when it’s manifested through participation. Additionally, it can be instilled from a very early age. Many times in school we find ourselves in situations that can be used to help us encourage solidarity. Through everyday acts we can foment a sharing of interests and goals, or simply a sense of community.
Read and think about the following situation:
How do you show solidarity? On each blank, describe an action that you could take to teach solidarity to your students.
Organizations that promote solidarity by supporting the well-being of children
Explore the links and learn how each organization promotes solidarity. Next, look for other organizations that promote solidarity by supporting the well‑being of children and write down their e‑mail so that you can share them with your colleagues:
Like other virtues, solidarity has an affective component that is driven by an eagerness to help and to achieve a common goal. For example, solidarity becomes apparent in school through the work of parent associations and school boards that encourage the achievement of goals and make up for deficiencies that arise in the educational context.
In addition, solidarity has much to do with leadership and inspiration. When someone acts upon their conviction, others follow. Even family work plans require the parents’ leadership and example.
How can we show solidarity?
Read about the following people and explain how they showed solidarity. Then identify other people from your community with the help of your colleagues. Write down their name and describe their acts of solidarity in the table.
Actions carried out that demonstrate their solidarity
|Sor Isolina Ferré|
The value of solidarity becomes apparent when:
- we listen with sympathy and interest to whoever suggests some type of benefit for everyone;
- we ask ourselves how can we contribute to the common cause and we show a willingness to participate;
- we serve others, not only ourselves;
- we understand it’s harmful to everyone if we are indifferent to good causes;
- we enjoy the value of teamwork and we carry out our duties to the best of our ability.
Something to reflect on
Read the following ten phrases and discuss with your colleagues what they mean for a preschool teacher. Then, for each phrase, write down one activity that you can carry out to encourage solidarity:
Attributes of solidarity
Activity aimed at encouraging solidarity during childhood
|1. Solidarity is about working for the benefit of the group.|
|2. Solidarity creates a sense of community.|
|3. Work that encourages solidarity endures for the sake of the group.|
|4. Solidarity demands sacrifice.|
|5. To sacrifice your own well being as an act of solidarity for the common good.|
|6. Solidarity enlightens and guides us to the goal we want to reach.|
|7. Solidarity works selflessly for good causes and serves as inspiration to others.|
|8. Solidarity acknowledges those who care for our well being.|
|9. Expressing solidarity does not mean participating in every activity; it’s initiating or contributing to the common good.|
|10. Solidarity means respect and support of wellness initiatives.|
What does solidarity mean to our family?
- overcoming individuality and always looking out for everyone else’s good;
- helping others without failing to fulfill our duties;
- encouraging all family members to become better people;
- esteeming our actions and the help that we get regardless of how small it is.
Human beings are both the source and the object of solidarity.
True solidarity promotes a change that contributes both to personal growth and to the development of nations. It’s primarily based on the principle of universal equality that unites all human beings together. This equality stems directly and undeniably from true human dignity. It’s part of each person’s intrinsic worth, regardless of their race, age, sex, faith, nationality, or ideology.
Solidarity transcends all political, religious, geographic, and cultural boundaries. In order to include solidarity in our core human values, we need to be conscious of what it feels to be “family”. Solidarity involves showing affection—being loyal, thoughtful, and helping others have hope.
Essential elements of solidarity:
Compassion: solidarity is a feeling that defines the way we perceive and approach the reality of the social experience, which in turn conditions our perspective. It involves seeing our surroundings with the heart or with a different perspective. It leads to a feeling of kinship or empathy for the pain of others.
Recognition: solidarity generates compassion. Acknowledge and respect the dignity of others. These attributes underscore solidarity.
“Solidarity is indispensable for the world to have peace and harmony in the long run.”
Solidarity always means:
- virtue as opposed to individualism and selfishness;
- serving others and seeking the common good;
- helping satisfy people’s spiritual or physical needs; and
- executing discernment and empathy by putting ourselves in the shoes of others.
Because it’s just, since we live in society and need one another, and we all climb the same mountain of civilization and deserve, as human beings, the same dignity and rights.
- Casado, A. (2000, jul-sep). La educación en valores: un reto de nuestro tiempo. Revista Paideia, 20, 387-403.
- Casals, E. & Defis, O. (2000). Educación infantil y valores. Bilbao: Descléede Brouwer.
- Gervilla, E. (2000, enero-abril). Un modelo axiológico de educación integral. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 215, 39-57.
Respect is a virtue that allows us to recognize, accept, appreciate, and value the qualities that belong to ourselves, others, and our surroundings. Respect requires understanding and accepting others.
With respect, we…
- recognize the autonomy of each human being and accept the right to be different;
- ensure the transparency of actions towards others, ourselves, and the environment;
- create an environment of security and cordiality;
- accept other people’s limitations and recognize their virtues.
Respect encompasses all aspects of life, beginning with the respect owed to ourselves and to all our fellow human beings. At the same time, it’s extended to the environment, to living beings, and nature in general. It also includes respecting the law, social norms, and the memory of our ancestors. Respect is necessary to achieve equality and justice. As a virtue, it helps us coexist peacefully within society. Respect begins by focusing on the person, and is based on the perception that the person has of himself. If you respect yourself, you will respect others and the environment around you. Recognizing, accepting, appreciating, and valuing are fundamental for respecting others.
