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Raising Virtuous Individuals: The Power of Ethics and World Religions

How many times have we heard the statement that someone is a good person? What makes someone "good"? On what basis is it concluded?

Being a good person is more complex than just being kind or honest, and each of us will possess and exhibit a different set of virtues.

Character development plays a crucial role in the holistic development of the child. Each child possesses a unique set of virtues that naturally emerge in their daily life. It's essential to recognize that some virtues come more naturally and spontaneously to individuals, while others may require further development.

In order to develop these qualities, it's important to comprehend them, their significance, and the effective ways of expressing them. Understanding our values provides clarity on the motivations behind our actions, enabling us to stay aligned with our principles and lead a consistent life. All of our actions and decisions are affected by our values. Hence, the core purpose of the Ethics and World Religions classes at Bloom is to nurture these values in a wholesome manner by exploring virtues, emotions, and effective ways to channel and express them.

Through Ethics and World Religions, children at Bloom learn how to respond to situations and overcome the challenges that arise in everyday life. They also learn about developing friendship, empathy, tolerance, and love for others. Although the subject does introduce our students to culture of living and world religions, it only covers the basics.

The primary goals of Ethics and World Religions (EWR) are:

To enable students to get to know themselves and strengthen a positive self-image - Something I repeat to my students often is: “Everyone has freedom of speech, and so do you”. There are no wrong answers in EWR classes. Everything they say is directly or indirectly related to any topic we are talking about. I encourage them to express their opinions and feelings with confidence. Thus, they will gradually begin to acquire a positive image of themselves and develop self-esteem.

Our exercises are often about self-evaluation and involve the children talking or writing about themselves. Some children do these exercises without problems because they already have an awareness of themselves, their desires and their needs. Other children find these exercises difficult and often answer the questions with "I don't know". I help these children by explaining the question to them and telling them to give themselves time to think. Through these exercises, I encourage them to start getting to know or think about their feelings, needs or personality.

These children are often afraid of making mistakes. I reassure them by letting them know that everyone makes mistakes and that it is a part of life. I acknowledge their feelings and help them to express themselves with their words; supporting them in discovering themselves and their talents. In such situations, observation is the key to everything. This is one way to notice what image the child has of himself and we can react in time.

To develop and nurture basic human values - it is as important for children to observe the world around them and develop empathy for others, as it is for them to know themselves. Learning to be fully present and listen to others carefully is a fundamental aspect of achieving this goal.

To encourage social integration - regardless of the class topic, children learn how to establish and develop healthy relationships with their peers and the adults surrounding them. Every child has the opportunity to express their opinions freely without the fear of condemnation or ridicule. They are encouraged to express themselves clearly, all the while being mindful of the words they choose out of respect for someone who thinks differently than them.

Even when they are given individual tasks, the children often do them in a group. They take it as an opportunity to talk, but as a teacher I also see it as an opportunity for growth. Through these interactions they are learning how to properly approach someone and start a conversation; develop respect for other people's opinions and feelings; and acquire new concepts (depending on the topic of their conversations), all while improving their language skills.

To develop verbal and nonverbal communication - this is an inherent aspect of all EWR classes, and it is a topic that is consistently addressed and discussed. We reiterate the ways to properly communicate with other people and resolve conflicts in a non-violent way.

The reality is that conflicts happen among children every day. Sometimes these conflicts are serious, and sometimes they are what we adults would consider “small things”, e.g. “He is sitting in my place”. Even in banal situations, we must take a serious approach and remind children about the proper ways to solve them, warning them about the consequences of violent problem solving.

To encourage creative expression - Every child is unique, so our EWR classes are filled with a variety of comments and opinions. Listening to these diverse opinions and modes of expression encourages children to think creatively and helps them become ‘developed individual(s), endowed with a sensitive soul, an eye that sees and a hand that obeys’. This is one of the reasons why I encourage them to express themselves freely.

Ethics and World Religions classes are designed to achieve these goals through fun and engaging individual and group activities such as word search puzzles, reflective writing exercises and trust-building obstacle courses.

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