This post was prepared by NCEA’s Educational Resources Manager, Andrea Kopp.
As the start of the school year is underway and you are getting to know your students, it’s important to create consistent policies and procedures for your classroom. Every new class seems to develop its own group personality and they each have their own gifts and challenges. What worked last year may not work this year. Keeping the class engaged and motivated is part of the role of the teacher. Extrinsic motivators such as clip charts, apps, tickets and rewards for good behavior are all great tools to help keep your student’s focused. In addition to those tried-and -true methods for supporting good choices and reinforcing good habits, educators hope to instill an intrinsic motivation in our students to love learning and doing the right thing. Helping students develop responsible behavior and a love of learning, even without possibility of a short-term reward, can seem like a difficult task. Attitude and motivation are not objective tasks that are easily measured.
One way to reinforce your teaching of intrinsic motivation habits is to incorporate the Catholic faith into your classroom management. If you allow your students to set their own class rules, take that discussion beyond the democratic process and talk about why they think a particular rule is important in a Catholic school. Challenge your students to find support from Scripture or the Catechism for each rule. For example, if students identify respecting others as an important class rule, they may cite “The Golden Rule” from the Gospel of Matthew as a supporting reason. Not only are they thinking critically about their classroom rules, but they are becoming aware that living the Faith is a daily walk and their classmates are their brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you give small rewards or points for certain behaviors such as cleaning up and being prepared, consider tying those concepts to the virtues. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as “a habitual and firm disposition to do the good.” That is the very basis of intrinsic motivation. Using the virtues is a great way to differentiate classroom management needs as well. If a child struggles with giving up when their assignment is difficult, they may be praised when showing fortitude. Your class clown might need to work on prudence. You can also use the Saints as great examples of Faith in action. Integrating the cardinal virtues into your classroom management helps students connect the concept to the lived practice.
The rich history and tradition of the Church provides a beautiful foundation for our interactions with others. No matter the age of your students or personality of your class, reinforcing the Faith is always going reinforce positive behavior. If your students understand that there is both practical and spiritual value in the positive classroom environment you are creating, their buy-in will increase. You will also be creating good habits for life. If you have a success story about how you incorporated the faith into your classroom management, NCEA would love to help you proclaim the good news of your classroom. Please share your story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.