What's Happening in Character Education?

Meet the Character.org Summer Interns

Posted by Character.org Staff on Wed, Jul 1, 2015 @ 11:07 AM

We are so thankful to have three amazing interns helping out at Character.org this summer. Meet our newest friends, Andrés, Calvary & Micah!

Andrés Cordero - Research Intern

Andrés is a Swarthmore College international student majoring in anthropology and education. Originally from Costa Rica but growing up in five different countries, he gained an interest in comparative education.

Andrés took active interest in character pedagogy after taking a political theory course in college that highlighted the relevance of ethics in all human endeavors. He believes that character development is the key to personal growth and what transforms educational settings across the globe into thriving communities. After college, he plans to become a teacher and later intends to get a graduate degree in public policy to eventually partake in Costa Rican politics.

Fun Facts about Andres: he is passionate about Latin America, interested in traveling and enjoys soccer.

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Topics: communications

Character Education Goes to Camp

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Jun 25, 2015 @ 12:06 PM

by Rebecca Bauer

As an educational non-profit, we spend most of our time talking about schools, but as summer begins, I want to acknowledge that crucial character development often happens not only outside of the classroom but also outside of the school year.

In my household, camp was always spoken about as a Matt Smith spoke to in his recent blog post, a magical place. My parents met at camp. They returned there to be counselors a few years after. They sent my older brother to that same camp, where he later became a counselor too. When I turned 10, it was my turn.

While some parents might be horrified at the thought of sending their child away for 7 weeks, my parents trusted in the camp and knew it was a safe and caring community. Thinking about this, I realized that the 11 Principles of Character Education seamlessly apply to camp settings. Any principle can be adapted for the camp setting, but for me Principles 2, 4, and 7 stick out when it comes to character growth in my own camp experiences.

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Topics: 11 Principles

The Magic of Camp

Posted by Matthew Smith on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 @ 09:06 AM

by Matthew Smith

“Notes on Camp” is one of my favorites episodes of the NPR show This American Life. That’s probably not surprising since I run a leadership camp for teens. Host Ira Glass explains the purpose of the program:

Today on our program, we try to bridge the gap between camp people and non-camp people. We try to understand: What is the cult-like, mystical connection some people feel with their summer camps?

He asks David, a popular camp counselor, a sophomore in college, and a former camper to explain:

“Camp … it’s just … it’s #1 with everything I do I guess. That’s like … camp is just … it’s … it’s kind of ridiculous but it’s, like, everything. It … it changes people’s lives. Like …  people base their life around camp. Like … I would not be who I am if it wasn’t for camp.”

Apparently, camp can be tough to explain.  Sometimes, people compare it to magic. But Scott Brody, veteran camp owner thinks “It is time to retire ‘the magic of camp.’”

Scott has been traveling the country for the past few years, driving home this message. “Calling it ‘magic’ devalues the importance of creating an intentional experience for children, and alienates parents who have never experienced camp.”

Ok; but then what is it? While there are all sorts of camps focusing on various fun activities and skills, what makes them special are the relationships and skills that campers acquire. They learn social emotional skills and character development.

Camp is social and emotional learning (SEL) and character development.

Put simply, SEL means developing interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. Character adds performance and ethical values to the mix. Things like perseverance and integrity.

This. Is. Camp.

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Topics: character education, 11 Principles, Camp

Building Unity while Navigating Change: The Story of Westwood & Bales

Posted by Barbara Gruener on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 @ 09:06 AM

by Barbara Gruener

I can remember that afternoon as if it happened yesterday: the song We Are Family started playing over the intercom, our signature all-call to come to the cafeteria for a school staff community circle. It could have meant a number of things; a schedule change we needed to know about, a community concern we could help with, or an important announcement.

Seeing our Superintendent in there told us it’d be the latter.

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Topics: Professional Development

Principle 8 and the Power of Example

Posted by Dave Keller on Mon, Jun 15, 2015 @ 09:06 AM

American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with my all-time favorite character quote:

“Who you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”

I’m astonished at the powerful simplicity of these words.  As I recall the most influential people in my past, each of them demonstrated behavioral integrity --- their actions matched their words.  Conversely, some of my most painful memories involve observing hypocrisy in people I had previously trusted.

Maybe that’s why Principle 8 of Character.org’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education resonates so powerfully --- and personally --- with me.  It speaks to the very heart of Emerson’s quote:

Principle 8: The school staff is an ethical learning community that shares responsibility for character education and adheres to the same core values that guide the students.

At first glance, it may seem as though Principle 8 has two distinct parts: (a) be an ethical learning community, and (b) adhere to the same core values that guide the students.  In a sense, I guess that’s accurate.  But I really perceive these two elements as being so interconnected that they are, at least in my mind, one and the same.  We’re talking about of the power of EXAMPLE.

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Topics: 11 Principles, Professional Development

3 Books All Educators Should Read this Summer

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Thu, Jun 11, 2015 @ 16:06 PM

By Becky Sipos 

Count me among the millions who have watched Ken Robinson’s 2006 Ted Talk on “How Schools Kill Creativity,” (the most viewed in the organization’s history), so when it was time to select books for my summer reading column, I knew one book I would choose was Robinson’s new book

Creative Schools The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education.”

