What's Happening in Character Education?

Relevance, Relationships and Service Learning

Posted by Meghann Persenaire on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 @ 09:03 AM

Relevance A young man, formerly incarcerated, stood on our auditorium’s dimly lit stage, and asked our scholars the following question: “Raise your hand if you know someone who is currently or was recently in prison.” With each moment of silence that followed, dozens of scholars quietly raised their hands. Refoundry, a nonprofit that trains formerly incarcerated people to repurpose discarded materials into home furnishings, is one of a few organizations that our scholars partner with each year.

Each month, our scholars select a social or environmental issue or organization that is relevant to them, for which they are passionate. Our scholars select a social or environmental issue that directly affects their families and/or their communities in Harlem and the Bronx. Mrs. Stephanie Fernandez, who also mentors our student government, and Ms. Karina Perez, who also mentors our National Junior Society, mentor scholars and guide them as they write lesson plans, contact organizations, and write proposals to our school’s Board of Directors and administration. However, it is because these issues are selected by and relevant to our scholars that we witnessed the marriage of service and learning, that we saw a month dedicated to “Reducing Recidivism” or “Equality” go beyond the canned food drive.

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Topics: Service learning, Caring Community

Creating a Culture of Kindness

Posted by Christa Tinari on Thu, Jan 26, 2017 @ 11:01 AM


"No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted." ~Aesop

Kindness is a wonderful thing! A quick look in the dictionary reveals that to be kind means to be: thoughtful, friendly, considerate, warm, helpful and caring towards others. Who among us wouldn’t wish for a bit more of that?

Join the Kindness Revolution

Most educators highly value kindness in themselves and in their students. Being kind feels good, creates more positive bonds between students (and educators), and boosts learning. It may even have beneficial health effects like better sleep and reduced stress levels. This is why programs like Random Acts of Kindness have taken off like wildfire! In the forthcoming book, Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School, my co-author and I describe the story of a teacher named Kiren Chanda. Her 8th grade students came up with the idea of a Random Acts of Kindness campaign in their classroom. The campaign quickly spread to other classrooms, and eventually, the entire school. The students’ simple acts of kindness, such as holding doors open for one another, giving each other compliments, writing thank-you notes, offering to assist with tasks like cleaning up, and simply offering smiles, created a ripple effect that made a positive and lasting impact on the school climate.

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Topics: Kindness,, Random Acts of Kindness, Caring Community

What Makes Professional Development Effective?

Posted by Character.org Staff on Thu, May 19, 2016 @ 04:05 AM

We asked four veteran Character.org trainers: What Makes Professional Development Effective?
Here’s what they had to say:

Make learning interactive.

The most meaningful PD I have been a part of is when there is a lot of interaction/participation.  We all learn by doing or participating.  We silo or compartmentalize so many facets of education these days and don't have the time to "fit" everything in a day, week, month, or even school year.  I find PD is effective when teachers can see the connections and have dialogue about implementation.  

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • How do all of the things we are asked to do fit together?
  • Where are the connections between Character Education and The Eleven Principles, Academic Curriculum, Social, Emotional, and Character Development skills/standards, Diversity, Discipline, Global learning, Project-Based Learning, Service Learning, Career Awareness, Integration of Technology, etc.?
  • How do we help students and parents see the connections between these areas?

 - Tamra Nast

Create a Culture of Ongoing Professional Learning.

During our interviews for our dissertation, one the participant said, "Professional development is something that is done to you.  Professional learning is done with you."  O

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Topics: Caring Community, Professional Development

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

Cold Water Creates an Inclusive & Welcoming School Community

Posted by Connie Dougherty on Tue, Mar 15, 2016 @ 05:03 AM

by Connie Dougherty, School Counselor, Cold Water Elementary School

Cold Water School’s transformation to a School of Character can be summed up perfectly by this quote:

“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”

The major changes that have happened in the front office of Cold Water School (Florissant, Missouri) within the last five years are a true testament to creating a caring school community.  The vital components that make Cold Water a School of Character used to get lost amongst all of the stakeholders in our school, especially those who weren’t regularly in the classroom.

An Inclusive Community

When administrators made a priority of supporting autonomy and belonging within all of our support staff, the changes were astounding. Just as students thrive when teachers proactively establish a caring culture, so did our secretaries and in turn our entire school community.

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Topics: Caring Community

Four Ideas for Boosting Teacher Morale

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Wed, Mar 9, 2016 @ 06:03 AM

by Becky Sipos

Teachers matter. Decades of research and studies have found that, what to me, seems obvious--the quality of teachers has a bigger influence on student achievement than school facilities or curriculum. But what the studies have not clearly defined is what we mean by student achievement. Nor have they figured out what to do about ensuring teacher quality. (See the latest issue of Education Next for a range of articles and commentary on this issue as they explore 50 years since the Coleman Report.)

Those who think student achievement is best measured by test scores are among those who wanted to tie teacher evaluation to student outcomes. Taking it a step further, many wanted to use those tests to eliminate the low performing teachers. That led to hotly contested policy debates on teacher evaluations and protests on time spent on testing. Not to mention that the lowest performing teachers were often those at high poverty schools, and there was not a long line highly effective teachers waiting to take those challenging positions. Those debates may have dissipated a bit with the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act that reduces the role of the federal government in requiring test score accountability in teacher evaluations. How the states will move forward remains to be seen.

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Topics: teachers, Teacher Appreciation, Caring Community

Student Perspectives: Creating Community through Activities & Sisterhood

Posted by Character.org Staff on Tue, Mar 8, 2016 @ 04:03 AM

 

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re featuring the voices of two young women, Jasmine and Ndasia, current students at Early/Middle College at Bennett, a 2015 National School of Character. Early/Middle College at Bennett is an all female high school located in Greensboro, North Carolina.

by Ndasia Gerald, a student in the Class of 2017 at Middle College at Bennett

At a school where sisterhood is a part of the foundation, it is important to serve as your sister’s keeper.  I especially enjoy having the opportunity to get involved in different things at school that give me a chance to get to know my fellow Bennett sisters on more personal levels.

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Topics: Caring Community, Schools of Character, Advisory