What's Happening in Character Education?

President's Column: Bullying Prevention

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Tue, Oct 6, 2015 @ 12:10 PM

By Becky Sipos

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and so I wanted to write my column to fit in with that theme. But I am no bullying expert. I’ve learned a lot about bullying since I’ve been working at Character.org, but for real expertise, you should turn to our own board member expert Michele Borba, or our Education Advisory Council expert, Jonathan Cohen of the National School Climate Center, or students themselves http://www.tolerance.org/blog/expert-opinions-students-speak-about-bullying

In fact, so much has been written about bullying that I fear that the topic doesn’t generate the concern it once did. And all 50 states have now enacted anti-bullying laws, so every school has mandates to do something on bullying. But what works best?

Read More

Topics: bullying prevention

Everything You Need for Bullying Prevention Month: Lesson Plans & More

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Oct 1, 2015 @ 05:10 AM

According to the Center for Disease prevention, nearly one in five students experiences bullying at school. Clearly, bullying a serious issue but bullying prevention does not have to be a gloomy topic. Bullying prevention is about standing up for what is right and defending the underdog. Bullying prevention is about building a culture of care and offering support and encouragement to all. This month’s resource roundup provides resources to help you celebrate bullying prevention month in practical and enjoyable ways!

Read More

Growing Good Character: The Benefits of School Gardens

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

He came to us with many seeds planted in his life.  The seed of violence from an abusive father.  The seed of anger from a defensive single mother.  The seed of poverty; he was one of eight children.  The seed of hunger--he needed a small snack upon entering school to make it to breakfast without defiant episodes.

Enter the school garden.  It was time to plant our fall beans.  His eyes began to sparkle as he helped prepare the warm dry soil, breaking up clods, removing obstacles, and smoothing the dirt with his hands.  Hope was planted in one small bean seed.  Motivation was nurtured by teachers who encouraged him, saying, "Let's check to see how our beans are doing."

The reason for hard work sprouted from the kindness of caring for the needs of baby plants.  Self discipline grew as he turned his thoughts to the garden, initiating visits to water, weed, and admire growth.  Just as the beans matured, so did his respect for himself and others.

He took joy in gathering the crop to share with his school community, knowing he had been responsible for the outcome.  He washed and stemmed the beans for cooking, being accountable for food safety.  He delighted in the fruits of his labor, smiling as he ate.  He saved one bean to take home, sharing the miracle of growth and transformation with his family.

The school garden, impacting the community one child at a time.

This excerpt, written by Brenda Proebsting, a teacher at 2015 National School of Character, Southwest Early Childhood Center, beautifully depicts the power of getting students out of the classroom and into school gardens.

In a recent Harvard Graduate School of Education EdCast, “Roots of the School Gardening Movement,” host Matt Weber interviewed Jane Hirschi, author of Ripe for Change: Garden-Based Learning in Schools. Jane shared, that while school gardens are not new and date back to John Dewey, our current school garden movement is “driven by an interest in food” and serves as a “link between kids knowing about foods and making healthy food choices.” It is especially important, as our students’ lives become more and more dictated by technology, that we continue to value time outdoors and cultivate their love of nature.

Read More

Topics: Academics,, Community Involvement, Outdoor Education

7 Surprising Parenting Solutions That Boost Kids’ School Success

Posted by Michele Borba on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

by Michele Borba

Academic success impacts our children for the rest of their lives: it influences their self-esteem, college selections, job attainment, financial success, and even their choice of spouse. It’s no wonder we go great lengths to give our kids an academic edge.

But despite our good intentions, we often overlook a few simple strategies that research has proven to impact children’s academic success. Even better, these seven science-backed solutions are things that every parent can do, don’t cost a dime, and they are proven to boost children’s school success.

Here are seven surprising simple solutions that every parent should have in their toolbox for back-to-school.

Read More

Topics: parent involvement, Academics,, Parenting, Back to School

Raising Children of Character in a Toxic Culture

Posted by Thomas Lickona on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 @ 08:09 AM

By Tom Lickona

In theory, the character education movement has always recognized what Principle 10 of the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education affirms: Parents are the first and most important character educators of their children.  

If we take that principle seriously, we’ll do everything possible to honor the importance of parents and support them in their vital role.   We need to tell parents, again and again, how important they are in their children's lives.

Schools should share with families what the research shows. For example, the National Study of Adolescent Health found that “family connectedness,” a feeling of closeness to parents, was the most important factor in keeping teens from engaging in anti-social or high-risk behaviors such as juvenile delinquency, violence, substance abuse, and sexual activity. Regarding sexual behavior, the study found that teens who believed that their mother disapproved of their engaging in sex were more likely to delay sexual involvement.

We should also share stories that bring the research to life. Permit me to share one from my own experience as a father.

Read More

A Refreshing Take on Back to School Night

Posted by Meghann Persenaire on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 @ 09:09 AM

by Meghann Persenaire,  Assistant Principal of St. HOPE Leadership Academy, a 2015 New York School of Character

A few days ago, we welcomed approximately 150 families to our 3rd Annual Family Fair, an event that replaced what makes many families groan, “Back to School Night.” I recall my own parents quietly sighing as they drove off to another “Back to School Night” to sit in desks too small for them and listen to our teachers talk on and on about what we’d be learning, among other things they would soon forget. 

