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.
During my fellowship, I learned how character education, as an integral part to the curriculum, develops students socially, emotionally and ethically. I saw how it is being utilized in schools in an intentional and comprehensive approach, and the impact it has on student behavior, discipline referrals, graduation rates and academic achievement.
I was impressed to observe how far schools in the US have come in recognizing the importance of character education. During a school visit, arranged as part of the National Forum on Character Education in October, I was assigned to accompany the teachers attending from all across the nation. Toward the end of our visit, I took notice of a banner recognizing the school as a 2016 School of Character. The banner was proudly hung on the school’s main entrance. Its placement reflects the importance of this recognition to the school, the students, staff, and parents. It was then that I realized that character education is not a process or a function that schools choose to have, it has greater status. It is a movement.
This realization was strengthened every day I worked at Character.org, be it by the number of applications received for the Schools of Character program, the number of Promising Practice submissions, or the number of attendees flying from all across the country to attend theannual Forum.
I am back home now, to my beautiful Jordan. I tried to pack all the knowledge, experience and momentum I gained at Character.org to bring home with me. Now is the time to focus on making education a movement, a movement to develop humans for humanity.
Shahira Koudsi is a children's advocate who aims to develop children's social and emotional skills through her project StoryWalks. Shahira also works with Aramex International at their regional head office in Amman, Jordan.
Do you have have a unique character education practice or initiative like StoryWalks? Submit your idea and you could be a 2017 Promising Practice recipient!