Integrity – The Fourth I: Hooray for Monday

April 26, 2021

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

This month we’re exploring Inspired Teaching’s 4 I’s.
Read previous posts on Intellect, Inquiry, and Imagination

Integrity is often perceived as a simple and straightforward concept. But when Inspired Teaching codified our 4 I’s over a decade ago, we found Integrity to be the most complex, and we invested a lot of effort into defining it. I remember an hours-long conversation with my father, who was a federal judge, about the meaning of integrity. He boiled it down to taking seriously the power we have to impact other people; acknowledging the accompanying responsibility we have to educate ourselves; and doing our very best to understand an issue from as many perspectives as possible before taking any action.

Here’s how we define Integrity at Inspired Teaching:

Acting as a member of a democratic society. Demonstrating honesty: the ability to stand up for one’s beliefs; the confidence to make decisions according to one’s value system; the ability to listen to, respect, collaborate, and learn from others; and the capacity for empathy and compassion.

Today, April 26, 2021, it is as important as ever to put that definition into action:

In just this past week, we’re struggling to convince a fourth of the US population to trust our country’s leaders and agree to be vaccinated; we’re crying tears of relief at the conviction of Derek Chauvin while simultaneously crying tears of rage at more deaths of Black and brown people at the hands of police officers; and we’re rejoicing that the US House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill that would grant statehood to Washington, DC, while worrying the bill won’t pass the Senate and marveling at the fact that it has taken this long to convince our country’s lawmakers that residents of our nation’s capital deserve the same rights as all other citizens.

The events we hear, see and read about offer important opportunities to reflect with our students on the meaning of Integrity.

Here are just a few questions we can ask our students:

  • Many have demanded justice for George Floyd. Has justice been served? If so, is it enough? If not, now what?
  • What should the police force do?
  • What should our elected officials do?
  • And what can we, as citizens, do?
  • What part can we play in standing up for the things we believe in; respecting and collaborating with others; and not only exercising compassion and empathy but also taking action?
  • What is our responsibility to one another, and to ourselves, on issues that affect us nationally, and on issues that affect our communities?

Acting with integrity looks like preschoolers washing their hands and wearing their face masks to protect themselves and their friends. It looks like middle schoolers intervening when they observe bullying taking place online or in person. It looks like high schoolers organizing student-led discussions where students of different races share their views of, and experience with, law enforcement, as two friends did in this CNN video. And it looks like adult teachers showing patience and kindness when, even after a long day of teaching, a struggling colleague needs a listening ear.

When we act with integrity, we acknowledge that we are all interconnected. And we acknowledge that all of our actions matter. That reality can feel daunting. But recognizing that what we do matters can also be empowering.

Integrity belongs at the core of the school experience for students, and for teachers and school leaders. Next week’s post looks at the way all 4 I’s function together, and how truly inspired teaching simultaneously builds students’ Intellect, Inquiry, Imagination, and Integrity.

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