Within world conflict zones, we would like to see at least two generations of students (a 24-year vision) introduced to forgiveness with an increase in the developmental challenges for the students each year. By the end of secondary school (post-primary, high school), the students should have a strong foundation in understanding the term forgiveness, know the nuances of forgiving and receiving forgiveness, and have insights into how to give back to the community. It is our hope that they might consider giving back to the community by introducing others to the concept of forgiveness and its application within friendship, family, and community groups.
Might these students, once they are adults, begin to see that all people possess inherent worth? Might it be a contradiction to one’s own identity to disparage people from “the other side” just because of where they were born, what they believe, or the color of their skin?
We often receive emails here at the International Forgiveness Institute asking what resources we have available to help teachers initiate a Forgiveness Education Program in their school. Here is how we respond:
Starting a forgiveness education program either in your classroom or throughout your school is relatively simple since we provide all the materials. We have Curriculum Guides available for grades Pre-K through 12th Grade. The curriculum guides are comprehensive (most over 100 pages) making them easy for classroom teachers to use.
The guides are available in two formats–the standard version for public schools and the Christian version that includes supplemental information tying the lessons into Christian principles and values. Here is a preview of an actual curriculum guide for you to review–the introduction and first three lessons of the 1st Grade Curriculum Guide (Standard Version) and the 1st Grade Curriculum Guide (Christian Version).
The guides focus on Dr. Seuss books in the early grades and on other age-appropriate books, DVDs and websites for older students. Through stories, children learn about the five moral qualities most important to forgiving another person–inherent worth, moral love, kindness, respect and generosity.
In the Grade One Curriculum Guide, for example, Dr. Seuss’ book “Horton Hears a Who” is the centerpiece of all of the materials. Horton was chosen because of his oft repeated wisdom: “A person is a person no matter how small.” This idea captures well the concept of inherent worth.
For each grade level the curriculum gets progressively more challenging so that by the twelfth grade the students are encouraged, if they so choose, to bring the principles of forgiveness to their community outside of school. See Curriculum Guides Basic Description for details.
Each grade level has a number of children’s books and related materials suggested for use with the teacher guide. You may obtain the books yourself, or we have available, and will provide to you at no cost, two-page to six-page book summaries with each guide you purchase.
Finally, we highly recommend a two-hour teacher training program we have developed for all instructors who will be providing forgiveness education. We can provide that training on site, through Skype, or through audio CD. Teachers can listen to the CD as a group (preferred method) or can access it whenever they wish. Contact us for details if you prefer an on-site or Skype training session: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can order complete sets of the curriculum guides (book summaries included) as well as the Instructional CD in our website Store. Deciding to teach forgiveness education to your students is a low-cost but smart investment that pays off as the students practice forgiveness skills throughout their lifetime.
Today I am in the Middle East, in an open-air restaurant, reflecting on the human condition.
The personal water crafts are dancing on the Mediterranean Sea, which looks today like it is a liquid diamond in the sun. Boys are showing their bravado by jumping off of a 50 foot wall into this liquid jewel, a playground for those with imagination and a willingness to take some risks.
All of those at play seem oblivious to the fact that they are in a playground about 20 miles from another country which has sworn retribution.
Now to a nursery where innocent babies are sleeping peacefully as if they are safe. They are in an upper room in a school, in a daycare center. Beneath them are the older children whose classrooms quite literally are bomb shelters with thick metal casings for the windows and heavy concrete to keep the mayhem at bay.
The contrast between the playfulness and peace existing alongside the threats and the bomb shelters is jarring. How can human beings be willing to blow apart those on the water crafts or to tear the limbs off of the sleeping innocents, all in the name of something that is far less important that those at play and rest?
How have human priorities gotten so twisted that the latest “ism” takes precedence over persons? Can we train the minds and hearts of the young to see that limbs are fragile, that the human soul can be wounded in such a way that those who are wounded now go on missions to destroy….even on days in which the Mediterranean Sea dances with delight and babies sleep though an illusion of peace? We need forgiveness education…..now.
His eyes are still haunting me. A young man, back to a lamppost, cup in outstretched hand. Desperate eyes. “Please help me” he says without using words. People pass by as if he were invisible. I can tell that he knows others think he is invisible. The loneliness must be crushing. The desperation seems even worse.
I have to wonder what trauma in his life contributed to his being on this Belfast, Northern Ireland street at such a young and vulnerable age. Who convinced him that he is less than a person? He seems to believe that, but I am not sure. I do know with certainty that he is now feeling desperate and his life line is his cup and the passers-by who could extend a hand to his outstretched hand. And yet, he is invisible. Had those who were with him in childhood actually seen him and responded to him as a true, worthwhile person, would he be here now….like this….with a cup…..and eyes that cry out, “Help me!”?
All of us need to start training our eyes and hearts to see the desperate eyes and wounded hearts of those who are invisible.
We have given as best we can to schools in Belfast, Northern Ireland since the fall semester, 2002. The journey has been a challenging and delightful one. For us, from the United States, to make our way into the hearts of principals and teachers in an area of the world that has known contention was not easy. We were outsiders and they are looked on with some suspicion. “What is in it for you?” was the question asked of us at the beginning of this journey. We had at our side the wonderful Anne Gallagher, who opened school doors for us. She had been in the peace movement in Belfast for some years before us and so she gave us instant acceptance into the schools. Rest in peace, Anne.
It has been a joy to see principals, teachers, and students grow in their understanding and appreciation of the virtue of forgiveness, so needed to bind up the wounds of literally hundreds of years of strife.
I had the privilege of attending meetings and services in both the “maintained” and “controlled” schools during the Christmas season this year. The word “maintained” refers mostly to private schools that receive some government money. Students attending these schools are primarily Catholic. The word “controlled” refers mostly to what Americans call public schools that receive more government money. Students attending these schools are primarily, but not exclusively, Protestant.
In the Christmas services at the maintained and controlled schools there is a celebration of the deepest meaning of Christmas, not just about presents and good cheer. You see, those in each school share this common heritage, yet they do so separately because they lead separate lives.
Yet, there is something more here. As I walked through the streets of Belfast, especially once the sun would set (about 4:20pm), there was a kind of coziness to the city. “Merry Christmas, Belfast” is seen in blue lights that are strung across a busy street. Shops play Christmas music that is gently piped into the streets. One is surrounded by the Christmas spirit. This is so different from America in which there is a certain self-conscious embarrassment to share this Christmas spirit, as people on occasion mutter, “Happy holidays” in contrast to the exuberance and un-self-conscious joy that unites a city historically divided.
There is much hope for Belfast, I say to myself as I walk along the busy thoroughfares. They share more than a common heritage of conflict and contention. They actually do share the common heritage of peace and love and joy as well. A key now is for each side to begin seeing this common heritage, including the insight that this heritage honors each person as precious, unique, and irreplaceable. The message from forgiveness education is similar: We all have inherent worth no matter what our religion or cultural heritage….or historical contentions.
Merry Christmas, Belfast, no matter what your cultural and religious heritage is. May forgiveness be one of the important common heritages as people in the distant years to come look back on their city.