What's Happening in Character Education?

Founded on Caring: A Case Study of Sadler Arts Academy

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Fri, Feb 27, 2015 @ 15:02 PM

by Becky Sipos

As we wrap up February’s focus on Principle 4: Creating a caring community, I thought it would be nice to look at a case study, one school that emphasizes caring in everything it does. Although all of our Schools of Character create caring communities, I chose a school that was founded on the very concept of caring: Sadler Arts Academy in Oklahoma, a 2014 National School of Character.

The school is a real example of goodness coming out of bad. In 1996, Sadler Elementary School had the unfortunate distinction of the worst test scores in Muskogee. The community also knew the school’s students as the rowdiest and rudest kids in town.” Rather than struggle to fix the mess, the school closed and reopened as Sadler Arts Academy.

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Topics: Caring Classrooms,, Caring Community

Start Early: Teaching Character in Early Childhood Education

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 @ 15:02 PM

“The early years of life provide the foundation for what is to come in terms of social, intellectual and moral development. A child’s capacity to think out problems, built from “lived experience” is indicative of social skills, moral reasoning and intelligence” according to Darcia Narvaez’s research.

Considering this, why isn’t there more of an emphasis on character development in the current discussions and debates on early childhood education? Perhaps because academics are easier to quantify. But there is much more to preschool than learning the alphabet and recognizing numbers. It is essential that children feel cared for and that they are learning to care for others as well.

How do we develop a caring environment for our youngest children? How do we encourage the development of good character and empathy before they can even talk in full sentences? To answer these questions, I turned to one of our early childhood education experts, Gina Siebe, Director of the Clayton Early Childhood Center and former principal of NSOC Bayless Elementary.

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Topics: Bauer Rebecca, empathy, Early Childhood Education

Placemats for Kindness

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 @ 15:02 PM

After seeing so many schools enthusiastically participating in Random Acts of Kindness week, I continue to think about the important role that kindness plays in any school environment. National School of Character, John Poole Middle School (Poolesville, Maryland) is dedicated to encouraging kindness and the community has found creative and engaging ways to integrate this value into their daily lives. From shout-outs to appreciate their teachers to their active participation in the Great Kindness Challenge, students at John Poole are not simply learning about kindness for a special week in the year, they are practicing it on an ongoing basis. Even more impressive than these acts of kindness, is the school’s dedication to making kindness a part of everything that they do.

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Topics: character, Kindness,

Why are Sports Valuable for Our Kids?

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 @ 15:02 PM

by Rob McManamy

Okay, that’s it. I now have to say something about the maddening Little League World Series cheating scandal that saw Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West (JRW) team, the first-ever national champion team comprised entirely of African-Americans, stripped of its title for knowingly violating geographic rules for recruiting players. 

What was the last straw for me? When Rev. Jesse Jackson was reported to have said, “You don’t have to be guilty to be crucified.”

In reference to a team named after an honest-to-goodness African-American hero, he equated JRW’s trials to that of Jesus Christ.

Let’s follow the suggested analogy for a moment. If the innocent young members of the JRW team represent “Jesus” here, then who exactly is playing the role of “Judas”? Who betrayed the team?

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Topics: Character in Sports,, McManamy Rob

Starting Your Character Education Journey

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 @ 12:02 PM

By Becky Sipos, President & CEO

For me, the New Year always brings an attitude of fresh start along with a reflection on accomplishments or disappointments of the past year. Pick up any magazine and you can see the imperatives: Lose 10 pounds in two weeks, plan more nutritious meals, get fit in only 15-minutes a day and so on.  

For schools, the imperatives usually revolve around better classroom management, helping low-achieving students to be more successful, getting all faculty onboard with positive school goals, or meeting state and federal testing requirements.

The trouble with most New Year’s resolutions is that the adopters are often looking for a quick fix. Unfortunately, neither losing weight nor transforming school culture is a quick fix, but both are worthy goals.

For educators looking to change their school culture, Character.org’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education offers guidelines for an effective program. But teachers sometimes think they are designed to be a step-by-step recipe beginning with #1 and progressing through step #11. But really, you can start with any principle. If you are looking to jump start your character education journey in 2015, here are four suggestions for ways to get started now.

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Topics: character education, 11 Principles

Annie Fox Addresses Bullying Issues in "Whose Kids Are These Anyway"

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 @ 12:02 PM

When it comes to bullying prevention, teachers handle concerns from parents, demands from administrators and regulations from their local and federal governments, all while educating a group of 20 or so young students. Rather than simply providing them resources and telling them to solve the problem, it is important to also stress, they are not alone.

Through my experience working with hundreds of schools, I’ve found schools are most successful when they don’t play the blame game. The blame game happens when administrators push responsibility onto teachers, teachers push responsibility on to parents or any other combination. Instead, in Schools of Character, every member of the community steps up, and they work together to take a comprehensive, intentional and proactive approach to character development, just as the 11 Principles framework recommends.

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Topics: bullying prevention

Get Ready for Random Acts of Kindness Week!

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 @ 11:02 AM

RAK Logo



Did you know that Random Acts of Kindness week is less than two weeks away? In order to provide you with the best resources, I turned to an expert. Marilyn Decalo, the Education Director at the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation explains how Random Acts of Kindness can transform your classroom, improve school climate and make the world a better place. She offers a variety of resources, including lesson plans, project ideas, videos,posters and graphics for you to use in your school.

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Topics: Kindness,

Tired of Testing? Let Your Voice Be Heard

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 @ 11:02 AM

By Becky Sipos, President & CEO

Last week, two of us from Character.org attended ASCD’s Legislative Advocacy Conference. The conference focused on empowering educators to voice their opinions on education policy, and more specifically the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While ASCD’s legislative agenda has many facets, most of the discussion revolved around the importance of reducing standardized testing and creating multi-metric forms of assessment.

On the final day, we had the opportunity to bring our concerns to a variety of congressmen and congresswomen on Capitol Hill. Throughout the conference, we had discussed the phrase educating students to be “college, career, and citizenship ready.” As I visited my senator and representatives, I kept thinking about that phrase “citizenship ready.” What does that mean exactly?

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Topics: testing, Advocacy

Character Resource Roundup: Creating Caring & Kind Classrooms

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 @ 15:02 PM

We want every classroom to be a caring and kind one. Unfortunately, with the emphasis on literacy and math, encouraging good character isn’t always seen as a priority. We want to re-energize you in your pursuit to help every child develop empathy and consideration for others. We’ve listed some of the best resources for creating a caring classroom environment. If you have more ideas, please share them with us in the comments.

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Topics: Caring Classrooms,, Kindness,

Building Strong Relationships: What Successful Schools Do Differently

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 @ 12:02 PM

by Rebecca Bauer

Between Random Acts of Kindness Week and Valentine’s Day, February is the perfect month to work on Principle 4 (see our 11 Principles of Effective Character Education), “The school creates a caring community”. When I think of creating a caring community, my mind doesn’t immediately jump to Dewey or Montessori, but rather, a favorite professor of mine, Maria Hantzopoulos.

The book Hantzopoulos edited, Critical Small Schools: Beyond Privatization in New York City Urban Education, highlights successful New York City public schools. These schools stand out because they emphasize relationship building as a means to student achievement, both academic and otherwise. As I reread the text, I pulled out some key ideas that might help you create a “culture of care” in your school.

Creating a Culture of Care through Relationship Building

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