As a teacher and a mom of three small kids, I love a good discussion about values. The issue of whose responsibility it is to teach a child core values is complicated, and definitely not one that is easy to define.

The teachers I work with constantly talk about the importance of teaching values in the classroom, and with the students they tutor. They also discuss the difficulties and risks associated with teaching values to their students.
In recent years, research in education has taken more of an interest in this area, and there have been more and more studies that discuss the importance of teaching values in the classroom. Our government has strongly suggested that teachers do it; the revised Ontario curriculum has incorporated more and more values-based expectations. Some parents specifically ask teachers to help instill values in their child. However, school administrators, and teaching staff often disagree with this notion, and believe that parents should be responsible for teaching their children values.

So, whose job is it?

The answer is definitely not black and white. Since children often spend as much, if not, more time in the school environment than they do at home during a regular day, many parents argue that schools hold a major responsibility to teach children good values. Teachers are also considered by many to be one of the biggest role models in a child’s life, and hold a significant amount of influence.

Is it then, too much to ask a classroom teacher to teach students to be kind, helpful, fair, polite, tolerant, respectful, and careful while learning about recycling, caring for the environment, and respecting others and the world around them? If not, how does a teacher then balance the specialized learning needs of different students, various mental health issues, personal needs, and still effectively teach the curriculum? In an educational system that so heavily stresses the importance of standardized testing and academic achievement, many teachers believe that it just can’t be done.

As a parent, I also understand the importance of instilling core values in our children before they start school and consistently along the way. For most kids, a parent is the single biggest influence in their life. Instilling values such as honesty, compassion, generosity, courage, kindness, respect, dependability, and empathy lays a basic foundation for a child to become a good person, and a productive member of society. For parents, particularly of young children, it’s crucial to remember that our children are watching our every move. They are learning important lessons about how the world works by what they see, hear, and experience at home. It is crucial for parents to have important conversations with their kids about morals, and take the responsibility for helping them learn important life values.

The bottom line is that both teachers and parents have a vital role to play in teaching kids values. Together they have a wonderful opportunity to help shape a child’s perspective, and help them develop a deep commitment and respect for their own moral values.