Head – Heart – Hands

Updated: Jan 16

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (August 9, 2018)


I find that as I speak to people about character education, everyone will agree with me that it’s really important. The question is not whether it’s important it’s how important because it’s a matter of priorities. But what I find is that parents and educators want one aspect of character the most - they really want their students to exhibit good and positive values but the focus seems to be on the hands – the ‘doing’ of character. They want their students to do acts of responsibility, show acts of being respectful, take part in actions of compassion. But doing should be the consequence of the thinking and feeling. The ‘hands’ should be the result of the ‘head’ and the ‘heart’, not just because someone said ‘I told you so’ and they get in trouble if they don’t comply. If we are getting students just to do the right thing, without really understanding what it is that they’re doing or why they are doing it, we are getting students to just either put on a show in front of us or worse still, doing it begrudgingly. Part of having integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. How do we get students to want to do the right thing? How do we get them to do the right thing when no one is watching? How do we inspire them to continue doing the right thing all the days of their lives?


In order for them to engage in the holistic nature of character, we have to engage in all parts of their head, hearts and hands. We first have to let them understand what character is, what the core values we want them to explore are, what each value means and why it’s important. It’s easy for us as adults to throw words around like ‘respect’ and ‘responsibility’ but what does it mean to a child? How do they understand those words? And then after understanding the definition (what), understanding the importance of the character value (why) and then what it looks like when exhibited (how).


And in the process of explaining the why, we would hope that it triggers their hearts to respond. Reflection is so important is the process of bringing it from the head to the heart. Giving time to write journal reflections, draw an emotion, discuss a time when a character value was exhibited or demonstrated, those are all ways to move a character value from being just logical to emotional. The pace of life is so fast these days that few people seem to have the time to sit and and reflect on questions like ‘what is important to me?’, ‘why are those things important?’, ‘what should my life look like if I lived those values?’.


In addition to giving time to understand and reflect, students should be given time and opportunities to practice character values. In discussing values, there should be discussions about what it looks like when practiced. What does kindness look like in friendships and in school playgrounds? What does respect look like when talking to others? And then schools can give students opportunities to practice those values in action. It should be a regular daily thing but I think having special events or campaigns to highlight action is helpful. For example, having kindness days where students are challenged to ‘pass it on’ for kindness’ or service learning days where students can go out and help people in the community.


Cultivating character takes time, intentional effort and opportunities for students to participate and grow so I think schools have a responsibility to provide the time and opportunities but more than that, I think families must do the same, and all community groups that children are a part of. There’s a tendency for schools to shift the responsibility of character education to parents, for parents to pass to the school but in reality, it takes collective effort. Cultivating character doesn’t just happen in schools or just at home – it should happen everywhere and everyone has a role to play.


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頭—心—手


我發現當我跟其他人談及品格教育時,每個人都同意其重要性。父母和老師最希望學生擁有某種品格——他們非常希望學生擁有良好和正面的價值觀,但往往只會把焦點放在「手」(行為)上,他們希望孩子作出負責任的行為、對他人表現尊重、有惻隱之心。然而,這些行為應發自内心、經過思考,「手」(行為)應是頭」(思想)和心」(感受),並不是因為其他人說「你應該這樣做」或「你不這樣做的話就會遇到麻煩」。如果我們只會命令孩子作出良好行為,卻沒有讓他們瞭解品格的重要性,我們不過是強迫他們上演一場戲碼。我很同意「君子慎獨」這句話,真正的品格是當我們知道沒有人在注意自己時,仍堅持做正確的事。想一想,我們可以如何讓孩子由心而發地做正確的事?如何確保他們在沒人注意自己時仍然做正確的事?如何啟發他們在人生中堅持活出善良?


要讓孩子真正實踐良好品格,我們首要做的是把他們的頭、心和手聯繫在一起。老師和家長先要讓他們瞭解何謂品格、應要追求的核心價值、這些價值分別代表什麼,以及其重要性。成年人很容易把「尊重」和「責任感」掛在嘴邊,但這兩種品德對孩子而言代表什麼?他們如何理解這兩個詞語?當他們瞭解這兩個詞語的定義(何事)後,嘗試向他們講解其重要性(何解)及如何在日常生活展現這兩種品格。


在解釋背後原因的同時,嘗試鼓勵學生作回應,把「頭」(思想)帶到「心」(感受)。寫出、畫出感受或適當的討論時間可以把這些有品行為從理性轉化為感性。現代人生活節奏急速,很少人會真正坐下來反思自己,思考各種問題,如「什麼是最重要的?」、「為什麼這些事對我來說是重要的?」或「如果我秉持這些信念的話,我的人生會變成怎樣?」


除了反思時間外,學生應給予機會和時間討論和實踐各種品格,例如如何在友誼上或操場上展現友愛?跟別人說話時如何表現尊重?縱然在日常生活中展現關愛是非常重要,我認為學校也應定期舉辦一些活動或計劃讓,學生有機會練習和展現這些品格,例如關愛日或外展日,推動學生主動幫助社區裡的人。


培養品格需要時間、心血及實踐機會,我認為學校有責任提供時間和機會予孩子,讓孩子不斷學習和成長,惟家庭和他們的生活圈子實際上扮演更重要的角色。 學校一般傾向把品格教育的責任給(予)家長,而部份家長又會抱有依賴學校的心態,然而,要明白培養品格需要家校一起共同努力和合作,因為這不是一種僅限於學校或家中的教育,而是不論在何時何地、所有人都應該互相支援,為孩子出力。


2018年8月9日(香港經濟日報)



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