The book is full of inspiring schools and creative educators. Robinson makes a key distinction between teaching and learning and many stories focus on that. I found particularly touching his example about a teacher in Mexico, who taught at a primary school in Matamoros, described as “a destitute town not far from the U.S. border that regularly serves as a backdrop for drug wars.” After several years of traditional teaching with limited success, Sergio Juarez Correa decided to focus on empowering students to learn for themselves. He built his lessons around open-ended questions and encouraged collaboration and conversations.

The transformation was amazing. One girl who lived by a dump and had never done well turned out to be a math prodigy and scored the highest math score ever and was featured on national television. But 10 other students scored in the 99th percentile in math. Not that Correa was impressed by their standardized test scores as he was focused on empowering them to think and do so much more, but the scores showed others the potential that had been ignored among his students.

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Topics: Book Review, Professional Development

8 Reasons to Get Excited for the 2015 Forum on Character Education

Posted by Character.org Staff on Tue, Jun 9, 2015 @ 14:06 PM

Are you getting excited for the 2015 National Forum on Character Education? We certainly are! We’re looking forward to many new offerings including a Sports Track, Youth Track, Schools of Character Showcase and all that our new location, Atlanta, Georgia, has to offer.

Read on to hear about what our staff is looking forward to most, and share what you are excited about on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #character2015.

Becky: I'm excited for the 2015 Forum on Character Education for many reasons but one is the reception we're planning at the Georgia Aquarium. I love all the Forum content--keynotes, breakout sessions and more--that we provide at the conference, but I never have enough time to talk to people. By following our welcome reception with a "party" at the Georgia Aquarium, not only will we be able to see one of the top attractions in the state without the usual crowds, but we will have an extended chance to network with other educators and see friends we often see only once a year. What could be better--fish, friends, food, and fun! See you there.


Iris: I'm excited for the 2015 Forum on Character Education because this will be my 13th Forum!  I love seeing how eager attendees are to get back to their school and put into use the knowledge and best practices they learned from attending the Forum.

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Topics: National Forum

A Model for Effective Professional Development

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Jun 8, 2015 @ 12:06 PM

Commitment to professional development means more than setting aside a couple of days for meetings after the school year ends.  As we are emphasizing the importance of Principle 8 this month, we have already shared professional development resources that will allow you to engage with your staff in meaningful ways. Now, I want to highlight a 2015 National District of Character, that has excelled at prioritizing professional development. The Eastern Christian School Association (with campuses in North Haledon, Midland Park and Wyckoff, New Jersey) has devoted much of their time and resources to ensure that staff never stop learning and their efforts have yielded an impressive model that schools everywhere should consider.

When I had the opportunity to meet with Dick Van Yperen, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, and Tom Dykhouse, Head of School, this past spring, I learned about the Eastern Christian Professional Development Academy. The academy is run by a team of teachers that first assesses the needs of the staff and then uses this information to develop courses that will address those needs. The school pays the experts in the subjects (both Eastern Christian teachers and outside instructors) to teach these courses but the courses are free for all participants to attend. Those who participate even receive equivalent graduate credit. Many of these courses, offered on a trimester basis, focus on leadership and character. Unlike traditional inservice days, these courses take place in the afternoons and evenings and run through the trimester.

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Topics: Professional Development

Faculty Book Studies: a Powerful Form of Professional Development

Posted by Michael Anselmo on Wed, Jun 3, 2015 @ 11:06 AM

by Dr. Michael Anselmo

As we worked our way through this journey, one thing was apparent: the staff needed to be on the same page when it came to character education. 

I have been the principal at Selvidge Middle School for the last 3 years.  Prior to being named the principal, I was the assistant principal for 9 years.  We have an amazing community of learners.  The teachers are an integral part of who we are, and the messages we send to our young people come directly through them.  In the decade I have been at Selvidge we had never conducted a book study with the staff.  This past year we decided to study “Teach Like a Champion” by Doug Lemov. 

What was great about this exercise was that it made everyone on staff hear the same language and reflect on the same issues that present themselves on a daily basis in our profession. Some of us got more out of this study than others, for sure, but it made us all connect to each other.  We had rich discussions about our practices in the classroom, the halls and in our community at large.  

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Topics: Professional Development

Resources for Meaningful Professional Development

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Jun 1, 2015 @ 08:06 AM

During the month of June, the Character.org blog will be focusing on Principle 8, “the school staff is an ethical learning community.” But how do we create that ethical learning community? There are many effective ways to spark ethical discussion and growth amongst your staff.

  1. Start the conversation by doing an all staff book-study.

Recommended Books:
2015 National School of Character, Selvidge Middle School, chose Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov as their all staff book study. The book can prompt discussion of honesty and integrity in the classroom and provide practical strategies for helping struggling students.
In What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things that Matter Most, author Todd Whittaker covers a wide variety of topics, from creating a caring atmosphere to dealing with standardized testing, in an inviting and engaging way.
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Topics: Professional Development