On teaching goodness

With the drama in American politics and the Quebec mosque shooting tragedy this week, I find myself searching for goodness, and last night I think I found it.

I attended a production at Ashbury College by Dandelion Dance, featuring a diverse group of girls telling their stories through dance. These young women bravely took on important and very personal issues, and the whole experience of watching them was moving. But there was something else about the performance that was special. I don’t think any one of them was ever dancing alone on stage; this was never about a singular performance. I found myself watching their stories, but I was equally drawn to the non-dancing girls, as they stood along the sides, watching and smiling. They seemed genuinely supportive of each other. That vulnerability in teenage girls as they danced, combined with the open display of support by their peers, was profound.

I needed last night. I needed to see that the world is still full of joy, generosity, hope, and beauty. I know that life is not that simple, but I was reminded last night that it can be.

Can it be this simple for schools?

We have a responsibility to teach subjects. I know there is concern about the extent to which tackling world events should take precedence over “covering the curriculum”, but good teachers find that balance.

We are also getting better at teaching skills like creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.  We help students discover their passions and give them real-world opportunities to learn.

We are also focusing – very appropriately – on teaching mindfulness and wellness. As we think about all of the problems in our world, we need to engage our students in big conversations, and we must be mindful of their anxiety and help them to remain optimistic.

My hope is that we continue to take seriously our responsibility to teach goodness. Our CAIS schools are special communities where students learn and realize their full potential with innovative programs. But they are also loving communities where good teachers inspire students to listen, accept differences, build trust, and celebrate others.

It is that simple.

6 thoughts on “On teaching goodness

  1. Thank you so much Anne-Marie for your reflections and sharing about our event. I am the Founder and Director of Dandelion Dance – and it was so rewarding to read about your experience watching the work. I love that you noticed the girls on the side, supporting each other – that is a big part of the work we do and usually it is not noticed, or commented on. You saw not just the performance, but the vulnerability and support that is behind the work that makes it so powerful. Thank you for sharing this. I forwarded your blog to our young women and it meant so much to them.

    The show you saw will be on in Vancouver Island in Nanaimo on March 15 at VIU. I saw a few comments from Duncan and the Island so thought I would share in case other educators or students were interested in learning about our experiential social justice program for girls. I didn’t want to place an ad here, but if people are interested in learning more, they could contact me. Our girls are very excited to bringing their work across the country!


  2. As someone often exhorted to “keep it simple,” I appreciate your message, Amber, and appreciated, in addition, the opportunity my new colleagues at Queen Margaret’s and I had last week to join members of the Duncan community to express our grief and shock at tragic events in Montreal. We listened to local leaders and activists, religious and political, affirm the shared bonds of trust that bind us together and keep us safe in moments of menace. We found old friends to hug, met new friends, chatted in the brittle sunshine between classes — simple, yes, and so reassuring.

  3. Most independent schools do a great job setting standards, creating order and rules, developing values and codes of conduct and ‘preaching and teaching’ about character. But does that teach ‘goodness’? I’m not so sure. A student can follow rules, be a ‘good citizen’, get his service hours and still not adopt or demonstrate an internalized impulse to ‘do good’, to ‘be good’. I am thrilled you used the word ‘love’, as in ‘loving community’. Not enough teachers are comfortable with the idea of love. Religious schools have it made. “Love one another, as I have loved you” and “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Its in the DNA. Secular schools have no playbook for ‘goodness’. I think there is lots of room for growth here. And always room for dancing!

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