I wonder if you experienced ‘naming and shaming’ at school. This – I hesitate to call it a technique – usually involves labelling children with words which deepen the rut of their negative behavioural patterns: lazy, stupid, shy, mean, liar, loser…it’s a recipe that requires no great skill, but tends to leave the recipient with an angry, acidic aftertaste that lingers, sometimes for life.

It should be within any teacher’s skill set to direct a student to the virtue that they need in order to improve, or make reparations. For instance, when a student disturbs the calm atmosphere of the library, a response such as: “That was really disrespectful and selfish of you!” might be replaced by “When you’re walking through the library, what virtues do you need to use?”

Perhaps we might highlight a student showing the desired behaviour: “Thank you for practising courtesy!” When something goes wrong, an empowering educator should guide the student to the character trait that will prevent a recurrence. Virtues can save time too, for instance when conflict occurs:
Teacher: “Tom, I can see you’re upset, what virtue do you need from Eddie right now?”
Eddie: “Patience!”
Teacher: “Eddie what virtue do you need from Tom to help you continue working together?”
Tom: “ Kindness!”

I have found this restorative character development approach avoids the peeling of the layers of motive along with the how and why questions which sap our time and energy. When both parties agree to use the virtues named by their partner then learning and friendship can recommence.

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