What's Happening in Character?

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

Are you a Teacher Leader?

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Wed, Aug 5, 2015 @ 09:08 AM

Teacher leadership has become a buzzword recently. All teachers lead activities and lessons in their classrooms. Many teachers also lead after school activities and clubs. Some teachers even serve as administrators, too. These days it’s more normal for teachers to have multiple roles in a school than just one.

So what exactly does teacher leadership mean, and more importantly, why should you care?

The NEA defines teacher leadership using 7 domains. This Character Resource Roundup focuses on three of those domains:

  • “Fostering a collaborative culture to support educator development and student learning”

  • “Promoting professional learning for continuous improvement”

  • “Advocating for student learning and the profession”

Fostering a Collaborative Culture

Often the topic of fostering a collaborative culture, especially when it comes to staff culture, is a discussion that is left for the principals and administrative teams. Teacher leaders can and should play an essential role in these efforts. Ask yourself what you are doing to foster a collaborative culture.

  • How do you welcome new staff?

  • How do you support your coworkers?

  • How do you collaborate amongst your grade level team and professional learning communities?

Read The Power of Teacher Networks, a book in which author, Ellen Meyers, “describes teacher networks as a force that breaks teachers out of isolation, improves their practice, advocates for students and schools, and keeps our best teachers teaching.”

Looking for something a little shorter? For a quick introduction read “Fostering Leadership Through Teacher Networks” by Sarah Burns. By strengthening your “Teacher Network” you will improve your teaching practice and hopefully make some new friends too!

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Topics: Advocacy, Character Resource Roundup, Teacher Leadership, Shared Leadership

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

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