The word “integrity” is not a term typically found on an elementary spelling list or commonly used in chatter around the elementary school, but this character trait itself permeates instruction and interactions every day of the year—even in the classrooms of the littlest BJA students. Integrity is often simply defined as doing right even when no one is watching. One of my former professors used to refer to integrity as personally putting overalls on biblical truths and principles and living them out in our lives. It’s not just being able to define terms; it is living in honesty, compassion, patience, and responsibility. Integrity is a quality that influences character and behavior—and our response to right and wrong. Unfortunately, our students are surrounded by a society where values and dispositions do not always exemplify integrity. While sometimes we wish we could shelter students from such pervasive exposure, we have been given a tremendous opportunity to provide them a foundation of character as we teach them about God’s love and the principles He cares about.
Teaching integrity is building character. While math fact knowledge may be easily measurable, character development is a more elusive target. Integrity is internal. It isn’t legislated through stacks of rules and consequences. Checklists of dos and don’ts can eclipse the true motivator —an awareness of God’s heart and a pure motivation and sensitivity to cherish what He cherishes. Integrity resides in the heart, and teaching integrity is a daily endeavor of equipping students to biblically discern for themselves the boundaries of right and wrong. How does this look in a classroom? Give direct instruction, guide, mentor, redirect, discipline, and encourage students . . . repeat. Integrity is taught directly through Bible lessons and chapel messages but also indirectly through daily interactions such as discussing characters in literature, taking time to instruct and guide in a playground disagreement, addressing irresponsibility, guiding students to use technology carefully and respectfully, and spotlighting careful choices while taking a test. Integrity runs deeper than a sticker on a chart or a popsicle stick in a reward jar, but that sticker or stick indicates right choices and hopefully (prayerfully!) the building of patterns that will far outlast their days in elementary school.
Elementary teachers talk—they talk a lot—and I am confident that if I had a way to quantify the number of words they speak daily, we would be overwhelmed by the high percentage of words dedicated to lovingly developing integrity in our students. Probably one of the most frequently used phrases at the elementary level would be some version of “let’s make right choices” or “was that a right choice?” That is integrity training—teaching students to identify right and wrong and to make right choices that glorify the Lord.
Integrity is also taught every single moment by example. We, as authorities in the young lives we influence each day, have the responsibility to lead by example by acting with integrity. Children are watching and building their own—by watching us. Avoiding gossip in conversations, driving the speed limit, returning extra change given accidentally by the cashier, speaking respectfully of those in authority even when we aren’t in agreement, and giving our full attention when someone is speaking are seemingly simple aspects of our daily lives, but these actions communicate foundations of integrity.
Bob Jones Academy exists to assist like-minded Christian parents in challenging students to love Jesus Christ, to embrace God’s truth, to exercise integrity, to pursue excellence, and to serve others.
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