What's Happening in Character Education?

Why We Don't Have the Smartest Kids (or Best Schools) in the World

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 @ 08:04 AM

by Rebecca Bauer

When I began reading The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley, I had no idea that a book could be so inspiring and depressing at the same time.

After discovering America’s average scores on the international PISA tests, Ripley started to wonder what factors contributed to a country’s success. Why did certain countries outperform others?

She knew examining the data alone would only take her so far, so in search of answers, she followed the stories of 3 American students as they spent a year in countries known for their high quality education systems, South Korea, Finland and Poland. Ripley supplements their stories with research and weaves in connections to previous education reforms in America. What is so empowering and alarming about this book, is Ripley really offers answers to the tough questions and promising solutions.

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Topics: character education, international education, Academics,

Remembering Columbine

Posted by Dave Keller on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 @ 16:04 PM

Remembering Columbine

by Dr. Dave Keller, Character.org

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the horrific Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado.  On April 20, 1999, the world watched in unspeakable horror as Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered twelve fellow students and a teacher --- and wounded 23 others --- before both committing suicide. 

In many ways, it is hard to fathom that it has been 16 years since that awful day.  It still seems far too fresh and all-too-sadly relevant. 

In the years since then, there have been several other ghastly incidents of school violence and tragedy across America and the world. Each of these heinous events impacted local communities and national consciences.  The collective pain of these events impacts each of us in real and tangible ways, often on a daily basis.

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Topics: school climate, school safety

Teaching with Tomorrow in Mind: Fostering Global Leadership

Posted by Jen Girten on Sat, Apr 18, 2015 @ 07:04 AM

by Jen Girten, Manager of Educational Program Development at Heifer International

Good character education for today keeps tomorrow in mind, and must therefore include a global and civic focus. As consumers and communicators, students now have an impact on a broader range of people and ecosystems than ever before. Even a simple trip to the grocery store represents meaningful connections to a fascinating variety of cultures and places.

As a result, the need for global awareness and connectedness is immediate and profound. To be effective future leaders, students must understand how their decisions affect people in communities they may never see. Values like respect, compassion, empathy and integrity must be taught alongside global citizenship.  

For more than 25 years, Heifer International has collaborated with educators to engage students in understanding of the issues that affect our global neighbors. Educator-created and tested curricular resources, field trip opportunities, group activities and fundraising tools are available to assist teachers in creating a community of compassionate change-makers in their classrooms and beyond.

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Four Mouse Clicks.

Posted by Dave Keller on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 @ 08:04 AM

By Dr. Dave Keller

That’s it. Using just four simple mouse clicks, I went from the Character.org homepage to viewing 100 real-world examples of character education integrated into everyday classroom curriculum learning opportunities.

Specifically, I utilized the extensive Character.org Promising Practices database to find examples of Principle 6 of the 11 Principles of Effective Character Education. I could’ve easily asked to see examples from any of the other 11 Principles, but since April’s Essential Character emphasis is Principle 6, that’s the one I selected.

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Topics: Academics,

Teaching about Genocide: Reflecting as a Community

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Wed, Apr 15, 2015 @ 08:04 AM

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
- Elie Weisel

With Holocaust Remembrance day beginning on April 15 at sundown, I have been wondering how the Holocaust is discussed in the classroom and even if it is discussed at all. As Weisel’s quote suggests, studying the Holocaust, or any genocide, for that matter, provides the opportunity to engage students in meaningful discussions not only about tolerance but also about moral action.

Although delving into complex, meaningful topics like the Holocaust, is an essential part of a rigorous curriculum, it can still be an intimidating topic for teachers to address. To learn more about how schools can teach genocide studies in an impactful and approachable way, I turned to 2013 National School of Character, Hanover Park High School District, winner of a Promising Practice for their Genocide Gallery Walk.

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Topics: Holocaust Remembrance, Reflection, Genocide Studies

How Almost Losing My Job Led to More Inspired Teaching… and Taught me to Appreciate Principle 6

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Thu, Apr 9, 2015 @ 12:04 PM

By Becky Sipos

The principal came to my classroom door with the bad news, “Because enrollment has declined for next year, we have to make some cuts, and since you were the last hired, that means we have to let you go.”

