Define “Good” – Ally Hoffman
Cardinal Newman High School’s mission statement reads, “Our Mission is to educate the whole person: spirit, mind and body…” an almost paralleled triad to HealthCorps’ three pillars of wellness: mental resilience, nutrition and physical fitness. When we think of education, we expect that our students are taught the information they will need in order to be successful in their academic career, but we often forget about the responsibility we have helping to develop those other dimensions of a complex individual. It is one thing to be a good student or a good athlete but what about being an unmistakably good person?
What a school provides is more than mathematics, history, science, composition and language. Education goes beyond traditional curricula to provide our students with the skills to develop grit, learn to cope with failures, capitalize on unique strengths, build and maintain relationships, alongside so many other things. So, how do we go about teaching these students the fundamentals of being a “good person?”
We can start with LEADING BY EXAMPLE. Trying to define what it means to be good is an impossible task and that is the first lesson. We all make mistakes and that is okay, show yourself and others sympathy. Be the person that lends a listening ear. I had a few of my students refer to my classroom as a safe haven because they feel as though, “[I] actually relate to [them],” and, “[I] have real conversations,” where I answer their questions and listen to the things that they are concerned and even excited about. That said, I preach about how important it is that we ask why – why someone did something, why someone said something, why something worked out the way it did. It is the reflection that allows for personal growth and it teaches one how to be sympathetic towards others. We all have experiences and characteristics that make us unique so, it is important to keep that in mind. Moreover, we should embrace these things that make us special.
Therefore, it is also important that we HELP STUDENTS BE THEIR MOST AUTHENTIC SELVES. How are they supposed to even begin if they have yet to understand the person staring back at them in the mirror? It starts by prefacing the fact that you learn more and more about yourself every day, but you’ve got to take the time to acknowledge what behavioral patterns arise to help recognize one’s values, quirks, strengths and areas for improvement. Capitalize on the instances in which a student mentions what they are passionate about to ask them how they plan on continuing work with it. Explore the options they have on their horizon. One of our seniors was explaining to me that music was their passion but they really felt drawn to study medicine like the rest of their family so, we talked about some of the different outlets that they may be able to practice their passion after heading to their prospective university: taking on a minor in music, joining the college band, locally-based music groups, etc. Some of these options proving to be a foreign concept because it might have been something they would never venture out and explore.
Finally, we can ENCOURAGE ABNORMAL INTERACTIONS. Whether it is in the classroom, out on the sports fields, hallways or even the cafeteria, there are always different ways to break out of one’s comfort zone. It can be something as simple as suggesting a student make an act of kindness or something a little more time consuming like providing some group activity in the classroom. For example, during our student lunches, I was offering fruit-infused water and I suggested to a student that they ought to take a glass over to one of their classmates that had been sitting by themselves. Now, I see that the student no longer sits alone at least one day every week because that group of girls sits with them. Either way, it’s important for these students to become more interactive with peers outside of their social circles in order to develop empathy and further feed that inquisitive nature.
Conclusively, these three goals aren’t fool proof and mistakes will be made along the way. That is why it is important to remember that first lesson: to define what it means to be a good person is an impossible task, but the least we can do is make a little extra effort to consider the humanity in each and every one of us.