Integrity

By Brent Vasicek on December 25, 2010
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

 


Integrity is, in my opinion, the most important life skill to teach. It is a theme that I weave into the classroom each and every day. What exactly is it, and how do you teach it? Read on!

  

Picture of the coveted Integrity 2i2 wristbands.

 

 

 

DEFINITION

One day in college I was asked by a professor to define integrity. As with many words, I knew what the word meant inside my head, but I was not able to articulate it very well. The best definition I could muster was “strength.” As in, "The integrity of the bridge was compromised after the earthquake." The definition that was then bestowed upon me was “doing the right thing when nobody is watching.” What a great kid-friendly definition!

IMPORTANCE

Integrity is a powerful word that needs respect. I have since started capitalizing the word, much as we capitalize the p in President. Integrity is the most important life skill because it is composed of many other powerful life skills — patience, honesty, responsibility, dependability, accountability, and caring, to name a few. Because of the all encompassing nature of the word, it has the ability to creep into many conversations in class.  

HOW TO TEACH IT

First Week of School:  First I teach the definition in much the same way I learned it. I ask students to define it. I give them the official definition. Then, I provide examples and non-examples. When your mom is outside and you take a moment to jump on all the beds in the house because you know she won’t catch you – that is not living with Integrity. When you pick up litter that blew out of your backpack onto the playground — that's Integrity.

First Month of School:  Writing — In preparation for our October standardized testing, I have the students write an essay or story to illustrate that they understand the definition of Integrity.

I like to use this powerful short commercial from The Foundation for a Better Life to inspire some good writing about Integrity.  (We also make our own FBL-like commercials which I will blog about in February.  Here is a 2 minute sample of our videos.)

Second Month of School: Reading — in every book we read, we will pick characters and rate their Integrity throughout the story. Also, we look for examples of Integrity when we discuss current events in our weekly classroom magazine.

Third Month of School: Random tests — I stage some tests to see how well my students are absorbing these lessons.

  • Integrity Class I will leave the room and stand outside the door to listen to what goes on. Do they truly act as if I were in the room when I am not there?
  • Integrity Trash  I will plant some paper scraps in the hallway and reward any student that takes the initiative to pick them up as we walk to lunch.
  • Integrity Walk  Before they go to specials, I leave 30 seconds in advance and hide somewhere in the halls. While they begin their unescorted travels, I watch from afar.
  • Integrity Treasure  I put the treasure chest in the front of the room with some random props in it. The students know that nobody touches the chest except for Mr. V. I tell a student (preferably a good actor) to take a look in the box when I leave the room. I then see which students will (a) approach that student to tell him it was wrong, (b) which students will tell me, and (c) which students just ignore it altogether.

After each activity we hold a class discussion. Prompts I use:

  • How did it feel to live with Integrity?  How did that increase the level of trust?
  • How did it feel to not live with Integrity? What effects might that have on you or your team?
  • What is the hardest part of our motto, “Say it. Mean it. Do it.”?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the statement "It is easy to stand up for what is right"? What makes standing up for your beliefs easier? What makes it more difficult? See this TED Talks video for an interesting study on when people tend to flirt with that line of Integrity.
  • What are some strategies you could use to help a friend who is not living with Integrity?
  • Explore other questions that go a bit deeper for middle schoolers.



REINFORCE

When students are living with Integrity, I am sure to label those moments. I have had silicon bands (100 for about $50) and woven bands (100 for about $150) customized with the word Integrity. When I see great acts of Integrity, I make a big deal about it. I tell the story of the situation and then award an Integrity band to the student in the story. Each student earns his or her Integrity band for a different reason. The Integrity band becomes a valuable possession in our classroom. Some students even cry when they earn them because they are so proud. 

Vasicek Integrity 2i2 Band Girls   Vasicek Various Bands

EXAMPLES OF LASTING EFFECTS

Jacob T., one of my most integrified students, wrote an Integrity story about “The Golden I” as an end of the year present to his class. He incorporated every student into his story with examples of how they each live with Integrity. It is not coincidence that the I in the 2i2 logo is golden. Thanks, Jacob.

