Different people have different opinions on what, exactly, should be taught as part of the school curriculum. Should teachers focus only on academic subjects like math and reading? Or do they have a responsibility to teach important life skills as well, like values?


At Calm Classroom, we believe that teaching and modeling values at school can be a powerful way for kids to learn how important it is to demonstrate things like respect and honesty. Here are some examples of values that could benefit your school curriculum, and some ideas on how to teach each of them.


Should schools teach children about values?

When we think about teaching values to children, most people tend to think of the parents’ role. Parents can, and should, model important values like kindness and generosity to their children so that they continue to live out these values as they grow into adults.


It’s true that parents and family play a very important role in teaching children about important values. But children spend a large portion of their days at school – and teachers may also have a part to play.


By incorporating values lessons into the school curriculum, teachers can strengthen the important values that their students are – hopefully – already learning at home. This reiteration can make it more likely that children understand how important it is to identify, and live life in accordance with, their values.


There are many ways to incorporate lessons on values in the school curriculum, including both indirect lessons (such as teachers modeling values) and explicit or direct lessons. Direct lessons about values can be included in the school’s SEL, or social-emotional learning, curriculum. SEL is a valuable part of learning for children, and teaches students about important life skills including self-awareness, relationship skills, emotion regulation, and more.


Lessons about values can be woven into already existing SEL curriculum. For example, the value of kindness might be included in a lesson about relationship skills.


It’s important to note, however, that shared values (like kindness) differ from personal values or beliefs. In a place like the United States that honors the separation of church and state, religious values that infringe upon others’ beliefs should not be taught in the public education system – and this isn’t what we mean when we say that values should be taught in schools. 


There is a difference between teaching universal values (like kindness or gratitude) and teaching religious values in schools. Teachers should never allow their religious beliefs to dictate school curriculum (unless, of course, they teach at a religious institution).


5 values to consider teaching in your school or district



There are universal values that nearly all of humanity shares – and these are the values that we should concentrate on teaching our students at school. Although this isn’t a complete list of universal values, here are 5 you can consider starting with as part of your SEL curriculum.



Kindness is a universal value that every child can benefit from learning. Kindness can include being able to see the world through another person’s eyes, understanding them, and showing consideration and compassion.


Research shows that people who practice kindness are happier overall, and experience a boost in important happiness-related brain chemicals like dopamine. Kindness can also create a stronger classroom community in which every child feels included. This makes it a very important value for all students to internalize.



Research supports that valuing and practicing gratitude can also improve kids’ well-being. Gratitude has been linked to a number of positive health outcomes, including making kids more resilient against life challenges. And just like other values on this list, gratitude isn’t just something that kids pick up naturally – they need to be taught how to be grateful and to intentionally foster this feeling.



To persevere through challenges is an important value that will serve your students throughout their lives and into adulthood. 


Sometimes, perseverance is talked about as “growth mindset,” which experts agree is something that educators can teach kids to foster. Nurturing a “growth mindset” means teaching students to focus on improving and working hard toward goals instead of becoming overly focused on “inherent” abilities. It also means that kids learn how to learn from mistakes rather than become discouraged by them.



Respect is a value that all adults, both parents and teachers, can get behind. But it’s important to understand the difference between respect and obedience. Some adults hold a value that children should obey their elders. But respect is something else entirely – it’s not about obeying, but rather about honoring the value of every human being.


When your students are respectful of each other – and treat one another with this honor and respect – it can build a stronger, more inclusive classroom community.



The value of honesty can mean many things. It can mean being truthful when you speak, which most children understand is an important value. But honesty is about more than simply not lying. It can also mean being honest with yourself – for example, being able to identify and express what you’re truly feeling. It can mean showing up in the world honestly and genuinely as your true self, and allowing others to do the same.


Honesty also means that we have integrity – that what we say and what we do reflect one another. For example, if an adult tells them, “We should respect others,” but then treats another adult on campus poorly, then that may not reflect the value of honesty.


Helping students identify their own values

When we talk about teaching students values, we’re typically referring to teaching universal values – like the ones listed above, for example. But each one of us also holds individual values – things that are important to us and dictate the way we want to live our lives. 


These individual values widely. For example, someone may value success, while another person may value peace over success. Someone else may value family and friends, while others may value freedom or adventure.


It’s important for students to start identifying their own individual values, especially as they approach adolescence. Individual values can serve as a guide for all of us; they help us make decisions and set meaningful goals.


As an educator, you can help students identify their own values through explicit lessons and activities. For example, you might lead an activity in which students have the opportunity to look at a list of common values and start identifying which ones feel meaningful to them.


How to teach values at school

The easiest way to incorporate lessons on values at school is to include them in your SEL curriculum. It’s likely that you’re already teaching important and related life skills during SEL lessons. For example, you might be teaching students about communication skills or empathy. In many ways, you’re already teaching your students about universal human values – it might just be a matter of naming them as such.


Another important way to teach these values to your students is by living and modeling them yourself. For example, you could teach the value of respect by treating your students and other adults with respect. You could teach the value of honesty by living with integrity and encouraging your students to do the same.


The Calm Classroom mindfulness program is filled with quick and impactful activities that center on important life values like gratitude. On top of that, our blog has free resources you can use to teach your students these values as well.


Check out the following blogs for more, and get in touch with us to see if Calm Classroom might be a good fit for your district.


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