Each September, we turn our gymnasium into a state fair-like atmosphere. Each grade team has a table, uniforms are sold for a percentage off, St HOPE “swag” if freely given, food and refreshments are overflowing, and we even raffle off several great prizes. When parents arrived a few days ago, they were welcomed and given a passport and were also given instructions to obtain stamps in their passport by visiting each table while also learning about our school’s offerings. Parents received a stamp when they setup their parent account for our online standards-based grading system, and parents received another stamp by visiting the table hosted by their scholar’s teachers. While there, parents received course syllabi, magnets with teacher contact information, and more St HOPE “swag.”

Read More

New Year, New Challenges: The Crucial Skill Missing in your Back to School Plans

Posted by Kara Coleman on Wed, Sep 16, 2015 @ 04:09 AM

by Kara Coleman

The days of summer are no longer stretched out before us with long vacations, fewer rules, and flexible bedtimes.  A new school year has started and the pace has changed.  Whether you are a parent, teacher, or both, your plate is probably overflowing.  But isn’t it like that every September?  Isn’t it fascinating how quickly we are able to switch into our old efficiency-driven modes?  Hectic morning routines, carpools, long meetings, extra curricular practices, parent-teacher conferences, and homework battles quickly become the norm and we often don’t look back.

Children, especially those in elementary school, are not as experienced with this jarring switch to systematic chaos.  With the hustle and bustle of fall, it is easy to forget that students may need a "brush up" on social skills to navigate new and unfamiliar settings with peers, teachers, coaches, and school staff.

Building and maintaining healthy relationships with others should be a priority for teachers and their students.  Sure, everyone spends time on rules in those first few days, such as respecting others, but how often are students given the opportunity to practice and refine relationship building skills throughout the school year?

Read More

Topics: Character Development, Back to School

A Special Message from your Favorite Event Planner, Heather Cazad

Posted by Heather Cazad on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 @ 09:09 AM

Hello Everyone,

I’ve been working on making the 2015 National Forum on Character Education inspiring, educational, and transformative since we signed the hotel contract in February 2014. Although I know with any event, perfection is out of reach, I have made it my personal goal to make this Forum, my third, Character.org’s most successful yet.

But my idea of success is measured by more than number of attendees. I want every teacher who joins us in Atlanta this fall to walk away not only knowing s/he can instigate real change but also having the tools to do so. I want this large group of caring and determined educators to leave with that spark of hope for the future that I get every time I talk to a teacher at a School of Character.

Read More

Topics: #Character2015

How Is Your Community Celebrating Character Day?

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 @ 09:09 AM

Throughout September, our blog has focused on engaging parents, families and the community at large in your school’s character education efforts. While consistent involvement throughout the year is important, as our resource roundup suggests, holding school-wide events can be a great way to build connections and create a sense of unity.

Your school may already engage the community in typical events like Back to School night, choral & band concerts and sports games, but do you have a community event dedicated specifically to character? Consider participating in Character Day 2015, as way to show your commitment to character.

What exactly is Character Day?

Watch Let It Ripple’s video to find out:

Character Day - September 18, 2015 from The Moxie Institute on Vimeo.

How can I participate?

There are many ways to get involved in Character Day. Decide what works best for you!

Read More

Topics: Character Day

View from the Sidelines: A Character-Focused Half-Time

Posted by Dave Keller on Wed, Sep 9, 2015 @ 12:09 PM

by Dr. Dave Keller, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Promising Practices

The game was OK… but what a halftime!

This past week, I had the opportunity to visit the tiny rural town of Chester, Texas (about

100 miles northeast of Houston).  On Friday night, I received an invitation to ride into town to watch the local Chester High School football game.  

I accepted the invitation (what else was I going to do in Chester on a Friday night???) I know what you’re thinking.  Texas High School football.  Friday Night Lights.  Your mind is likely racing to images of stadiums that cost tens of millions of dollars to support massive football factories that fuel local economies and provide fresh recruits for top collegiate programs.

Ehhh…not so much in Chester, Texas.  Chester’s stadium doesn’t even have bleachers. There are some concrete steps built into the side of a small hill, but most fans just bring lawn chairs.

Yes, it is true that Texas is fertile ground for collegiate football recruiters.  Not so much in towns like Chester.  It’s highly unlikely any player from either team will ever see a collegiate roster.  Chester’s school population is so small they don’t even play 11-on-11 football.  They play “6-man football,” a scaled down (but highly entertaining) version of the game to allow smaller schools to compete.

Full disclosure: I totally, thoroughly, completely LOVED this experience.  The people were astonishingly friendly and welcoming.  The crowd size seemed to exceed the population of the entire town --- plus some.  It was truly a glimpse into small town America.  

No doubt similar scenes were playing out in small towns throughout the country.  But my lasting memory of that night had nothing to do with the fun atmosphere or the fierce on-field competition.

It was what happened at halftime.

Read More

Topics: Character in Sports,