What's Happening in Character Education?

Five Things You Can Do That Will Make You a Better Educator Right Now

Posted by Phil Brown on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 @ 09:08 AM



By Philip Brown

A recent article (July 20) in the Washington Post by parenting consultant Meghan Leahy entitled Five things you can do that will make you a better parent right now captured my attention because each of her five points are also sound recommendations for educators. I’ve reworked her five points – see if you agree that school culture and teachers lives would be much saner if we kept these in mind and took them to heart:


1. Cultivate a value system in your classroom and school. Of course core ethical and performance values are core aspects of the 11 Principles of Charcter Education, and Character.org has emphasized the importance of including stakeholders in the process of creating core values. Beyond establishing core values as the bedrock for your school culture, the important word here is ‘cultivate.’ As Leahy points out, “Americans don’t have a common parenting culture that has been passed down to us. Our wonderful mix of religions, ethnicities, worldviews and customs means that we are able to create our own parenting and family mores.” This means as well, that, if we are lucky, children bring those diverse values into the school house, and we must send a very clear message in our cultivation that just as families need to have their values to function effectively, so must our classrooms and school. And if there are values conflicts, a discussion with parents early in the school year is important to avoid misunderstandings and support both diversity and the need to adapt to American school culture.

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Topics: school climate, teachers, 11 Principles, Back to School

Turtles and other ‘Characters’ – Integrating Wisdom Stories to Establish a Positive Class Climate

Posted by Ralph Singh on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

Wisdom Thinkers’ story started in response to a post 9-11 arson attack. With a climate of fear stoked by the media, 4 teens got drunk, and thinking the Sikh community with their distinguishing turbans were supporters of bin Laden, decided to perform their patriotic duty and burn out the invaders. They attacked my place of worship in Palermo, New York.

Being the first such attack, it received a good deal of publicity. I responded to this hateful act with a message of forgiveness that was heard around the world uniting communities and helping to transform the lives of the young arsonists. While in prison, the young men wrote, “If only we’d known your story, if only we knew what you stood for, we never would have done this.” 

And so the idea to develop a series of stories for educators and communities to honor diversity, nurture character and develop a shared narrative for peace was born. Now almost 15 years after 9-11, while much of the country is still struggling to find solutions to the divisiveness, “Stories to Light Our Way,” has been embedded into many of the districts in the county, including where the arson took place. We’ve begun to change the story!

 Our goal is to provide teachers with a framework, which on one hand aligns with elementary and middle level Common Core Standards domains and modules, and yet is flexible enough that teachers can adapt it to their particular classroom settings. They can even integrate it into “extras.” The stories are short enough that they can be dropped into teachable moments, so the characters are referred to and reinforced throughout the day creating a shared narrative. The cross-cultural pieces speak to honoring diversity, a critical piece in creating a respectful and safe class climate.

 With another school year just around the corner, let me share some of the ideas, which our teachers have used successfully.

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Encouraging Good Character on the First Day: 3 MORE ways to prepare your classroom for excellence

Posted by Calvary Diggs on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 @ 09:08 AM


Last week, I shared 3 great ways to prepare your classroom for excellence as you head back to school. This week, here are three more ways to improve your room!Tip 4: Developing "eyes in the back of your head"

Tip 4: Developing "eyes in the back of your head"

Have you ever had one of those moments that, with just the sound of your voice, you got a student, on the brink breaking down, back on track? Maybe your back was turned but you felt something or you just knew exactly what to say. For these moments to happen, it takes foresight on your part but also your students must know what they should be doing.

So what does this mean? If we want to encourage good character in our classrooms, everyone has to be on the same page about what that means and looks like.

Set Class Rules: Enlist your class to create rules on the first day of school. It fosters a sense of ownership for those rules. They won’t simply be the teacher’s rules, they become their rules. Some studies suggest that if you give students the proper guidelines for developing class rules, what students come up with is about the same as anything you would have picked, given the same criteria. So what are those guidelines?

