Schools are great allies in reinforcing and learning a sense of responsibility in our children. Teachers, educators and school administrators should scaffold our children into becoming better citizens and members of our society. Schools are essentially great platforms for learning social responsibility.
In general, responsibility is being answerable or accountable for something that is within someone’s control. Personal responsibility is the self-motivated effort directed to decision making that will enhance personal well being. Social responsibility is when our children are able to accept ideas and beliefs of others while continuing to respect and care for peers’ feelings in order to accomplish a task.
When schools actively use themselves as platforms for learning social responsibility, three important life-skill goals are attained:
Our children learn self-control.
Our children realize that respecting the rights and feelings of others; their peers, classmates, teachers and non-teaching personnel lead them to regulate their actions. They learn to deal with conflict in a peaceful and productive manner. This is vital to successfully cooperate with others.
Our children become self-motivated individuals.
They equip themselves with the ability to explore new tasks and ideas. These ideas can promote progress as an individual. Whenever our children engage themselves in some new tasks, they get confronted with varying situations that cause them discomfort and discouragement. Children do not thrive in these feelings and are pushed intrinsically to persist when the going gets tough. Children are moved towards independence. They learn to set and accomplish goals.
Our children develop compassion.
When schools become platforms for learning social responsibility, our children become humane individuals. The children become decent to express compassion and caring towards others. When children show humanity, it creates a safe and judgment free environment that lets other children decide when others do and do not need help in a given situation.
But how exactly can schools be platforms for learning social responsibility? As teachers, we can create a classroom system that encourages this.
Make Your Classroom More Democratic and Participatory.
Be willing to let students determine classroom rules/guidelines and consequences. Allow them to have a consensus on some decisions that needs to be made. Give them the opportunity to share their ideas about reading assignments, areas of study, and homework in different ways. Involve more students in the whole class discussions; maybe try to get more kids to contribute to the conversation by doing small groups, pairs, collaborative groups, and micro-labs. How about drawing lots or fishbowls without much pressure on being graded? Or maybe use activities that involve writing, theatre, or art. Many quiet children in class get motivated to participate through those activities.
Teach Kids to Solve Conflicts.
Conflict is a normal part of life. Sometimes, it can be interesting. At other times it can lead to greater understanding and deeper connections between people. However, it can also cause disharmony, fighting, or even violence.
That’s why we also need to work on our children and students social and emotional skills. These skills help students navigate their social world. It can also help them do better academically.
Be extra cautious and mindful that prejudice and stereotyping are most common root causes of conflict. Try to integrate concepts of diversity and intercultural understanding into your curriculum as much as possible.
Attend To and Do Something About Trending and Controversial Issues.
Our world is filled with controversy. It is all around us. Social media even capitalize on those controversies making them trend. It is viral and compelling. Students are usually eager about the hot topics of the day, and will want to discuss them in school. As teachers and as parents, it is helpful to be both proactive and reactive.
You can bring up difficult or controversial topics yourself, and also respond to your children or students’ questions. If certain concerns arise, don’t hesitate to bring parents in. Let them know what you’re doing and be sensitive about what topics might hit particularly close to home.
If students’ questions come up at a moment when you don’t have time for a long conversation, don’t just change the subject. Acknowledge the question and come back to it if you can. Let the students know that nothing is off-limits.
Be always mindful of what’s appropriate for your students’ age.
Ask Questions & Promote Dialogue.
Help students explore their own opinions as well as others’ points of view. Do an “opinion continuum”: Read a statement expressing a particular opinion about something, and have students choose: I agree, I strongly agree, I disagree, I strongly disagree, not sure. Then have students explain why.
Assign opinion articles reflecting different points of view. Have your students interview people with different perspectives — each other, friends, or family members. This will complicate students’ thinking and encourage them to reflect more on the opinions they hold.
Develop Social Action Projects.
Find ways to encourage your students to take action on issues that concern them. This not only fosters active citizenship and builds students’ leadership skills, it provides an antidote to feelings of powerlessness or apathy. Begin by having the students identify the problems that need to be addressed. Brainstorm possible solutions, including a wide range of possibilities. Then vote or use consensus to narrow it down to a few options. Their action projects can range from letter writing, protesting, or testifying, to service-oriented projects like raising money or working at a local organization to help a group of people. Encourage the students to do investigation. This can prove to be a powerful experience for young people.