What's Happening in Character Education?

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

Taking Service Learning to the Next Level: Cultivating Leaders

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

During March, as we have been focusing on principle 5, creating opportunities for moral action, we have been talking a lot about service learning. We showcased Cherry Hill Alternative High School’s service learning program. We shared our thoughts on the difference between service learning and community service. But perhaps your school already feels like it understands service learning and has a high quality program in place. Does that mean your journey is over? Nope, that means it is now your time to lead.

If your students are already leading your school in engaging and meaningful service learning projects then the next step is helping them take their own service projects to the next level by implementing them on a larger, community wide scale.

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Topics: Service learning

Coaching for Character: Tips from Dale Murphy's Writing

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 @ 17:03 PM

For most American sports fans, this is an incredibly exciting week. It marks the beginning of the men's and women's NCAA College Basketball tournaments (a.k.a. "March Madness"). Each year, these tournaments bring a unique blend of drama, heartwarming human-interest stories, intriguing match-ups, and --- each year without fail --- upsets by underdog teams. For some, these tournaments are more exciting than the World Series or the Super Bowl.

One of the more compelling aspects of the NCAA tournaments is the profound impact of coaching. Whether the team is a household name, or an underdog squad known by very few, coaches roam the sidelines barking out encouragement (or stern correction) to their players. Players respond with maximum effort. It is truly a magical thing to observe. In reality, the tournament games are merely the culmination of months and months of hard work and coaching throughout a grueling season.

This coaching phenomenon is not unique to college basketball. ALL coaches, in ALL sports, at ALL developmental levels, have profound influence on their players.

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Topics: character, Sportsmanship

Beyond Recycling: Spotlight on Environmental Action at Chesterfield

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, Mar 17, 2015 @ 13:03 PM

Looking through our National Schools of Character over the last few years, I was in search of a story that would inspire teachers to plan meaningful projects for Earth Day on April 22. When I heard about the composting program at Chesterfield Elementary (Chesterfield, Missouri), it sounded like exactly what I was looking for, but when I began talking to Mitzy Cruzen, 5th grade teacher, I realized I’d stumbled upon so much more.

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More Than Community Service: Creating Opportunities for Moral Action

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 @ 14:03 PM

Do you think you made a good choice? Did you do the right thing? These questions are in the school announcements, in the school song. They're everywhere, according to Schools of Character principal Kimmie Etheredge. Does that focus on doing the right thing make a difference?  Etheredge shared this story. "The manager of a store close to the school called to tell about a young child who found a $20 bill and turned it in to the service desk.When the service desk person complimented her on her honesty, the child said, “I’m a Granger Wrangler, and we always do the right thing.”

Doing the right thing is an important focus of principle 5, and the emphasis is on “action.” Students learn best by doing in the ethical domain just as they do in the intellectual domain. While recent blog posts have highlighted service learning projects, moral action can include opportunities in everyday classroom routines: showing respect for peers and adults, helping resolve a conflict, and participating in a cooperative learning activity. Each of these could provide a “teachable moment” for any teacher.

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Topics: Service learning, 11 Principles, Moral Action

Character Development: On and Off the Field

Posted by Tip Fallon on Mon, Mar 9, 2015 @ 14:03 PM

Tip_Fallon_webBy Tip Fallon, graduate of a National School of Character, Roosevelt High School

It is remarkable how the seemingly smallest incidents can make a lasting impact when it comes to character development.  Over 15 years ago, I was playing on my high school soccer team and we traveled to an out-of-county school for a game. This situation was a little different because we played almost all of our regular season games in our own county.  I recall the ride to this game being much further than other games, and we had never played the team before.  As we covered long stretches of road far off the highway to get to the school, I recall feeling out of my element.  This school and town seemed very distant, and different from, the community that we lived in and played in.  

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Topics: Sportsmanship, Youth Sports, Character Development

How to Empower Students through Service Learning: Spotlight on Cherry Hill Alternative High

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Wed, Mar 4, 2015 @ 09:03 AM

Flipping through our most recent, National Schools of Character Magazine, I was intrigued by a photo of students from Cherry Hill Alternative High School (Cherry Hill). Instead of sitting at desks in a classroom, they were out in their community, learning from local business leaders.

Eager to learn more about the school’s service learning initiatives, I called up Dawn Lacy, a counselor at the school. Through talking with Dawn and her colleagues, Diane O’Brien and Susan Gibbs, I learned how Cherry Hill’s service learning program has come to be so successful.

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Topics: Service learning

Character Resource Roundup: Tools to Help Teach Service Learning

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Sun, Mar 1, 2015 @ 09:03 AM


In March, our blog will be focusing on opportunities for moral action, Principle 5 of our 11 Principles. Want your students to make that leap from moral thinking and feeling to moral action? Engage them in service learning projects.

Need Inspiration?

Service learning projects are most valuable and most fun when they are student-led initiatives. Help your students discover an issue that they’re passionate about and see what creative solutions they can dream up.

If you need a powerful story to show your students how much they can do when they put their minds to it, introduce them to Zachary Bonner. An accomplished philanthropist, Zach created the Little Red Wagon Foundation, an organization founded to provide aid to those affected by Hurricane Charley, when he was only 8 years old. Now the organization runs many successful community service projects including regularly distributing “zach packs” of food and supplies to homeless youth.

Are your students ready to follow Zach Bonner’s lead? Here are some of our favorite service learning resources.

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Topics: Service learning, Character Resource Roundup

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 @ 16:02 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