Children in the United States spend an average of about 6.5 hours in school everyday. This is a long time they spend in your care. As a teacher, you have an incredible opportunity to reach scores of children throughout your years of teaching. Of course there are academics to be taught, good report card grades to be obtained, and high test scores to aim for, but sometimes, it’s the more subtle things you teach that leave a greater impact on a child. Teachers hold a very influential position in their students’ lives, so it’s important to shape their moral well-being as well.

Children, especially younger ones, often look up to their teachers. Every day, they’re picking up on subtle cues from you as to how to behave and how to react in certain situations. It’s important to be a good example to your students. Model the behaviors you want them to see. It isn’t enough to tell them to be patient, you also need to show patience yourself.

Kids learn best when they’re actively learning. So rather than just lecturing about good morals and behaviors, engage your students by making the lesson interesting. Reading a story is an excellent way. Often, a good story can illustrate what you’re trying to teach better than just telling it to your students. A well-written book is engaging. And something about reading a book where it’s other characters getting into trouble takes the immediate blame off kids. Lecturing a child can make their defenses go up and rather than internalizing the lesson they . A moral story helps them see the error of what they were doing without the direct blame being put on them, hopefully causing them to better accept what is being said and take the advice to heart better.

It’s also important to seize teachable moments throughout the day. “Teachable moments” are those moments where a lesson can be inserted. They’re moments when it’s time to hit the pause button, get the attention of your students, and expound upon the situation at hand in a way that they’ll learn something from it. Turn moments like this into discussions you have as a class as to how the situation might have been better handled, or praise for how it was handled.

So take the time to teach morals to your students, whether it’s through showing them by your own example, taking advantage of teachable moments by having a discussion with them, or by reading them a story applicable to the situation at hand.