I’m not quite finished with this question. Indeed modeling is key. It reminds me of a valuable insight gained a number of years ago. For a few years I used the Character Sketches books as a basis for our class devotions, highlighting for several weeks at a time a specific character quality. After reading the animal stories, I would talk about the quality meaning, how it looks in our lives, and actively work toward having students implement it. After sending home reports of what we were studying and inviting parents to share stories of how they observed their child/ren demonstrate the quality at home, I would then read and post the little stories they sent to encourage students to recognize the quality in action and motivate them further. It was a positive endeavor and I did see significant growth. But especially one time stands out to me. I do not remember what the quality was that we were studying, but I remember feeling frustrated that the students really did not seem to get it — at least I saw NO progress in them trying to implement it in their lives. Then the Holy Spirit began speaking to me. I was focusing on THEM learning about it and had quite forgotten to pray about ME growing in the same. My focus switched. Sometime later I suddenly noticed students all over the classroom really improving in that specific quality. It amazed me and I saw in action the adage, “More is caught than taught”.
BUT! Modeling is not everything. I would still like to hear more practical stories from others. How can we actively teach respect, etc? For example when a teacher does something special for students, I think they ought to show the gratitude by saying thank you. Yet it is awkward when you are the one reminding them and it is you they ought to thank! How do you do that?
One thing I do to require respect is that whenever a child comes in from recess with a complaint, they must come talk to me quietly; they are not permitted to loudly report their grumbles in front of all the rest. Sometimes when they speak disrespectfully to others I ask them to try again, “Can you say that again in a respectful way?”
Here is something I regularly do to encourage students to develop positive qualities: I look for and record stories of how I saw them showing gratitude, or respect, or attentiveness, or diligence, etc. They love when I tell the stories, often recognizing the story because they saw it too. Each time they receive a small Precious Moments “certificate” (a simple photocopied small 3×5 black and white picture with caption) they save and at the end of the year they each have 10 – 15 of these stories. At our recent parent-teacher conferences I invited the students to set out on their desks anything they wished for their parents to see. Nearly everyone wanted their parents to see those certificates. It was an easy way to tell parents things I appreciate about their child.
Now, your turn.