What's Happening in Character Education?

Words Do Matter!

Posted by SuEllen Fried on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 @ 11:10 AM

Over the years my bullying language has evolved and I’m grateful to the students, educators and parents who have helped me rethink my vocabulary. To begin with, my first book on bullying was written in 1996, three years before Columbine. The title was “Bullies and Victims, Helping Your Child Through the Schoolyard Battlefield” But, today I would never use those words!


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Every Day is Character Day

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Thu, Sep 29, 2016 @ 12:09 PM

Last week we celebrated Character Day along with 90,000 organizations in 124 countries around the world. It has been exciting to watch the exponential growth of Character Day in just three years. Clearly there is interest in the idea of character and momentum is building.

In Tiffany Schlain’s Character Day movie “The Science of Character,” she inserts this quote that she attributes to Frank Outlaw. “ Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.”
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Topics: character, Character Day

Everything You Need to Know about Character Day

Posted by Sora Wondra on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 @ 09:09 AM

What is Character Day?

Character Day is tomorrow, Thursday, September 22. The beauty of it is that it can be whatever you want it to be! It is the day to have conversations about character, to hold an event or kick off a new initiative. It’s a great day to connect with others in your community to learn about their commitment to character. Tomorrow is a great opportunity to use the Character Day films and discussions as a powerful catalyst for reflection.

While we believe that every day is Character Day, it’s nice to set this day aside to spread the message to a new group or to focus in and begin a longer-term conversation. Part of the beauty of Character Day is you can develop an event around just about anything related to character. In fact, this year, Character.org D.C. staff decided we wished we knew our neighbors better, so we’re holding an open house on Character Day to get to know one another.

While we always like flexible approaches, maybe you’re looking to learn more specifics about Character Day and get some ideas for how to celebrate.

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Topics: Character Day

Lessons from Germany: The Values of Educational Exchange

Posted by Maggie Taylor on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 @ 07:09 AM

Back in college I never had the opportunity to study abroad. My strict soccer schedule paired with a strategically planned academic course load never lent itself to the novelty of traveling and living in another country for a semester, let alone a year. As my friends shipped off for England and Spain, I envied their photographs, travels and adventures. My friends were riding camels through the deserts of Morocco as I was writing my papers in the January permafrost of Kansas. I thought studying abroad was just to provide the student with opportunities to explore and adventure, but I learned this summer that it offers so much more than that.

Last March I was accepted to a program through George Washington University to travel to Germany. The International Education Program offered me the chance to conduct authentic research in education through an intensive 12-day case study. I was able to interview college professors, teachers, members of government and private/public sector employees. Everyone we met was filled with knowledge on higher education, educational opportunities in Germany, and much more.

In this class, I was one of the only students who had not studied abroad during undergrad and who had never been to Europe. I sat back and listened to my classmates as they questioned German officials on their study abroad program and involvement in Erasmus+. I quickly realized that Germany views study abroad differently than I previously did. They don’t see study abroad as just a chance for the individual to explore and adventure. To them, it is a much richer opportunity than that.

I now understand why Germany chooses to invest and send a large percentage of students abroad to study. Germany uses the study abroad platform to encourage students to continue to build relationships. In return, they bring in students from all over the world to attend German institutions for free. If these students don’t stay and work in Germany after graduation, their economy actually loses money.

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Topics: peace, international

The Five Most Creative Ways to Give Children the Edge They Need to Succeed

Posted by Michele Borba on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 @ 10:09 AM

In writing and researching UnSelfie, I flew the world, spoke with hundreds of researchers, conducted focus groups with more than five hundred children, and visited dozens of schools. I witnessed countless ways to cultivate empathy, but the most effective were always real, meaningful, and matched a child’s needs. Here are a few of the most creative ways adults around the world are making a difference in cultivating children’s empathy, creating an UnSelfie world and giving them the Empathy Advantage.


Be Friendly 

Empathy is always a “We” affair. A simple, overlooked way to increase empathy is by making the culture friendlier. Just being with people in a friendly setting can increase your empathy toward them and make you want to be kinder. The small South Pacific island of Vanuatu exemplifies that social premise. It’s called “the Friendliest Place on Earth” and after visiting their island, I can see why. Everywhere residents greeted you with a sincere hello and a smile and seemed genuinely interested in you. Their friendliness was contagious, so you responded right back with a hello and a smile to a stranger.

When I asked Vanuatu residents why they were so friendly, their answer was simple: “Because everyone else is.” Friendliness makes you tune in, observe emotional cues, be more receptive to others’ feelings and needs, and instead of walking by, you smile and acknowledge a person’s existence right back. But you don’t have to move your family to the South Pacific to gain that “friendly effect.” Just intentionally take friendliness up a notch in your home, school, and neighborhood; here are a few ways.

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Topics: empathy, international

The Essentials of Building Relationships with Parents

Posted by Darrielle Sarnovsky on Thu, Sep 1, 2016 @ 09:09 AM

Building relationships with parents is an essential component of the start of your school year.  Once these relationships are developed, the next question becomes how to maintain communication throughout the year, and through the ups and downs that students may have.

I am a teacher at a National School of Character in Dundalk, Maryland. One of the reasons that we are a National School of Character is our focus on Restorative Practices. Restorative Practice is a social science that blends education, psychology, social work, criminology, sociology, organizational development and leadership with the goal of decreasing antisocial behavior and creating healthy communities.

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Six Ways Students Can Spread Kindness in Your School

Posted by Michele Borba on Mon, Aug 29, 2016 @ 09:08 AM

Practicing kindness is what helps children tune into other people’s feelings and needs, trust more, step out of their own skins to understand others, and become UnSelfies (“more we, less me” oriented). Each kind act nudges kids to notice others (“I see how you feel”). Care (“I’m concerned about you”), empathize (“I feel with you”) and help and comfort (“Let me ease your pain”). And helping students practice kindness also activates empathy. That’s why I named “Practicing Kindness” as the sixth essential habit of empathy.

 Over the last years, I’ve observed countless classrooms around the world as I was researching ways to nurture children’s empathy. Here are a few favorite ways educators help students practice kindness and acquire empathy from my book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. (I’ve included over 300 practical ways based on the latest science, and none cost a dime and are simple to implement).

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Topics: Borba Michele, empathy, Kindness,, Michele Borba

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