Devastating news, but I had heard this story before. In the early days of my teaching career, I had to change schools every two years because of moves thanks to my husband’s military career. I was always the last hired and the first to go when reductions hit. This time, though, there was a catch. The principal added, “But if you agree to sponsor the school newspaper, we can keep you because that is a protected position.”

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Topics: Academics,, student engagement

Teaching Character within a Rigorous Curriculum

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Apr 6, 2015 @ 19:04 PM

Creating opportunities for character education within a rigorous curriculum sounds great, but teachers are overwhelmed by constantly changing requirements, high stakes testing and large class sizes. Finding time for character education in an already busy schedule can feel impossible.

“I don’t have time for character education. My focus must be on teaching academics.” Do these worries sound familiar?

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Topics: critical thinking, Academics,, student engagement

Resources for a Meaningful & Challenging Curriculum

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Wed, Apr 1, 2015 @ 06:04 AM

During the month of April, the Character.org blog will focus on Principle 6, creating a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners. The 11 Principles framework provides a variety of indicators that demonstrate a school has excelled at this task. Our Character Resource Roundup focuses in on three important indicators:

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Topics: Character Resource Roundup, learning needs, critical thinking, student engagement

8 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Earth Day 2015

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 14:03 PM

Earth day is the perfect time to get your students outside enjoying nature in springtime. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity to teach your students how they can care for the environment. Here are 8 engaging earth day activities that will inspire children to be mindful of the planet’s resources.

  1. Teach your students to appreciate nature and all it has to offer by planting a garden. Did you know that kidsgardening.org has lesson plans and offers grants to help you get started?

  1. Start Environmental Action Committees at your school. Learn how Chesterfield Elementary created student-driven environmental studies projects and integrated them into their English curriculum. Read more about it here.

  1. Teach your students about the importance of conserving water. These books will help you introduce the topic and offer a few 

    practical ideas!

  1. Make a recycled art project. Take a look at this list of recycled art projects that include a plastic bottle bird feeder, an oatmeal box pencil holder, smashed soda can animals, and more!

  1. Read a book that inspires environmental action. My personal favorite is The Lorax, but you can also check out this list of “Green Reads” from PBS for more options.

  1. Make and eat some “Sun S’mores” as a special earth day snack. Your class can learn about solar power, while eating chocolatey marshmallow sandwiches. What could be better?

  1. Pick up trash and explain the importance of keeping our environment clean and healthy.  Start on your own school playground or a local park. Click here to read about Cherry Hill Alternative High School students’ clean up of a historic cemetery.

  1. Looking for something a little more advanced? These resources from the Environmental Protection Agency can help high school students implement a school-wide waste reduction plan.

What is your school doing to celebrate Earth Day? Share your ideas in the comments.

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Topics: earth day, environmental action

Teacher Leadership: Opportunities for your own Moral Action

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 @ 15:03 PM

As teachers think about the 11 Principles, it can be easy to focus solely on the students. Helping students to become smart and good citizens is the ultimate goal of character education, but helping teachers become smart and good citizens is an essential part of the process.

What you do as a teacher matters even more than what you say. Serving as a good role model for moral action and citizenship will inspire your students to do the same. In February, Becky wrote a piece on teachers voicing their opinions on ESEA Reform and the importance of contacting your local representatives, but there are many other ways that you can get involved.

From leading a service learning initiative to coaching a sports team, there are daily opportunities to participate in cultivating moral action in our youth. Sometimes, standing up for a cause or initiative you believe in can be the most meaningful way to take action. I had a teacher who taught an entire lesson silently, in honor of our Gay-Straight Alliance’s participation in the Day of Silence. A number of my high school teachers and college professors were actively engaged in Ferguson protests. Students remember the instances where teachers take a stand. Now Character.org has a cause that we think you might be passionate enough about to take a stand.

Dr. Edwin Powell, a professor at Howard University has created a petition to establish a Character Development and Citizenship Education Council in Washington, D.C. and he needs your help. I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Powell to learn more about this important initiative.

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Topics: character education, Advocacy