"Your [service learning] program has allowed me to reach students that I thought were unreachable. Their entire outlook on school and on life has changed drastically; I truly cannot thank you enough.”
– 6th Grade Teacher
What's Happening in Character?
"Your [service learning] program has allowed me to reach students that I thought were unreachable. Their entire outlook on school and on life has changed drastically; I truly cannot thank you enough.”
A year ago, an eighth grade student came into my counseling office looking stricken. Over the weekend, Lara’s parents had told her they were moving from Maryland to a country in South America. Her father’s global job had taken her to far-flung places before, but she hadn’t seen this move coming. “I thought I’d be going to high school with my friends,” she told me, “not starting all over again. I don’t even speak Spanish!”
I felt for her. Change is hard, especially when it’s foisted on you. I worked with Lara to identify any elements in her control, including her own attitude. She had lived everywhere from Germany to Texas, and we talked about how she had successfully navigated those transitions. We also identified a few positives, including the likelihood she would master a new language.Read More
When we think of music, often what comes to mind is song. We may think of Broadway musicals, Bach or Justin Timberlake. In our minds we might imagine orchestras or pianists. Music has been central to civilization for thousands of years. In fact, before we had language we used musical tones and sounds to communicate. The tone of a grunt signaled a message in our prehistoric ancestors, while the beat of a drum brought village people together in unity far and wide. What we think of a little less often is what music is made of and how it impacts our learning, behavior and social relationships.
Music is all around us as we hear the subway cling and clatter, the pitter-patter of our children’s footsteps and the ambient noise inherent in life.Music engages our sensory, motor and auditory pathways in the brain fostering engagement and synchronicity (Patel & Iverson, 2014). Curiously, the ability to synchronize with a beat is associated with learning language and grammar (Corriveau & Goswami, 2009; Gordon et al. 2015).
At its core music is made of beats and rhythms that create sound, melody and even movement. These beats
and rhythms are meaningful scaffolds we can use in school, at home and in life to enhance foundational aspects of our learning, behavior and character.
As I contemplate my retirement at the end of this month, I have been reflecting a lot about Character.org and the state of character today. As an organization, we have much to celebrate. Some notable numbers:
- Largest group of National Schools of Character in our 2016 class
- Significant growth in applicants for 2017 from 28 different states, 12 more than last year
- Most participants ever in our National Forum
- Highest ratings ever for programming--both at the conference and in recent trainings (more than 90% out rated sessions a 4 or 5 out of 5 )
- Recent grants and donations are spurring new momentum and innovations. (Look for a redesigned and improved website in 2017.)
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.”
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?Read More
I’ve been thinking a lot about our focus this month on integrating academics and character education in the classroom. We truly believe they should be intertwined, but sometimes when I go to a school for a site visit evaluation, I observe lessons that seem like were planned just for my visit, as if someone had said, “Be sure to teach a character lesson today.”I like it best when I get to observe a challenging academic lesson that engages the students and incorporates the natural intersections with character that most content contains. Exploring the ethical issues in science, debating historical decisions, and of course, exploring character traits and ethical dilemmas in literature are obvious choices, but there are ethical considerations in every subject.
by Dave Keller
As a parent, some of my fondest memories revolve around countless evenings reading with my children. Most families have their own personalized rituals -- my family is no different. For us, reading was more of an event, rather than a mere activity. We read together as a group, often using silly accents and eccentric voice characterizations. Stuffed animals joined in nightly, with my children giving them voice and various quirks as they read certain page.
My children are largely grown now. The days of huddling together reading stories heading into bedtime are long gone.
I’m not sure I realized it at the time, but, looking back, I now realize much more was happening during those times than merely spending quality time together -- even more than simply teaching my children to read. We were modeling the joy of reading to our kids. We were increasing their desire to learn.
We were also passing along important character lessons, both directly and indirectly. We’d talk about the choices of characters -- and the consequences of those choices. We talked about how the characters treated one another. We talked about desired qualities such as honesty, kindness, and perseverance.
The cognitive benefits of reading are well-known. Research clearly shows consistent reading with children improves critical thinking, brain development, and enhanced communication skills. Indeed, the month of March has several focus points for reading: March is National Reading Month, and March 2 is designated as Read Across America Day by the National Education Association.
As a character educator, I am particularly interested in harnessing the power of reading to help develop character values in young people. Character.org has consistently recognized schools across the country with academic initiatives that enhance character development, through both our National Schools of Character and our Promising Practices programs.