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Topics: character, discipline, teachers

Character and Academics--How to Integrate

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 @ 13:08 PM

I’ve been thinking a lot about our focus this month on integrating academics and character education in the classroom. We truly believe they should be intertwined, but sometimes when I go to a school for a site visit evaluation, I observe lessons that seem like were planned just for my visit, as if someone had said, “Be sure to teach a character lesson today.”

I like it best when I get to observe a challenging academic lesson that engages the students and incorporates the natural intersections with character that most content contains. Exploring the ethical issues in science, debating historical decisions, and of course, exploring character traits and ethical dilemmas in literature are obvious choices, but there are ethical considerations in every subject.
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Topics: character, teachers, intrinsic motivation

Encouraging Good Character on the First Day: 3 ways to prepare your classroom for excellence

Posted by Calvary Diggs on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

Character education rests on a simple principle: actions matter. In our day-to-day lives, acts of good character can ben
efit the self and others. Agreeing on that should be easy. What’s next is more difficult. How can we, as education professionals, help schools improve as environments that nurture character development?

If you haven’t recently read How Children Succeed, perused any stellar Promising Practices or reflected on your own experiences as a student, here’s a succinct summary: there are many ways to teach good character. And there’s no specific formula to doing it – at least not yet (fingers crossed and wishing on a star here, folks).

Lucky for those of you starting on that old agrarian calendar system, the staff at Character.org and I figured we could give you some useful tips. If you’re familiar with research in classroom management, that’s where the bulk of this originates. Classroom management (i.e., class structure, time allocation, and instructional practices) is an area where teachers often report wanting additional training. Improvements in classroom management practices are associated with positive impacts for student prosocial behavior (character in action) and academic outcomes. So, let’s get started!

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Topics: character education, promising practices, Back to School

A Tale of Two Schools: Valuing Development Over Control

Posted by Dr. Philip Vincent on Mon, Aug 8, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

By Dr. Philip Vincent

At least 15 years ago I received a letter (people still wrote those then!) from an educator who had recently heard me in her school district.  She shared with me how she had moved to a new large school district, interviewed at two schools and accepted the job at one of the schools. The letter really impacted me and I was honored that she shared it with me.  Now the actual letter is long gone but I remember it in great detail and will now share it with you in her words. The following is her story.

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Topics: school climate, teachers

How Surroundings Affect Students’ Learning

Posted by Kelly Warfield on Thu, Aug 4, 2016 @ 08:08 AM

By Kelly Warfield,  Editorial director of Teacher Products, Carson-Dellosa™ Publishing Group

We can all think back on the school environments of our youth and reflect on the classes we preferred, the topics we found most engaging, and the teachers who blew us away. But what about the classroom surroundings that supported that education? Were there specific activities, environments, or rules that seemed more conducive to learning than others? And what about the classrooms of today?

How can we set up our classrooms to the best of our ability with the physical, structural, and psychological support necessary to provide our students with an idyllic learning environment? Through studies, statistics, and trial and error, we’ve learned some things about classroom environments and how they can affect student performance. 

Cooperation and Relevance

Creating a cooperative learning environment has both a positive social and educational impact on each participating student. Cooperation is a critical skill that has far-reaching effects and can help your students in the classroom, as well as in their day-to-day lives. Cooperation helps students explore and celebrate the diversity among them, overcome their differences, learn by actively listening, work as a team, develop stronger interpersonal skills, relate to their peers, create new friendships, improve their social interactions, gain additional feedback from their peers, and exchange new ideas. All of these benefits contribute to a better, more comprehensive learning environment.

Successful learning environments also require that learning objectives be relevant to your students and their lives outside of the classroom. Without the ability to explore how information applies to daily life, your students are less likely to engage in their lessons and commit that information to memory.

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Topics: Academics,, Back to School

What Do Kids Really Need to Be Happy and Successful? Empathy.

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Sat, Jul 16, 2016 @ 20:07 PM


Dr. Michele Borba writes in her new book Unselfie, “While we may be producing a smart, self-assured generation of young people, today’s kids are also the most self-centered, saddest and stressed on record.”

