Click here to read part one: Vocab Word! — Learning and Practicing ‘Praxis’.
Do you remember what it means from last week? If not, here’s a review: ‘Praxis’ is integrating what you practice into your belief system. When I came across the word “praxis” this time, I wanted to shout “Vocab word!” just as my students do, and I immediately recognized that this is a word that I need to teach. I’m glad I have a new definition of the word although for me it is still evocative of challenge.
Most of us have highly developed belief systems, but it is sometimes difficult to marry those beliefs to action. We believe that treating others badly is wrong, that slander and gossip and cold-shouldering produces feelings of hurt and inferiority; however, the difficulty lies in acting on those beliefs. This is difficult for students, especially since their belief systems are in the process of changing in Middle School, and because they are figuring out how they fit in the social hierarchy. It is one thing to believe that it’s wrong to tease a classmate and another thing entirely to act on it, especially since you may be excluded as a result of acting on that belief.
As frustrating as this dilemma may be, it is human nature and must be nurtured out of us. That’s where we teachers come in, because we can understand their struggle. Even as adults we’re all still trying to integrate our beliefs with our actions. It’s that commonality, however, that willingness to work together to make our community better, that can give our students hope, even when they (and we) occasionally mess up.
It takes courage to stand up to others, to act on what we believe to be true. If we are to foster a sense of community in which our students are to treat others as they want to be treated, we must model that behavior for them, and hold them accountable for their actions and inactions. Our willingness to have ongoing conversations with our students, both inside and outside of the classroom, is crucial.
Paramount then is our insistence upon integrity in all of their interactions; with other students, in their work, in coming to class on time and prepared to learn—these are the stepping stones to helping students hold themselves and others accountable. These stepping stones then become the cornerstones to helping students incorporate beliefs into actions, with the goal of developing individual integrity and genuine relationships with themselves and others in the community.
I can’t wait to teach my students this new word, and I hope not only to hear “Vocab word!” as they learn the meaning and use it in conversation and writing, but even more importantly to see “praxis” as action in our Middle School community.