I wrote recently about what key stage three students had taught me through their written applications for a teaching job. One of the points was how highly they rated kindness as a quality in teachers.
I then came across David Brooks’ work on eulogy virtues versus resumé virtues. Brooks is a columnist for the New York Times and has written a lot about the precedence of qualities that are needed for employment in education and society – ‘resumé virtues’, things you might want on your CV – over ‘eulogy’ virtues, the things you would want to be remembered for at your funeral. Resumé virtues might include being well-organised or having good communicational skills. Eulogy virtues might include being kind, courageous, honest or loving. Brooks argues that, despite the fact that most people regard eulogy virtues as more important, our culture and education systems spend more time on the skills and strategies for employment than on building inner character.
It occurred to me that in many ways Brooks’ thinking mirrors the debate on character education. Whatever your view on this, I’d like to suggest that the response of pupils to writing an application for a teaching job shows that most include a mix of eulogy values and resume values, but typically place more importance on eulogy values. Here are the most frequent qualities listed:
Differentiates for student’s needs
Advises / Guides
I would be interested to know how these compare with the responses of students in other schools. If you have done something similar, please get in touch.
What interests me is that the resumé virtues thatthe pupils listed can all be found in a typical person specification for a teaching job, but how often do we include the eulogy values? Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that any school would actively seek to recruit unkind, uncaring, inconsiderate, unfair, cold-hearted staff, nor that such qualities are generally found in applicants! But why don’t we include these? Is it because we take them as a given and assume that they will be present in all teachers, or because we tend not to focus on them as important?
Brooks takes the view that character is made, not born; that we all have the potential to develop eulogy values, but too often a focus on career leads to ‘moral mediocrity’. He takes the view that character development comes from, among other things, an honesty about our own weaknesses and a willingness to grapple with them, a realisation of the importance of relationships and our connectedness with others, and energising love – the ‘L’ word that students are not afraid to use. If he is right, perhaps we as teachers should take care to spend time on the eulogy values as well as the employability skills.
You can read more about David Brooks’ ideas at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/opinion/sunday/david-brooks-the-moral-bucket-list.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fdavid-brooks&_r=0&referrer=