As teachers, our influence extends far beyond our handling of the taught curriculum. In fact, often the most enduring impact that we make comes from the hidden curriculum that we model on a daily basis. This hidden curriculum is made up of our values and the way we act on them. It is here that transformational education often begins to take root.
Integrity is one of TeachBeyond’s core values. You can find many definitions of integrity, but I particularly like this one from yourdictionary.com: ‘Integrity means following your moral or ethical convictions and doing the right thing in all circumstances, even if no one is watching you’.
Our challenge is to demonstrate integrity in every circumstance. In the classroom, there are many opportunities to do this and perhaps the most powerful is the way relationships are managed. Teachers who are always fair and consistent are respected by children. Most people remember a teacher who treated them unfairly but many also remember their favourite teachers who were always kind, always fair and always firm in sticking to their principles.
Integrity can be demonstrated in the classroom by modelling the behaviour you expect from your children. If you expect children to be on time and ready to learn at the start of a lesson, then you need to expect the same of yourself. If you expect children to listen carefully to you and to each other, then it is important that you listen properly to them. It is a great temptation to carry on with whatever you are doing when a child comes to tell you something, but consider how you would react if they did the same when you were talking to them. When you make a mistake, do you apologize? When you do this as a teacher you are showing children the right and biblical way to behave and you will inspire children’s confidence.
Living with integrity is not limited to within our classrooms. We can demonstrate integrity by the way we relate to our colleagues, to school visitors and to parents. As you prepare for a new year it is a good time to reflect on how you contribute to staff meetings, how you respond when there is staff conflict, or how you act when a colleague has a problem. In all these circumstances, we know the right thing to do. Integrity demands that we act on this knowledge.
Colleagues, parents or school visitors often have an uncanny knack of wanting to speak with you at a bad moment. How do you respond? Very often, it is time or the lack of it that poses the biggest challenge to our integrity. Do we make time for people who genuinely need our attention by stopping what we are doing or arranging a more suitable time to meet? Or do we make a quick excuse to protect ourselves? As soon as we start to use excuses and look for shortcuts we are in danger of losing our integrity. Honesty is always the best policy.
Consider these scenarios:
- Your colleague is struggling with a family illness and you see she is upset at break time. She asks if she can talk to you after school though you already have personal plans? Do you make up an excuse?
- You promise to bring a resource to show a child and you forget it. You know they were looking forward to this. Do you admit you forgot or make up an excuse?
As believers, Jesus is our role model. He always did the right thing. Even when he was tired he had time to treat everyone with compassion and care and to give them his full attention. He exemplified a life filled with integrity. I pray that we too will aspire to Jesus’ example. May we be teachers who always act with integrity.