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An idea for virtues cards

From Children’s Classes Blog

Posted on May 16, 2015 by

UntitledOne of our new readers came to us with a question about using Virtues Cards (nifty cards featuring different spiritual qualities, created by The Virtues Project) in teaching groups of children. We just recently bought a deck of these cards ourselves, so we’re not experts by any means—but we’ve got plenty of ideas.

One of the ways we can help people understand abstract concepts is through the use of storytelling and role play. These put otherwise abstract virtues into a very tangible context that adults and children alike can more easily understand and learn from. In fact, this is why the lessons in Ruhi Book 3 always include stories, and dramatic activities in Grades 2 and up: they model different spiritual qualities and practices, and help children to think about how they might show those qualities in their lives.

So, as for how to use the virtues cards? Here’s the “experiment” we recommended to our friend. You can try it, too!

  • Pick one of the cards and read the virtue’s definition and some of the examples.
  • Ask the participants to think of a situation in which that virtue could be used; if nobody speaks up, you can suggest one based one the examples given.
  • Then, ask them to create a story based on that situation, and ask them to break into groups and tell each other the story.
  • Finally, bring them back together and ask them to create a short dramatic skit based on the story; practice it with them, and see how it goes.
  • At the end, get them to reflect on what they learned about that virtue, and have them share any insights they may have had about using that virtue in their lives.

The nice thing about this idea is that you don’t really need to buy a deck of cards to use it. You could just as easily write down the virtues yourself on sheets of paper, or blank index cards.

Have you had any experience incorporating virtues cards into your children’s classes, or any other insights about teaching children about spiritual qualities?

Let us know in the comments!

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Singapore’s Education History on Display

Stumbling Through the Past

The building housing Singapore's Ministry of Education Heritage Centre Singapore’s Ministry of Education Heritage Centre

On the second day I was in Singapore I left the bus and became lost. My phone was low on batteries and my GPS was not working properly. I trudged off in the direction I thought I should be going and found myself walking through a large HDB housing complex.

Getting lost on foot in a new place is a good thing. My family is not convinced about this, but that is their loss. Losing one’s way in a new place is a wonderful way to discover things that you may not ordinarily encounter.

Behind the HDB (public housing) complex I discovered Singapore’s education museum – the Ministry of Education Heritage Centre. This museum does not make the lists of museums that tourists are urged to visit so if I hadn’t become lost I may have missed it. Not many people would be excited…

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Two Fun Art Projects for Winter Break

Originally Posted on Brilliant Candle.

Hello internet land!
I wrapped up another semester in my college career. I’m packing my suitcase for Arizona (and the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference) and just finished writing out my Sub Plan for Children’s Classes on Sunday. Still I thought I’d take a quick break and leave you with two fun art projects you can do this winter break!

Winter Evergreen Tree

Supplies:
Watercolor paper, watercolor paint (I used the 8 color crayola pan), brushes, white oil pastel, glue, single hole puncher and white scrap paper.

1. Using an oil pastel, draw a large triangle for the tree, a square or rectangle for the base, and a horizon line behind the tree. You will need to press down firmly. You can add light lines on the ground to represent snow banks.
2. Fill in the tree with green watercolor paint. You might also add yellow or blue for dimension.
3…

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Thoughts from ‘The Two Stringed Ukulele’

Sorry for the novel guys, but had a very touching lesson yesterday, which I felt like sharing.

I’d been noticing recently in some of my classes, that the language my students used with each other wasn’t always nice. This was worrying for me, because I know that habits formed at this age are harder to break later in life and will influence their character in quite a significant way.

So I planned a lesson that made me quite nervous, because there were so many ways it could go wrong. Regardless, when they came in, I told them to sit down in front of an envelope and listen.

