Yesterday, Region 8 had the opportunity to hear from a renowned teacher, Rafe Esquith.
For the past two decades, Esquith has taught fifth-graders at a public school in a Los Angeles neighborhood plagued by guns, gangs and violence. His exceptional classroom at Hobart Elementary — known simply as Room 56 — is unlike any other in the country.
Esquith’s students are mostly immigrants or children of immigrants, living in poverty, and learning English as a second language. Yet, under his tutelage, they voluntarily come to class at 6:30 in the morning, and often stay until five in the afternoon. They learn math, reading and science. But they also play Vivaldi, perform Shakespeare, often score in the top 1 percent on standardized tests, and go on to attend the best universities.
For his near-heroic work, Esquith is the only teacher to be awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts. He has received the National Teacher of the Year Award, and won accolades from Queen Elizabeth II, the Dalai Lama and Oprah. He’s also written a bestselling book, Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire, and been featured, along with his students, in the PBS documentary The Hobart Shakespeareans.
During the presentation, one of the key elements to conducting a successful classroom that was highlighted revolves around students building a sound foundation with moral values.
Lawerence Kohlberg’s Six Levels of Moral Development
Level 1. Preconventional Morality
Stage 1 – Obedience and Punishment
The earliest stage of moral development is especially common in young children, but adults are also capable of expressing this type of reasoning. At this stage, children see rules as fixed and absolute. Obeying the rules is important because it is a means to avoid punishment.
Stage 2 – Individualism and Exchange
At this stage of moral development, children account for individual points of view and judge actions based on how they serve individual needs. In the Heinz dilemma, children argued that the best course of action was the choice that best-served Heinz’s needs. Reciprocity is possible at this point in moral development, but only if it serves one’s own interests.
Level 2. Conventional Morality
Stage 3 – Interpersonal Relationships
Often referred to as the “good boy-good girl” orientation, this stage of moral development is focused on living up to social expectations and roles. There is an emphasis on conformity, being “nice,” and consideration of how choices influence relationships.
Stage 4 – Maintaining Social Order
At this stage of moral development, people begin to consider society as a whole when making judgments. The focus is on maintaining law and order by following the rules, doing one’s duty and respecting authority.
Level 3. Postconventional Morality
Stage 5 – Social Contract and Individual Rights
At this stage, people begin to account for the differing values, opinions and beliefs of other people. Rules of law are important for maintaining a society, but members of the society should agree upon these standards.
Stage 6 – Universal Principles
Kolhberg’s final level of moral reasoning is based upon universal ethical principles and abstract reasoning. At this stage, people follow these internalized principles of justice, even if they conflict with laws and rules.
The presentation was energizing and up lifting. I would like to thank all those involved with making it possible. If you have the opportunity to see him in person or read some of his books I would highly suggest it.