What's Happening in Character?

Choosing Love

Posted by Scarlett Lewis on Mon, Apr 4, 2016 @ 06:04 AM

By Scarlett Lewis, Founder of Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement

Following the murder of my 6 year old son in his first grade classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I asked myself the same two questions that everyone was asking: how could something like this happen, and what can I do to make sure this never happens again?

I knew that anyone who could have brutally murdered 20 first graders and 6 educators in his former elementary school, must have been in a tremendous amount of pain. This pain fueled unrelenting anger. I realized, this whole tragedy began with an angry thought that was precipitated by pain. And an angry thought can be changed.

Pain is a catalyst for anger. Instilling character values such as gratitude, forgiveness and love helps us choose the right thoughts and provides us with tools to understand and overcome our pain and thus deconstruct anger. Character values give us basic tools that are the foundation of essential 21st century life skills.

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Topics: empathy, Caring Classrooms,, Kindness,, Caring Community

Creating Caring High Schools: Spotlight on Bayless High

Posted by Patrick McEvoy on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 @ 04:03 AM

By Emina Ahmetovic Grade 12, Meris Saric Grade 11 and Patrick McEvoy, Principal

Bayless High School is making students smarter, better and stronger. The students and staff feel so safe and secure at school that they never lock their lockers.

Yes, you read that correctly. 90% of the student body feels so safe that, in most cases, they never lock their hall lockers. The locks just hang on the locker handles like ornaments. They serve no security purpose in a school where everyone feels safe and their personal belongings are secured by the collective trust that each student has toward each other. They trust the environment they are in, so it makes it easier for the students to attend school over 96% of the time.

Some might wonder how this is accomplished.  Below are some of the ways the school does it.

Unconditional Support from Staff

Senior Taylor Owens said, “We feel safe in this school because of how close we are to our teachers and counselors. We have unconditional support from them, and I could not imagine going to any other high school.”

The students at Bayless High School enjoy including their staff in all of their activities and fundraisers. They host Teacher Talent Shows, Teacher Grammys, staff athletic events, and occasionally serve them breakfast or stock their faculty lounge fridge. At Bayless High School they have formed a home away from home making Bayless so unique, and safe, that many would doubt this could ever be achieved.  It is something you have to experience and see in order to fully understand.

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Topics: Service learning, Caring Classrooms,, Caring Community, Community Involvement

Increasing Empathy & Disability Awareness through Project HEART

Posted by Kim Dailey on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 @ 07:03 AM

by Kim Dailey, Special School District Educator, Lindbergh Schools

Thirty-one years of classroom teaching has taken me from my home in the Midwest, to the East Coast, to the West Coast, and home again. Today I’m very fortunate to live in one caring community and work in yet another.  I see evidence of this care in my school every day. Though I am employed by Special School District of St. Louis County, I provide special education services at Lindbergh High School and have been actively involved in the district’s character education initiatives for many years. As a special education teacher and the parent of an adult son with autism, my heart is in developing opportunities for disability awareness.  I have seen firsthand the value of a caring community in the life of my son, Zachary, and in the lives of my students.

Several years ago, an assistant principal at my school approached me about organizing a disability awareness event sponsored by former NFL player, Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda’s First Things First Foundation.  I had no experience in organizing such an event but couldn’t resist the opportunity.

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Topics: empathy, Caring Classrooms,, Kindness,, Caring Community

Caring for the Planet: Extending Beyond Walls!

Posted by Cathy Berger Kaye on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 @ 11:03 AM

By Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A.

Perhaps at one time we considered school a bubble isolated from the world. Not anymore.

Across the globe, school administrators, teachers, and students aim to connect what they are studying to the array of societal issues and concerns they see or read about every day. More and more as educators, we aim to dissolve this separation and recognize school is the real world for youth. And what’s more, they love to look out the windows! And rather than just “looking”, we can create learning that allows for permeable walls. This way we create authentic connections between the academic knowledge, transferable skills and dispositions developing and strengthening in our classrooms with the genuine learning that is available by connecting with community. Once learning connections are made and students become more cognizant of community assets and needs, like all of us, children and teens want to take action.  

What could this look like? You probably know. This concept of service learning emerged, as we know it today, in the  mid-1980s to provide a viable framework for applying what occurs in math, science, humanities, arts, physical education, and social studies (to name a few subjects), toward alleviating the problems we see in our neighborhoods and communities. Who would have suspected this to become an international phenomenon occurring in K-12 schools and universities around the world!

Your school may already have the beginnings of service learning or a more advanced program. Or you may have a community service program operating on the fringes of the classroom and you recognize that service learning embedded within an academic study has a myriad of benefits including to:

  • Improve the eagerness of students to be self-motivated to extend their learning
  • Stimulate curiosity and question-asking that leads to deeper understanding
  • Engage every student in a way that both differentiates and encourages students to appreciate the abilities of their peers
  • Create multi-disciplinary pathways for connecting curriculum
  • Heighten social and emotional development as students become more sensitized to the lives and stories of others
  • Bring learning to life!

Service Learning Snapshots

Weaver Academy (Greensboro, North Carolina)

How do power tools relate to reading? At Weaver Academy’s high school construction class students are building 138 tiny houses, complete with shingles, to promote literacy.

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Topics: Caring Classrooms,, Caring Community, environmental action

School-based Peer Mentoring Builds Relationships, Creates Caring Communities

Posted by Margo Ross on Mon, Mar 7, 2016 @ 08:03 AM

by Margo Ross, Senior Director of Development, Center for Supportive Schools

School-based, cross-age peer mentoring programs tap into the power of older students to create nurturing, supportive environments for younger students and can be a highly effective tool to address Principle 4, creating a caring community.

“Students are not able to focus in the classroom if they don’t feel emotionally secure,” says Doris Lee, Principal at Village Academy Middle School in Queens, New York City. “What [peer mentoring] has helped me do with my school community is create kind of a positive peer pressure where the leaders are working with younger students and using their relationships to help them do the right thing.”

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Topics: Caring Classrooms,, Caring Community, Mentoring

Emotional Intelligence Charters in the Lower School

Posted by Laura Taylor on Thu, Dec 17, 2015 @ 12:12 PM

By Laura Taylor, LCSW, Lower School Counselor and Keith Sarkisian, Lower School Director

Have you ever eavesdropped on a group of 1st Graders discussing the difference between feeling included vs.feeling liked? Have you had the opportunity to listen to two 4th Graders disagree over the subtle nuances of feeling optimistic vs.feeling hopeful? How about a class of Kindergarteners voting on which they would rather feel: excited vs. happy

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Topics: social-emotional learning, Caring Classrooms,, Caring Community

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

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,