Back to school ads. The sun setting so much earlier than in June. A flock of birds getting ready to pack their suitcases and head south. It is time to return to academic pursuits.
As homeschool parents prepare their curricula for this academic year, we at the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) want to make a suggestion. If one of your goals is strong character in your child, then have you considered a forgiveness curriculum this year? We at the IFI now have guides for homeschooling moms and dads that start at preschool (age 4) and go through grade 10 (age 15).
Each of these guides is available in our Store and we can deliver them electronically to you very quickly.
Each guide helps the parent to present a comprehensive and developmentally-appropriate forgiveness curriculum in about one hour per week for 8 to 15 weeks (depending on the age of the student). The guides suggest specific story books to accompany the curriculum so that the students first sees how story characters solve their interpersonal conflicts. After seeing this, it then is the student’s turn to think about forgiveness for him- or herself.
Many homeschooling websites emphasize the education in virtuous living for the child. For example, at home-school.com there is a family-life books section filled with themes for wholesome living. Forgiveness helps students confront their own anger and to respond with strength and respect.
At homeschool.com, there is anon-line Christian homeschooling section. Our guides come in two forms: a secular version for those parents who wish to teach virtues as moral philosophy and a Christian version for those parents who wish to teach forgiveness as a virtue in the context of Christian love.
At lovetolearn.net, we see a life-skills section. Has anyone cast their net widely regarding life-skills and considered this: Good forgiveness education helps children and adolescents learn how to cope with injustices and disappointments with patience, long-suffering, and respect. Are these not as important and perhaps even more important than learning how to manage money? After all, a balanced check-book without balanced emotions will not make for harmonious family relationships.
Our own research shows that as angry students learn to forgive, then they can increase in academic achievement. It makes sense. What student learns well when emotionally churning inside?
Jon’s Homeschool Resources, one of the largest homeschooling sites on the web, promises “neutrality” in that he is not selling anything to you. We, too, try hard not to influence your teaching of forgiveness by imposing a particular ideology on you or the student. We present forgiveness for what it is: a moral virtue in which the one unjustly treated strives to reduce resentment and to offer goodness to the one who was unfair. This definition of forgiveness is compatible with all of the monotheistic traditions as well as humanistic approaches. Forgiveness, you see, has universal meaning, with the nuances coming from you, the homeschooling parent.
Have a great fall. We hope that your student has a great life by learning to forgive.
In the previous blog, we introduced the possibility of school counselors using some of their time to introduce entire classrooms to the concept of forgiveness. The point of this blog is to discuss what some school counselor blogs are saying that has direct relevance to forgiveness.
Let us first meet Danielle Schultz at schcounselor.com. There is a fascinating two part series on school bullying. Danielle has facilitated discussions in six classrooms and “the students love…..having a conversation about what the bullying issues are in their classroom.” They are asked to assess whether or not they have ever been bullied and then they discuss solutions.
How might forgiveness play a part in this exercise? There are two possibilities. One solution, along with justice, can be the exploration of forgiving the one who bullies while protecting oneself. A second approach is to work indirectly with those who bully by asking these kinds of questions in the classroom: Do you think that those who bully have themselves been bullied in the past by anyone? Might it be the case that those who bully are actually very angry at someone else, and not at the one who is being bullied? Might those who bully become emotionally healthier if they worked on forgiving those who have made them so angry? Then those who show persistent patterns of bullying can be helped one-on-one with the counselor outside of the classroom.
At the Elementary School Counseling blog, we meet Marissa. In the July 26, 2012 posting we hear about building relationships among staff, between staff and students, and among the students themselves. What better way to mend broken relationships than to practice forgiveness directly and deliberately as part of the school environment. Teaching themes of forgiveness in the classroom is one way to establish forgiveness as a positive norm in the school. We at the IFI have a lot of resources for teaching forgiveness from pre-kindergarten through grade 10.
Dr. Hussen has a fascinating news item about a mediation group visiting the school so that the students can find better ways to solve their interpersonal conflicts. We think that a first-step to behavioral reconciliation is the reduction in anger that should accompany attempts to reconcile. Forgiveness is the first step in such anger-reduction and therefore may prove to be an important addition to conflict mediation.
In the Savvy School Counselor blog, we meet Vanessa, who has essays on bullying and character education. Forgiveness, as we can see from the discussion above, fits well into each category and actually bridges them. One can confront bullying through the character education issue of forgiveness.
Finally, we present to you School Counseling by Heart with its wide-ranging discussions including the recent shootings in Colorado. We, too, have addressed the Colorado theatre shooting issue through the lens of forgiveness.
To all of you heroic professionals who give your lives in service to students, we are here to help you add the richness of forgiveness to your life and to the lives of students and staff. As you read teacher evaluations of our forgiveness programs, you might take seriously our encouragement to make forgiveness a part of the school day.
