I was recently loaned a book by a teaching colleague: “Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire” by Rafe Esquith which is quite an inspiring (if somewhat intimidating) read for teachers.
One of his philosophical teaching strategies to cultivate a healthy sense of ethics among his (5th grade) pupils is the following ‘hierarchy’ of motivations which he has his students learn and look for as they observe culture and entertainment. It has ramifications for how teachers encourage this, or what we settle for (i.e. “you’ll catch it hot from me if I get a bad report from the substitute.” [level 1] or “You’ll get an extra recess as a class if the sub gives me a good report.” [level 2] and so forth.) Without further ado, and here for your comment is his list of six reasons, in ascending order of desirability and value, for behaving well or refraining from misbehavior.
From his book, pp. 14-22:
- I don’t want to get in trouble.
- I want a reward.
- I want to please somebody.
- I follow the rules.
- I am considerate of other people.
- I have a personal code of behavior and I follow it.
If you’re like me, you may wonder about the last one (and why it would be ‘superior’ to #5 instead of being more like a repeat of #4) But his explanations did go on to make that a bit more clear. He put #4 out there as reflective of somebody who is obsessed with rules/fairness/consistency, etc. We all know the type (or are the type ourselves) - the person who will pore over the game rule book because they can’t stand the thought of anybody deviating from established and authoritative rules. Whereas #6 was meant to be more reflective of people who not only fully embody #5, but also don’t care what others think about them (and have no desire that their good deeds be known.) I.e. they have escaped the need to be respected or praised or acknowledged for their good work - all the trappings of the lower levels.
In any case, I’m finding all this ripe for reflection and inspiration for how we deal with life and train up our kids.