I told them the story of my vocal disability, and the time I had spent as a mute.
I told them all about how I had spent months listening to people yelling at each other from car windows or throwing hurtful words back and forth between them, and the devastation I felt for the ways these people were choosing to use their words.
They were wasting them. Completely.
Then I told them about the promise I had made to myself back then, that if I should ever get my voice back, I would never waste another word.
Not a single one.
Because words are power.
They have the power to raise us up, to inspire, to heal, to encourage and to do incredible things to the hearts and minds of those around us… And that’s beautiful.
So why would we ever choose to hurt someone with them?

Anyway, I finished my little speech, and explained the next activity. We were going to pass our envelopes around the circle and every time a new persons envelope landed in front of us, we would take a moment to reflect on the things we loved about that person and write them a note saying something kind. Then we would put it in their envelope and pass it on.

It made me so happy, looking around at this room of 13 year olds, as they scribbled furiously with their heads down and smiles on their faces, determined to brighten each other’s days in the biggest way possible.

But it doesn’t end there. We were nearing the end of the lesson when one of the girls stopped what she was doing and looked over at me with a confused expression on her face.
“Miss, where is your envelope?”
I was so thrown off by that question. I smiled at her and told her that it was okay and I didn’t really need one – but what happened next nearly made me cry.

With no hesitation, she jumped up from her desk, strode over to my table and grabbed one of the spare envelopes sitting there. After writing my name on it she stood in front of the class, held the envelope above her head and boldly announced to the room that everyone needed to stop what they were doing for a minute and write Miss Johnson a note (since she had tried to be silly and not include herself in the activity).

Then I watched as one by one my sweet, beautiful kids bounced over to my envelope to slip their notes inside.
I actually love these guys.
So… so much.

Later, when the class was over and each student had gone home with their envelopes filled with kind words, I sat down to read what they’d written to me, and I’m not going to lie, there were tears.

Not one of them had said anything half-hearted or superficial.
They had understood the lesson.

Now, as a lot of you may know, a few months ago I had spoken to my head teacher about leaving my post in that school.
It was a long and expensive commute, I wasn’t teaching enough classes to be working towards my full teacher registration and I had been facing a whole bunch of challenges working in that school.
Also, as even fewer of you may know, earlier this week an advertisement went out in the public domain searching for my replacement.

It wasn’t until this moment though, that I realized how much working with these kids truly meant to me. We had grown so much together.
We were learning from each other, and suddenly I couldn’t imagine ever leaving them behind.

So I said some prayers, ditched my pride and rushed over to the head teachers office to beg for my job back.
I showed her the notes.
I told her everything.
The job is rough, and draining and easily the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
But I knew I was the best person to do it.

Unfortunately, it was too late, and I know that now I’m going to have to live with the decision I made.
But wherever I end up, these kids taught me something incredible.
I don’t even know how to articulate what it is.
But I know one thing now.
Every moment I spend with them is precious, and fleeting.

And for as long as I’m allowed to stay there, I’m not going to waste a single one of them.
Not one. x

(c) Ingrid Johnson

You can find Ingrid at her blog  The Two Stringed Ukulele.  Thanks for sharing your teaching experiences Ingrid.


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Growing Hope

Another beautiful blog from Dan, on his experiences teaching children’s classes. First posted September 8th 2013.

For more visit his blog Baha’i children’s Classes

football timeMany of the children in our neighbourhood class come from families who fled conflict in Myanmar (Burma) many years ago, having spent several years of their young lives in refugee camps before arriving in Canada. We tend to forget this sometimes when we teach the class, until they bring out the football with the UNHCR logo and start kicking it around—a symbol of a troubled past that echoes into the present.

That’s why I was shocked the very first time we offered a class on kindness, and heard one of the older children—one who only occasionally attended the class—say that he could never be kind to a Burmese. Why not, I asked? “Because they killed my family,” he replied. He had seen loved ones shot and killed before his eyes. How could he treat their killers with kindness? As I fell into a speechless silence, trying to find a way to respond, it seemed like the entire lesson fell apart in my mind. From my comfortable, sheltered vantage point as one who had never known war, loss and destitution, I had never considered how to respond to the needs of children who had endured that kind of suffering.