Vasicek Integrity Bros      Integrity Bro Christmas Table 
    
                                                    Photo taken by Deana Dombrow.   

Some of my alumni have formed Integrity groups (The Integrity Boys, The Integrity Girls, The Integrity Brothers) that meet once a month. During these meetings we take the time to play some games, eat some pizza, and discuss Integrity issues going on in the middle school.  See my future January post entitled "Sustained Rapport and Mentoring" to learn more about these amazing Integrity kids.

2I2 Trademark 2010 Vasicek Integrity always,

Brent

www.mrvasicek.com

2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek’s classroom. It symbolizes pushing yourself to your potential while living with Integrity. Special thanks to the original integrity gang, Michael, Brendan, Brandon, Tyler, Tristen, Jacob, Anthony, Cameron, and Alex.

 

Comments

Thank you for sharing. I was reading a scripture & didn't know how to explain the definition myself. U explained it in a simple & easy way. Very helpful.

I am teaching my class about Integrity this week. What books do you use to rate character's integrity? Any common/well-known stories?

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for incorporating Integrity into your classroom - and hallways! My daughter is participating in her first National All-American Miss pageant in Anaheim, CA the week of Thanksgiving and will be giving a speech on My Favorite Character Quality and she choose Integrity. I hope that MANY more educators will follow your lead and start looking for ways to make Integrity an important quality in our schools!

I am wanting to purchase 100 woven Integrity bands for an amazing 4th grade teacher who has admired your post. Please reply if these are still available to purchase. Thank you for sharing your gifts as a teacher!

Thank you so much for this!!! I love the way you word the definition of integrity for kids, it was really helpful to me.

Hi Brent,
I am a fourth grade student, my mother had me look up the word integrity from our Bible verse of the day. I think your article was cool, and I think I should tell my teacher about it. Maybe she will want to read it someday.
From,
Jaiden

This is awesome. My son is going to school through K12 Virtual Academy. Everyday we have a "Word of the Day." Todays word is integrity. I really appreciate your article and the ideas you shared. Thanks!

I'm a student studying to become a teacher - so thank you for this awesome page on Integrity.

Brent, please tell us more about the 2i2 wristband? i dont get it.
thanks.
david

Hi Brent, I've read this post several times and thought I'd take time to thank you for the great ideas and for incorporating such valuable instruction about integrity into your classroom work each year. Your students are fortunate you take such time and effort to ensure they develop this critical character quality! Thanks again, Linda

Thank you for taking the time to comment and add wind to my sail!

~Brent

Brent, I am always inspired by your posts! We often forget the big picture in our standard driven environments. You bring such life to teaching, and I am thrilled that you share it. I think some integrity bands may be making a appearance in my classroom.

Chris~ Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It is amazing at how coveted the bands become to some students. Brent

As a 27 year teaching veteran, I learned from you today. Thank you! I think your lesson is awesome and love that you are instilling such a great value in the children :)

That is such a nice thing to say! Thank you! Brent

You have the most true and valuable understanding of the word "Integrity". Even though you have only taught me about it in sporadic sessions, I still believe that I have benefited from your teachings in a way that makes me feel forever in your debt. I will never be able to thank you enough for all that your words have done for me.

Say it, Mean it, Do it.

Mystery Writer~ Well, you are most definitely welcome, mysterious pupil. I appreciate the comment and am curious as to who you might be. ~Mr. V.

I've been looking for a way to inspire my third graders. I am going to take the opportunity of the new year to introduce your concept into my classes.

Thanks

Meryl, You are welcome. I am looking forward to getting back into the groove of teaching tomorrow, and I can't wait to establish our new goals for 2011. It is kind of like a huge reset button. However, I think it resets any negatives while retaining all the positives that have been established thus far. Happy New Year! Brent

Its really a very informative post indeed. Thanks for sharing such valuable stuff with us.

Thank you. Interesting website you have yourself. Character education is so important in a society like ours. Brent

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