According to a University of Michigan Study,

  • Teens today are now 40% lower in empathy levels than 3 decades ago.
  • In the same period narcissism has increased by 58%

And multiple studies have shown there has been a clear increase in peer cruelty.

We need to counteract those trends by teaching empathy. Sometimes considered a “soft” skill, new research featured in Dr. Borba’s book shows that empathy plays a surprising role in predicting kids’ happiness and success. And it’s not an inborn trait, but a quality that must be taught.

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Topics: empathy

ESSA: Why your voice matters

Posted by Maggie Taylor on Thu, Jul 7, 2016 @ 10:07 AM

By Maggie Taylor

A little over a year ago I left my role as educator and started the grueling and rewarding process of graduate studies. As a student earning a Masters in Education Policy in the heart of Washington, D.C., I shouldn’t have been surprised to be engrossed in K-12 policies and politics in almost every lecture. I was not prepared to take courses entitled “Congressional Budget Making” or “Lobbying for Funding”—but here I am, a year in, and I have learned more than I imagined.  As I reflect on my first year as a scholar, I can’t help but think how this knowledge would have changed the way I viewed things as a teacher.

As a former classroom teacher, it was easy for me to bury my head in the sand and ride out every new policy that came down the pipe at the start of each school year. My local, state or national government would create policies or programs that would inevitably trickle down to my classroom. As these things trickled down, I often heard educators say, “This too will pass,” and heard myself echoing these sentiments as I learned this process firsthand. I passively allowed decisions to be made at the local, state and national level and didn’t think my opinion was worth sharing.

What I didn’t realize, however, was how much I could have done to change these policies, and how my voice should have been raised a little louder to be heard. This blog comes to you—educators, administrators, parents, concerned community members—to read into what is happening in Congress now and how we can all work together to make changes that suit the needs of our students.

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Topics: Education News, no child left behind, Advocacy, ESSA

Build Positive Character This Summer through Books

Posted by Kris Yankee on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 @ 11:06 AM


By Kris Yankee, Co-Founder, High 5 for Character

Summer reading was always an escape for me. I read as much as I could and as often as I was able. The Nancy Drew Mysteries series was one of my favorites. I loved that there were twists and turns, and even though it was always possible that Nancy wouldn’t solve the mystery, I was still so happy in the end when she did. At the time, I didn’t realize that I was learning trustworthiness, reliability, responsibility, friendship, integrity, and many other character traits that are so important to the formation of young minds. I was just having fun reading! 

As a parent, I wanted to instill the love of reading in my kids. Every night, my husband and I would each take turns reading with both of our sons when they were very young. We had so many books to choose from! We’d read one of our many Dr. Seuss or Harold and the Purple Crayon books. Our boys loved the Veggie Tales stories, Thomas the Tank Engine, and the Berenstain Bear books. I secretly loved reading the Laura Joffe Numeroff books If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and If You Give a Pig a Pancake.

We spent quality time with our sons, making memories that none of us will forget. And…the boys were entertained but they were also learning about confidence, creativity, purpose, responsibility, friendship, integrity, and trustworthiness. My husband and I wanted our kids to have a sense of positive character and we made sure that the books that we read to them exuded those principles.

Once our boys were a bit older, our reading time together changed. They wanted to read on their own (which was fine by me) and the books they chose usually were in line with the standards we had created. Occasionally when each would bring home a book that I thought was a bit too silly, each would be able to tell me something redeeming about it, i.e., “It’s so funny, it cracks me up every time I read it” or “The pictures are so cool.” But really, how could I complain? They were READING! Still, though, I felt that they were making positive choices and the books continued to contain positive, or at least redeeming, character qualities.

As an author, I’m often asked what inspired me to write. My resounding answer is always, “My boys!” Then to add to that…all of the other kids who are out there. I believe that books are so important and that when kids are reading “good stuff,” they will imitate and emulate “good stuff.” A well-written story can really effect a child, making that child believe that he or she is one of the characters or is taking part in the world created by the author. How cool is it to soar through the sky or hang upside down in a tree in a jungle or be as small as a mouse and scurry across the floor!

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Topics: family, Parenting, Literacy, Reading