Education

10 Years of Forgiveness Education in Northern Ireland

Holy Family School-BelfastThe Forgiveness Education Programme is celebrating its 10-Year Anniversary of working with children, schools and communities in Northern Ireland to make the virtue of forgiveness more understandable and accessible.

“Forgiveness is an important aspect in the emotional and moral development of any individual,” states Gary Trainor, Vice Principal at Mercy Primary School, “and if we can sow those seeds at an early age, we are increasing the chances of them bearing fruit throughout their lives.” It was with this long term goal in mind that the Forgiveness Education Programme first began to take shape..

In 2002, Dr. Robert Enright, Educational Psychologist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA began to establish relationships with a couple of principals and schools in North Belfast. With the help of Anne Gallagher of Seeds of Hope, Dr. Enright was able to introduce Forgiveness Education to the first classroom of Primary 3 pupils in Ligoniel Primary School.

Ten years on, Claire Hillman, Principal at Ligoniel PS says, “At the time we started we had very few personal development resources in the primary school and no coherent programme of work. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme helped us to formulate a whole school approach to building personal qualities such as empathy, respect and trust. The programme now sits alongside the PDMU (Personal Development for Mutual Understanding) programme of work developed by the curriculum council. The work of Professor Enright has helped us develop the life skills of hundreds of children in North Belfast and is continuing to impact on their lives.”

This same perspective is echoed by Mr. Trainor from Mercy PS who says, “During our daily interactions with our pupils, as teachers we are always promoting the positive attributes and virtues we wish those in our care to portray. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme consolidated our aspirations for kindness, generosity, sharing and understanding. It gave us an extra tool to enhance our pupils’ experiences through story, discussion, art and role play. The children’s ability to communicate their feelings also improved, they began to develop a vocabulary that was both respectful of others and of themselves.” Mercy Primary School first began teaching Forgiveness Education in 2005.

Over the years, the Forgiveness Education Programme has developed and grown from that first Primary 3 classroom. Overseen locally by Padraig O’Tuama and then Becki Fulmer, in cooperation with Youth with a Mission, Peacelines, and now The Corrymeela Community since 2009, the programme has grown throughout the years from one classroom in one school to the curriculum being taught in over 100 classrooms in 20 schools across Northern Ireland.

One school in particular who has been involved with Forgiveness Education since 2004 is Holy Family Primary School. Dinah McManus, Principal, always refers to Holy Family as a “Forgiving School” because they have imbedded the virtue of forgiveness in to their school ethos.forgiveness_drawing Mrs. McManus states, “I can say with confidence and some pride that in creating a “forgiveness ethos” in Holy Family we have provided our children with a very nurturing environment which reflects the essential elements of our Mission Statement: We are a living Faith community, centred on the Gospel values of love, justice and forgiveness, within which each member of our school community is valued and respected.”

She goes on to say, “As the Forgiveness Education Programme has developed in Holy Family we, as teachers, have explored the messages within the programme and have come to appreciate their value to us in our efforts to create a strong, cohesive team. We acknowledge that we are all human and, as such, flawed. We now take time, for example on our ethos day, to remind ourselves of the power of forgiveness. To forgive another does not mean to forget what happened or to negate the other person’s responsibility for their actions. It simply means that we no longer allow another’s actions or words to cause us anger or resentment. By understanding the other person’s humanity, by forgiving without expecting anything in return, we are the ones who are healed. There is no doubt that we are, as a result, much more understanding of each other’s foibles and less inclined to find fault or to take offence at others’ comments or actions.”

The Forgiveness Education Programme has spent the past ten years dedicated to helping children, schools and communities develop a better understanding of what it means to value all people, to understand our own and others humanity and to practice respect, kindness, generosity and forgiveness. We look forward to what the next ten years have to offer.

If you would like more information on how to bring the Forgiveness Education Programme to your school in Northern Ireland please contact Becki Fulmer, Forgiveness Education Programme Coordinator, at bfulmer@corrymeela.org. If you are in the Republic of Ireland or anywhere else in the world and would like to bring Forgiveness Education to your school, please contact the Director of our International Forgiveness Institute at director@internationalforgiveness.com.

Becki Fulmer, Director
Northern Ireland Forgiveness Education Program

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We Are a Forgiving School

In the heart of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is a school that wants to live in such a way as to heal the wounds caused by misunderstanding and disrespect over the centuries.

Holy Family Primary School proclaims, “We Are a Forgiving School.”

What does that proclamation mean?

Here are some examples:

The school principal, Mrs. Dinah MacManus, values the virtue of forgiveness and makes that explicit to teachers and parents.

The teachers commit to teaching a forgiveness curriculum for about one hour a week for about 12-15 weeks each year. The curriculum guides are from the International Forgiveness Institute.

The curricula use popular stories to engage the students as they see injustices in the stories and discuss how the characters forgive or could forgive and what the outcomes are. The students are then challenged to bring this learning into their own lives and families.

Teachers meet to mutually support one another as they learn from the innovations of the other teachers.

Forgiveness also can be one more addition to the discipline of a school. For example, suppose two boys are in a heated argument that could escalate into actual fighting. A teacher’s reminder that they know what forgiveness is can work wonders for quelling the battle. Because the students are being taught about forgiveness in the classroom, the adult intervening in the argument need not take a lot of time to explain the concept. They already know it and now it is time to apply it.

“We Are a Forgiving School.” Are there others anywhere in the world who would like to proclaim the same?

We are here to make that possible.

Dr. Bob

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Homeschooling Parents: Have You Considered Forgiveness Education?

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.

HomeschoolingAs 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.

R.E.

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Forgiveness and School Counseling, Part 2

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.

R.E.

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What If. . . Musing on the Role of School Guidance Counseling and Forgiveness

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.

What if…

…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.

R.E.

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