Sunday, August 16, 2015

Classroom 'Touchstone Creeds'

Last year I made it a personal goal to ask more questions and begin encouraging my students to ask more questions. I feel like these are still things which I need to work on. This year I've been studying about "Growth Mindset" (developing positive attitudes toward & habits of learning which improve learning) and sharing my motivations or purposes for teaching with students.  As part of this I'm introducing classroom "Touchstone Creeds." These aren't negative rules or policies and procedures, they're positive goals which ideally we will all agree to aspire to as a class as sort of a social compact.

Assignment from Summer Course on Character Education:

Now that we have looked at the different positive character traits and virtues, and reflected on the qualities found in a community of virtue, decide on a Touchstone Creed for your classroom that will be the vision that will frame everything that happens inside your classroom.

In general, a Touchstone is a basis of comparison, a reference point against which other things can be evaluated. It sets the measure for all subsequent worth.

A Character Touchstone is a concise, memorable guide to right behavior. It is not a complete moral system, but a summary that is easy to remember and to teach. It is a short list of rules to which you can refer automatically in moments of stress or indecision. In a classroom (or school-wide) a Touchstone provides resonance, sets expectations and unifies.

These are the "Touchstone Creeds" I developed for my classes this year:

One of the concepts I try to stress in Civics class is that we always need to consider that Civic Virtue = General Welfare = Common Good. Some of the principles I spend the most time teaching in Civics include Equality, Rights,Social Contract, Liberty, Justice, and Unity. Some of the things that my middle school colleagues and I at Boyer Valley have discussed that we hope to instill in our students are Respect, Responsibility, Empathy & Compassion (Caring).

I REALLY want to just adopt this quote from Teddy Roosevelt- "Look up, not down- Look out, not in- Look forward, not backward- and lend a hand."


We're all responsible making this a learning space
We respect everyone's rights & dignity
We show grit to grow & to try again when we fail
Everyone matters, everyone's voice should be heard

I've always used structural frameworks to teach visual art. Discipline Based Art Education

(DBAE) consists of Art History, Design/Aesthetics, of course actual Art Making and Art Criticism. Art Criticism involves critical thinking skills such as description, analysis, interpretation and evaluation. It's always a challenge to get students to talk about each other's work in a positive, supportive atmosphere. You always imagine a "creative community," almost like a miniature artists' colony in your classroom. Unfortunately immaturity and social dynamics don't always permit that. Just a few of the virtues that I hope to have my Art students adopt are Respect, Responsibility, Caring, Expression, Vision, Curiosity, Creativity, Aesthetics. Those and keeping your hands off of other people's projects and cleaning up after themselves!

BV ART STUDENTS (7th-12th Grades):

We respect each other as artists
We push ourselves
We learn from mistakes
and celebrate each other's successes


The following are more mission statements than touchstones since they're more about the purpose for each organization rather than about fostering a culture or climate within the classroom. The Cheerleading one is revised a little from one we developed back in 2002. The only thing I really changed was replacing "Stirring-Up Spirit" with "Building Bulldog Spirit."

I've wanted to create something for our Yearbook for some time. We had had a couple old tag lines; "preserving Bulldog memories for over 90 years," and "Student-Produced Yearbook," but neither one seemed very fun or inspiring. I may ask student staffers to either "ratify" or replace it though. We'll see how it goes.

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