Many of our children, thankfully, are too young to have witnessed much of this violence themselves; they were born in the camps, after their families had already fled the conflict. But all of them have older siblings and cousins, some of whom were approaching the age of junior youth. At one point, as we were meeting together to reflect upon the neighbourhood’s progress, it became obvious to us that we should try to engage them by inviting them to form a junior youth empowerment group.

Now, usually we would start a new group with the book Breezes of  confirmation, because its content is most appropriate as an introduction to the program—a lower reading level, and simpler exercises that serve as a stepping stone to more complex ones in further books. But knowing the families we were involved with, and hoping to find ways to address what we saw as an important issue in their lives, we decided to experiment with another book, entitled Glimmerings of Hope.

In Glimmerings of Hope, we read about the story of Kibomi, a young boy who believes he can make a difference. Kibomi lives in a country full of strife, and one day, his parents are killed in front of his eyes by soldiers of another tribe. He runs for his life, and along the way, as he struggles to come to terms with the horrors he has just seen, he meets many people: a terrified child of his own tribe who has been driven to join a rebel army; children of the other tribe whose parents have also been killed; an old man of the other tribe who shows him kindness instead of hatred, sharing his food and shelter with him; and so on. The people he meets help him to see he has a choice: either to sink into despair, rage, violence and revenge, or to turn his suffering into fuel that will help him change the lives of those around him for the better. Doing the latter takes strength of character that he’s not sure he has, but as he meets more and more people who are working hard to build bonds of loving-kindness and unity between the warring tribes, he realizes that he can draw on their strength to build up his own. Eventually his feelings of fear and despair fade away, and he makes his choice—to work actively towards the betterment of the world.

After a few false starts, we ended up getting a group going with two sisters. As they began studying the book, it was clear that they could relate to the content. We asked them: What would you do if a Burmese came through the door right now? “Tell him to get out,” they exclaimed. “Yell at him, saying, ‘Why did you kill my family?’” But as they progressed further through the book in the following months, it was apparent that their attitudes were beginning to change. As their study of the book ended, we asked them the same question—and their answers had completely reversed. “I’d welcome him in, offer him something to drink, and make him feel comfortable,” they said. “I’d say, ‘I know you didn’t kill my family, what happened wasn’t your fault.’”

living together in harmonyEven in our children’s class, we manage to address the subject when it comes up, although in simpler terms. The children do seem to understand when we explain that we have a choice to treat people kindly or unkindly, and that there are consequences to either choice. When we treat others unkindly, they’re more likely to treat us unkindly, and vice-versa. The lessons in Set 4 of Ruhi Book 3′s Grade 2 curriculum, on the topic of living together in harmony and unity, were especially good for addressing this issue. It’s not always easy to tell if they’re really getting it, but their parents have told us that they’ve seen a definite improvement in their behaviour over the past year. One of the fathers said that he noticed his son was getting into fewer fights, and working things out using words instead—a sign that something’s working for sure.

As teachers of Bahá’í children’s classes and animators of junior youth groups, we’re engaged in an educational process that spans entire lifetimes. The time we have with these young people is short, but more often than not, it’s enough to make a big difference in their lives. Will these short years remove the trauma of losing loved ones, or erase the memories of violence and conflict? Not likely. All we can really do is offer tools that will help young souls to deal with their reality, and to regain hope and trust. As we do, we forge bonds of friendship with them and their families, getting to know them closely, like members of our own family. We learn from them, coming to understand who they are, what they’ve been through, how to serve them better, and how to help them arise in turn to serve others.

 This blog first appeared on Baha’i Children’s Classes and is kindlly reprinted here by permission.

