I still have the handmade pillow I sewed with a friend in fourth grade. We wrote “best friends forever” in puffy paint across the surface. I also have the "slam book" my friends and I created at a sixth grade sleepover. In it, we listed each other’s flaws, then discussed our findings. It amazes me that we considered that a good idea. At 12, peer approval was everything, and those comments stuck. It was 30 years before I cut bangs again. We alternately loved and tested one another, and it wasn’t always pretty.Read More
What's Happening in Character Education?
When I was three, I lived in the country where my mom owned 21 acres of woodsy hillside. I was too young to form many memories there before we moved, but of the ones that remain, all but two took place outside. I had a swing set that faced the hill, and on pretty days, I would swing and focus my attention to the hill with all of its untouched trees and weeds, on the hawks that soared overhead, on the sound of nature around me. I felt the warm breeze as I watched butterflies and bees pass by. That was my happy place, outside in my little clearing.
When I was ten, I begged my dad to take me to the park every chance we got to walk the paths, see the squirrels and traverse the creeks and streams. We played games and talked, but mostly, we blazed our own trails through the woods in revered silence. As we walked, we listened to the frogs and the echo of twigs beneath our feet.
Topics: earth day
Relevance A young man, formerly incarcerated, stood on our auditorium’s dimly lit stage, and asked our scholars the following question: “Raise your hand if you know someone who is currently or was recently in prison.” With each moment of silence that followed, dozens of scholars quietly raised their hands. Refoundry, a nonprofit that trains formerly incarcerated people to repurpose discarded materials into home furnishings, is one of a few organizations that our scholars partner with each year.
Each month, our scholars select a social or environmental issue or organization that is relevant to them, for which they are passionate. Our scholars select a social or environmental issue that directly affects their families and/or their communities in Harlem and the Bronx. Mrs. Stephanie Fernandez, who also mentors our student government, and Ms. Karina Perez, who also mentors our National Junior Society, mentor scholars and guide them as they write lesson plans, contact organizations, and write proposals to our school’s Board of Directors and administration. However, it is because these issues are selected by and relevant to our scholars that we witnessed the marriage of service and learning, that we saw a month dedicated to “Reducing Recidivism” or “Equality” go beyond the canned food drive.
"Your [service learning] program has allowed me to reach students that I thought were unreachable. Their entire outlook on school and on life has changed drastically; I truly cannot thank you enough.”
– 6th Grade Teacher
A year ago, an eighth grade student came into my counseling office looking stricken. Over the weekend, Lara’s parents had told her they were moving from Maryland to a country in South America. Her father’s global job had taken her to far-flung places before, but she hadn’t seen this move coming. “I thought I’d be going to high school with my friends,” she told me, “not starting all over again. I don’t even speak Spanish!”
I felt for her. Change is hard, especially when it’s foisted on you. I worked with Lara to identify any elements in her control, including her own attitude. She had lived everywhere from Germany to Texas, and we talked about how she had successfully navigated those transitions. We also identified a few positives, including the likelihood she would master a new language.Read More
"The 2016 election has been long and fraught with strong emotions. As a nation, we have much to do to heal the divisiveness that has resulted. As parents, caregivers, and educators, we have a critical responsibility to help children and youth feel safe and secure and learn how to engage with others of differing viewpoints in a peaceful, tolerant, and respectful manner.
As always, schools play a critical role in this process by creating a positive learning environment for all students. It is imperative that educators facilitate respectful discussions among students and safeguard the well-being of those who may feel at risk."
-National Association of School Psychologists, November 9, 2016
Principle 1: Promotes Core Ethical and Performance Values as the foundation of good character.
“...the core values that underpin sustainable development - interdependence, empathy, equity, personal responsibility and intergenerational justice - are the only foundation upon which any viable vision of a better world can possibly be constructed.” -Jonathon PorrittRead More
Technological innovation moves so quickly that we often don't have time to consider its unintended consequences. A result is that it’s difficult to respond to hot-button character-related issues like cyberbullying and sexting because they seem to appear out of nowhere. Our challenge is to find ways to teach our children how to navigate the ethics of the rapidly moving digital present, consciously, proactively and reflectively. In K-12 parlance, we want them to become wise, skilled and caring digital citizens.
The Evolution of Digital Citizenship
Digital citizenship has evolved over the years. In its original set of K-12 standards for the use of educational technology, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) defined the broad area of ethics and technology as addressing “social, ethical and human issues” – the phrase “digital citizenship” was nowhere to be found. ISTE only became concerned with issues of citizenship when the development of the Internet led to the creation of common virtual space. This led to the formation of communities, which in turn made us want to understand our expectations of each other as community members. Years later, when the ISTE competencies were rewritten, the Internet had become a staple of modern society. At that point, digital citizenship had become one of its primary standards.Read More
I spent four months in Washington, D.C. to pursue a fellowship at Character.org. I wanted to gain experience in the nonprofit education management in the US and deepen my knowledge on character education. The ideal place for this was at the national headquarters of the character education movement in the US: Character.org.
I am from Amman, Jordan. Back home, I am working on developing StoryWalks; a project focused on growing the social and emotional skills of children through elements of storytelling and drama. In a region turmoiled with conflict, I hope to take part in nurturing children to become adults who accept differences, collaborate in building their communities and bring positive change to our world. My project, an instrument in character education, was furthered by the new perspectives I gained during my fellowship at Character.org.Read More
"No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted." ~Aesop
Kindness is a wonderful thing! A quick look in the dictionary reveals that to be kind means to be: thoughtful, friendly, considerate, warm, helpful and caring towards others. Who among us wouldn’t wish for a bit more of that?
Join the Kindness Revolution
Most educators highly value kindness in themselves and in their students. Being kind feels good, creates more positive bonds between students (and educators), and boosts learning. It may even have beneficial health effects like better sleep and reduced stress levels. This is why programs like Random Acts of Kindness have taken off like wildfire! In the forthcoming book, Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School, my co-author and I describe the story of a teacher named Kiren Chanda. Her 8th grade students came up with the idea of a Random Acts of Kindness campaign in their classroom. The campaign quickly spread to other classrooms, and eventually, the entire school. The students’ simple acts of kindness, such as holding doors open for one another, giving each other compliments, writing thank-you notes, offering to assist with tasks like cleaning up, and simply offering smiles, created a ripple effect that made a positive and lasting impact on the school climate.