Instructions: Read the following scenarios and identify the implications that each one entails.
|I congratulate my students when they do something good.|
|I support children when they assume positions opposite to mine.|
|I promote interaction between children with different capabilities.|
Respect is practiced when we show appreciation and caring for something or someone. Recognizing the rights and the dignity of other people means respecting ourselves. When we treat others in a way that is friendly and courteous, and when we worry about keeping our environment well‑cared for, we are exercising respect for ourselves.
Did you know…?
A respectful person is one who:
- recognizes and promotes the rights of others without distinction of age, sex, or social status;
- shows empathy in order to understand and accept everyone;
- respects himself and therefore rejects what can harm him physically, mentally, and spiritually;
- accepts and complies with the laws and norms that our society sets; and
- thanks others for what they do for him.
Respect is essential in facilitating efficient coexistence and communication between people. Efficient coexistence and communication are indispensable for the development of trust in social communities. Observing, listening, yielding, treating others with kindness, helping when necessary, seeing the other person as another self, and treating other people as you like to be treated are all actions that reflect respect.
Respect in school
The school is a place where academic knowledge is shared and where values are promoted. Respect is a fundamental virtue for promoting harmonious human relationships in society, school, and the community. Educators can help their students understand what respect means with daily experiences directed towards understanding the importance of respecting feelings, differences, rules, and yourself.
Respecting yourself is the basis of self‑esteem. This means having a positive attitude towards the right to live and be happy. Kids develop a perception of themselves from an early age. Parents and educators are responsible for developing and reaffirming their self‑worth. Self‑esteem is promoted when parents and educators celebrate the children’s achievements, no matter how young; when they help them to persevere by inviting them to try again; and when they offer the help necessary for them to reach even higher goals. That sense of achievement that unfolds is what strengthens respect in oneself.
Respecting feelings means recognizing that each person feels a certain way. It’s important to respect the feelings of others, just as we must learn ways to express and externalize our own feelings. Children must feel they are part of a group every day, learn how to express love to others, and give support to those who need it. It’s also important for children to learn to be tolerant, to listen to others, to express solidarity, to be attentive, self‑controlled, and not be afraid of expressing what they feel for other people.
Respecting differences means learning to coexist among different people. Helping and being helped is an inherent characteristic of the human being. It’s important that children know that people need each other. School must provide them with the opportunity to discover their talents and the true value of each human being, despite their differences. Educators promote respect when they develop positive attitudes that promote interpersonal relationships, such as serving others, showing solidarity, and above all, promoting friendship. The experience of diversity helps us understand that respecting rules is a necessary condition for living in society.
Rules are based on the rights and duties of citizens. Rules can be regarded as a series of instructions that guide our conduct. They help us understand what we should do and how we should proceed in certain situations. Rules regulate and make human behavior predictable within a cultural context. One of the ways in which children learn rules is through play. For example, ring games teach them the value of cooperating, collaborating, and reaching a common goal. Also, rewards and punishments teach them or mold their behavior. That’s why it’s important to explain rules and limits, so they can understand the meaning of rules.
Respect is a reciprocal virtue.
Respect facilitates life within a society, and it’s the road towards peaceful and healthy coexistence. It implies recognizing the rights and obligations in ourselves and in others. This phrase can be summed up with “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Respect means recognizing, appreciating, and valuing yourself as well as others and the environment. It entails establishing limits for what I can and cannot do. This is the basis of any democratic society.
- Play ring games.
- Visit grandparents and other elderly persons.
- Pick up the trash in the yard.
- Work together on educational projects.
Respect means recognizing the rights and virtues of others with dignity, appreciating everyone equally. This equality requires attentive and respectful treatment towards everyone. Respect becomes a state of equality and justice in which peaceful coexistence is only achieved if we consider that this virtue is a condition for living in peace with the people around us.
Respect, as an expression of honor and virtue, should be extended to nature. A lack of respect for nature causes ecological imbalances and natural disasters. It’s important to extend respect to natural resources so that humanity can live in safety and abundance. The lives of human beings are based on the relationships they establish with nature and how they use it to improve their quality of life. One way of showing respect towards nature is by maintaining the cleanliness of water, air, and soil. Another way of showing respect is by planting trees, so that the soil stays between the roots and is not carried away by water or wind. We also show respect when we use only the water we need, when we defend jungles and forests, and when we remember that mankind, plants, and animals share the same planet.
Principles that support respect
Respect for myself
Respect for others
Respect for nature
|Recognizing and valuing myself as a unique individual is:
• understanding the effect that my actions can cause;
• knowing that we all have a reason for living;
keeping my essence as a person.
|The essence of human relationships is:
|Some examples of ecological awareness at home are:
• using water in moderation;
• caring for pets;
• planting a garden;
turning the lights off when they’re not in use.
|Accepting and appreciating myself is:
• taking care of my body;
• being true to myself;
not hurting myself.
|The essence of living within a community is:
having a good disposition.
|Some examples of ecological awareness at school are:
• using paper and other materials in moderation;
• creating a recycling station;
growing and caring for plants.
- Casado, A. (2000, jul-sep). La educación en valores: un reto de nuestro tiempo. Revista Paideia, 20, 387-403.
- Casals, E. & Defis, O. (2000). Educación infantil y valores. Bilbao: Descléede Brouwer.
- Gervilla, E. (2000, enero-abril). Un modelo axiológico de educación integral. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 215, 39-57.