(c) Dan Jones


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Virtues project workshop

A big welcome to dedicated blogger Dan Jones, a Baha’i from Ottowa, who has been sharing  resources and reflections for Baha’i children’s classes for many years.  I came across his blog when I was first teaching classes in a country area and was geographically isolated from other Baha’i teachers.  His dedication to his blog and his classes is inspirational.  What makes them special is their reflection on the process and constant striving for excellence and empowerment for all involved.

Thanks so much Dan for permission to reblog some of your blogs.  A great one for teachers looking for some extra inspiration no matter where they live.

You can read this  and more on Dan’s excellent blog  Baha’i Children’s Classes

to give and be generousThis past weekend, a bunch of us had the chance to attend a workshop on The Virtues Project. If you haven’t heard of them, they give seminars/courses and produce materials that promote virtues—spiritual values that are independent of any particular religious tradition—in all walks of life. The organizers of a local Bahá’í summer camp arranged the workshop for their camp counsellors, but opened it to the wider community too, so there was a nice mix of all kinds of people in attendance, including plenty of children’s class teachers. I took a few notes from the presentation and thought I’d present them here in point form.

Why are virtues important?

  • Virtues are the building blocks of the spirit. We are at our happiest when we are developing our virtues. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “Man is, in reality, a spiritual being, and only when he lives in the spirit is he truly happy.” (Paris Talks, p.72)
  • When we cultivate virtues in ourselves, we’re not the only ones who benefit. To paraphrase the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse, cultivating virtue in ourselves has an effect on our families, our villages, our nations, and the world. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declared: “Until the moral degree of the nations is advanced and human virtues attain a lofty level, happiness for mankind is impossible.”

How can we help encourage the development of virtues?

How do we speak the language of virtues?

  • When speaking the language of virtues with someone, we avoid: shaming (“Why can’t you be like so-and-so?”), nagging (“Goofing off again? I told you to stop!”), rescuing (…them from their problems), advising (giving advice on what they should do) and labelling. Instead, we: acknowledge (“That was very kind of you to offer her your seat.”), correct (“What will help you be patient until story time is done?”), and guide or instruct (“I need your help to prepare the room for class.”).
  • When we use the language of virtues, we also refrain from complimenting (“You’re so honest!”), choosing to acknowledge virtues instead (“What you just did was very honest!”). The reasoning is that we all have honest moments and not-so-honest moments; no one shows a virtue 100% of the time. Compliments can sound hollow and create guilt (“If only you knew about that time I lied to Mrs. So-and-so…”), but giving a virtue acknowledgement helps others to identify which actions are virtuous and encourages them to develop the virtue in question.

What does the language of virtues look like?

  • The grammar of the language of virtues looks like this:

Opening phrase • virtue • situation.

  • Acknowledgement might look like this:

It was • thoughtful • of you to bring cookies for the rest of the class.

Thank you for your • cooperation • in helping to clear the table.

  • Correction and instruction might look like this:

Remember, we show • respect • and stay silent when someone is speaking.

I’m going to ask for your • self-discipline • as we enter the museum.

Although the workshop was a little too short to fully cover all the material (usually they’re a few days long instead of just an afternoon), It was very thought-provoking. As we went through it, I kept thinking of situations in which I could have used a virtues focus to help address problematic behaviour in our children’s class—or even just encourage the children better by pointing out a particular virtue they’re showing.

Since our duty as children’s class teachers is to mine the gems of virtue from the children’s souls and help mankind to benefit therefrom, it makes sense that we should pay special attention to virtues and spiritual qualities, use language that puts them centre stage.

The facilitator was careful to note that language on its own doesn’t fix every problem, and that other strategies are needed depending on the situation—that’s why The Virtues Project gives five strategies. When we get the hang of them all, we can tell which ones are appropriate at which time. All in all, it was a very helpful and inspiring workshop, and a good complement to our existing Ruhi training. It made me want to attend another, fuller training sometime for sure, to explore how to apply a virtues focus in different, more complex situations.

First Posted on June 9, 2014 by

(c) Dan Jones