Today as I was browsing the web, I began to read some of the School Guidance Counseling websites. The goals are laudable. For example, in the New York City public schools, the guidance counselors’ work in collaboration with the entire school community and are committed to the education and emotional development of all students.
Further into the New York City site we meet Mr. Oramas. His work is heroic. Consider these words on the site: “….the counselor provides a safe haven for students who may need help that is potentially life saving.” Think about that for a moment: potentially life saving.
Today, there is a major shift in guidance counseling philosophy to include “the entire school community” and “all students.” This means, of course, that the role of the guidance counselor has shifted to now include instruction in mental health issues for entire classrooms.
Do you see that the role of guidance counseling has changed dramatically over the years? Decades ago, the guidance counselor might focus on career paths of students. Then more recently the focus has been on helping the hurting students to improve in emotional and mental health through one-on-one guidance, or at the most a small group of up to about 10 students. While these approaches are praiseworthy, they limit the number of students whom the guidance department can help.
The American School Counselor Association lists the requirements for state certification. Here are a few examples to show the reality of this shift to the entire classroom: Connecticut now requires 36 “clock hours” in regular classrooms for certification; Iowa requires competence in conducting “classroom sessions;” Missouri as one of its certification options requires that the candidate “complete a curriculum in teaching methods and practices.”
The American Counseling Association has a number of divisions, including Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC) which would seem to be a natural for placing forgiveness education into schools. Yet, a perusal of these sites shows that forgiveness is not yet on the radar.
Let us now ask the question: What can help students in potentially “life saving” situations and help the guidance counselor to provide mental and emotional health curricula to entire classes?
One major answer, it seems to us, is forgiveness education. We now have forgiveness education guides for teachers and guidance counselors available on our website. It takes about one hour per week for about 15 weeks to deliver a complete forgiveness education program to a classroom.
These guides have been used by hundreds of teachers and counselors for over a decade in the United States, Northern Ireland, and many other places in the world.? Research by the International Forgiveness Institute, as well as four years of teacher evaluations, demonstrate that as teachers or guidance counselors deliver forgiveness education to student, then those students who are excessively angry or depressed or even low in academic achievement because of the emotional disruption can improve significantly.
…guidance counselors began to introduce the concept of forgiveness into regular classrooms.
…this could happen each year from pre-kindergarten through high school.
…the students began to take forgiveness very seriously in the classroom and the school
…the principal and teachers began to say, “We are a forgiving school,” as has happened at Holy Family School in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
This could happen at your school. And we are not just talking to guidance counselors, but to all who have an interest in strengthening their local schools by including forgiveness as part of the school’s instruction and ethos. It could happen. It already has.
I wrote a children’s book, Rising Above the Storm Clouds. It is about a bunny family (yes, a bunny family) in which the two bunny children, Freddie and Ezzie, get into a little squabble. The book is a series of similes in which the children are taught what forgiveness is “like.” An excerpt follows:
“Forgiveness is like this. You’ve just had a big blow-up fight with your friend. The world is all gray clouds and gloom. You go out to the meadow with all the wildflowers. The sun is wearing a happy face, and there is your friend with the biggest smile, hoping you would come. You both lie in the meadow, look up at the cotton ball clouds, and talk of the time you took that airplane ride together. When you forgive each other, you might be surprised when you both find a fragrant summer meadow bursting forth in your heart.”
OK, adults, now you are challenged to take forgiveness seriously. You never know if a child is watching what you do…..Pass on the legacy of forgiveness.
How can we pass forgiveness to subsequent generations? We began asking that question in our blog post The Ripple Effect on April 10, 2012. We answered in part through our post about the ‘family as a forgiving community’ (April 14, 2012). We continue here with a focus on schools as transmitters of forgiveness knowledge and practice.
Our group began forgiveness education in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2002, as a preventive approach to emotional and relational healing for people in contentious regions of the world. Our intent in the short-run is to reduce resentment, which can build up in children who are faced with continual injustices in their immediate environments. Our intent in the long-run is to equip students with such a deep knowledge and practice of forgiveness that they can and will effectively implement forgiveness in their homes, places of worship, jobs, communities, and even the wider community which includes those with whom they are experiencing conflict. It is our expectation that such deep knowledge and practice of forgiveness will go far in mending conflicts, even those which have been entrenched in communities for centuries.
We began with first grade (Primary 3 in Belfast) classrooms because from a developmental perspective it is here that children begin to think logically, in terms of causes and consequences, and simple deductions. We have the classroom teacher spend about one hour per week for about 12 weeks in teaching forgiveness through stories, such as Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who in which a kindly elephant saves an entire village of tiny Whos because, as Horton knows and constantly proclaims throughout the book, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
We decided to extend the development of the teacher guides through the end of post-primary school, a 12-year project. Perhaps the students who grow into adulthood with forgiveness as a continual companion will develop an ability to dialogue more deeply and effectively with “the other side.” Forgiveness, properly understood and practiced by some heroic adults, could change the face of Ireland and Northern Ireland.