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Teaching children civility
A 2010 survey of more than 1,000 adults found most believe civility is on the decline. The study cited increased occurrences of cyber bullying, online flaming and the overall display of bad behaviour as signs eroding civility. The survey also indicates that almost all participants (94 percent) see lack of civility as a problem—65 percent of those feel it is a major issue.Why should we care? Because bad behaviour flourishes when civility isn’t the norm—this is leading thought leaders like Benet Davetian, director of The Civility Institute, to call for civility to be taught in schools. When he spoke at a conference in Charlottetown, he pointed out that most bullying isn’t physical – it’s “subtle and continual harassment.” He states that teaching civility could encourage students to think of others before themselves, which could result in less bullying.

What’s more, studies show when civility lessons are properly implemented, the school climate improves, resulting in less disciplinary action and less fighting. So how can you promote civility in the classroom? Read on for some helpful tips.

Civility in the classroom
Civility allows us to live peacefully together in communities. It recognizes that all citizens have worth and commands us to treat everyone with decency, regardless of our differences. In order to practice civility, one needs to possess awareness, self-control, empathy and respect—all of which can be reinforced and modelled at school. Here’s how:

  • Define expectations: Keep in mind students come from diverse backgrounds with wildly different expectations for what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Clearly defining your expectations for classroom behaviour leaves less room for interpretation. Set basic ground rules and post them throughout the school on banners, folders, posters and more.
  • Provide learning opportunities: Providing opportunities for students to work together can be a great way for them to experience differences and similarities and to learn that everyone has something to contribute. Orchestrating simple teamwork activities can be a great way to break the ice. Reward participants for positive behaviours with items such as a teamwork stress reliever or a yo-yo.
  • Acknowledge differences: Acknowledge and teach respect for people’s differences within the classroom. Demonstrate acceptance and explain the value that differing abilities, interests and styles contribute to the classroom. Discuss stereotypes and how they can be harmful and hurtful; yet have an open conversation to demonstrate that talking about differences is acceptable as long as it is done with respect.
  • Empower students: Empower your students to take a stand against uncivil behaviours such as harassment, bullying and other forms of civil discourse. Give them permission and strategies to step in, speak up and take action against unacceptable behaviours. Be sure to praise and reward students who demonstrate superior civility with a token of appreciation—a ribbon is a great way to honour those who show the courage to stand up and take action.

Because there is no true measurement of civility, we can’t know for sure if it is declining, inclining or staying the same. However, as educators, we can instil the values of civility in the children we teach and work to reverse the perception of a downward trend in civil behaviour.

Collins, Lois M. “Teaching Civility a Crucial Step in Helping a Child Build a Future.DeseretNews.com. N.p., 17 July 2012. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.

MacDonald, Mitch. “Civility Institute Director Urges Anti-Bullying Legislation.”  The Guardian. Web. 21 Aug. 2013.

Price-Mitchell, Marilyn, PhD. “The Moment of Youth.” Teaching Civility in an F-Word Society. N.p., 23 June 2012. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.

KidsHealth.” Teaching Your Child Tolerance. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.

Borba, Michele. “Teaching Students Bystanders How to Stand Up to Bullies at Dr. Michele Borba’s Reality Check.” Dr Michele Borbas Reality Check RSS. N.p., 9 Dec. 2011. Web. 08 Aug. 2013.

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