Giving back: Lessons in living an ethical life

Published in GOALL magazine (Growing Older and Loving Life) by Central Coast Council, December 2021

By Coral Sturgess

I exchanged the shores of Botany Bay for those of Tuggerah Lakes back in the sixties and have lived in various parts of the Central Coast ever since – always near the water. I enjoy a cooling swim at the beach, a leisurely boat trip on the river, water-skiing with the grandkids or throwing sticks into the lake for the dog to retrieve… The water is a constant and will always be an important counter-balance to our work lives.

Another big part of my life on the Central Coast has been giving back to my local community. I volunteer as an ethics teacher at my local primary school, for a not-for-profit organisation called Primary Ethics. How can I express in mere words what this means to me?  I’ve been teaching ethics for six years now and cannot imagine life without it.

When I retired from full time work, I had the chance to include volunteering in my life. I think the coming together of me and Primary Ethics was simply a ‘right time right place’ event that I took full advantage of – my granddaughter [seen in the photo with Coral] starting at her local school where ethics classes were offered and the need for people like me to step up and take on an ethics teacher role.

Volunteering as an ethics teacher connects me to my community – the place, the people and, in particular, the children, along with their teachers and the school community. Being able to engage with children is a privilege. It’s fun – I get to use my story-telling voice, to witness their reactions and observe their development over time. And yes, it comes with responsibilities – like keeping the lesson on track and making sure they’re safe in their learning. Some lessons definitely go better than others! We discuss topics like how to be a good friend, how we should treat other living things and how to disagree respectfully.

Volunteering with Primary Ethics also connects me with others I share common interests with – the other Primary Ethics volunteers who, like me, enjoy thinking and learning, care about children and care about the future. Volunteering as an ethics teacher provides the opportunity to support children to think deeply and well about ethical issues. Down the track, these very same children will be making decisions that will shape their world and ours. Do I think that’s important? Hell yes!

Will I continue with my mid-week 30-minute ethics lesson with a class of 11-year-olds? You bet! It’s my time in the week to slow down, listen well, think deeply and leave more hopeful about the world.