One of our current initiatives is an emerging partnership with the great folks at First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides access to new books for children in need. To date, First Book has distributed more than 135 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education by making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis.Read More
We’d like you to meet a newly assembled team of loyal Character.org supporters, our Champions of Character. Champions of Character are membership ambassadors for Character.org. They help us stay in tune with the needs and interests of our members as well as being character education experts in their own right. These individuals understand the transformative power of the 11 Principles of Character Education and have been strong advocates for character education in their schools, districts and states. Learn more about them below!Read More
For most American sports fans, this is an incredibly exciting week. It marks the beginning of the men's and women's NCAA College Basketball tournaments (a.k.a. "March Madness"). Each year, these tournaments bring a unique blend of drama, heartwarming human-interest stories, intriguing match-ups, and --- each year without fail --- upsets by underdog teams. For some, these tournaments are more exciting than the World Series or the Super Bowl.
One of the more compelling aspects of the NCAA tournaments is the profound impact of coaching. Whether the team is a household name, or an underdog squad known by very few, coaches roam the sidelines barking out encouragement (or stern correction) to their players. Players respond with maximum effort. It is truly a magical thing to observe. In reality, the tournament games are merely the culmination of months and months of hard work and coaching throughout a grueling season.
This coaching phenomenon is not unique to college basketball. ALL coaches, in ALL sports, at ALL developmental levels, have profound influence on their players.Read More
After seeing so many schools enthusiastically participating in Random Acts of Kindness week, I continue to think about the important role that kindness plays in any school environment. National School of Character, John Poole Middle School (Poolesville, Maryland) is dedicated to encouraging kindness and the community has found creative and engaging ways to integrate this value into their daily lives. From shout-outs to appreciate their teachers to their active participation in the Great Kindness Challenge, students at John Poole are not simply learning about kindness for a special week in the year, they are practicing it on an ongoing basis. Even more impressive than these acts of kindness, is the school’s dedication to making kindness a part of everything that they do.
Did you know that Random Acts of Kindness week is less than two weeks away? In order to provide you with the best resources, I turned to an expert. Marilyn Decalo, the Education Director at the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation explains how Random Acts of Kindness can transform your classroom, improve school climate and make the world a better place. She offers a variety of resources, including lesson plans, project ideas, videos, posters and graphics for you to use in your school.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Though a simple question, it is one we can never ask our students enough. The Corporation for National and Community Service urges us to consider the Martin Luther King Day, “a day on not a day off” and encourages us to use the free time that we have to give back to others. The Day of Service website provides a number of toolkits to help you plan projects for you and your class. You may also find this list of resources from EducationDive helpful as well.
Even with these resources, getting your students excited about service learning can still be challenging. To provide some inspiration, I’d like to share the story of Lafayette Township School’s award winning community service day, Branching Out with the Bulls.
While the world is watching Ferguson, disturbed by the violence, disturbed by the grand jury’s ruling, disturbed by the very disparate responses that all seem to be colored by race, I was brought back to my teaching roots and empathized with all of the classroom teachers struggling with how to deal with this issue.
“Beyond Accountability, Inspiring Greatness,” the theme of the CEP's 2014 National Forum on Character Education. As human beings, we all have sufferings: some of them are physical; some emotional; some are moral issues; and some are health problems. But no matter what our circumstances are, we can bring out our character and be as great of a person as Mr. Wrights is in this video titled “Inspiring Greatness.”
What is performance character?
Performance character is a set of dispositions that drive effectiveness, such as striving to learn and improve, having self-discipline, and persevering. It is made up of beliefs and behaviors that enable people to grow their capabilities and meet their goals in any area of life, be it school, sports, relationships, or work. It is different than moral character, which refers to moral qualities such as kindness, integrity, and respect.
From my work as a superintendent, a headmaster and as the the U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Education, I found that assessing our students’ character was overlooked much of the time. Yet, there are such strong reasons to assess students’ character in a more formal way, such as establishing consistent standards, students having knowledge of progress, teachers having knowledge of effect. The most important reason, though, is that the formation of good character plays a major role in each student’s destiny.
Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” is often dismissed as just another sentimental, feel-good Christmas classic. But, in my opinion, it contains one of the most gripping and compelling dramatic scenes ever captured on film.
As Christmas Eve revelers drink and laugh in a crowded tavern filled with festive music, the camera slowly zooms in on a desperate man at the bar, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart). He is an extraordinarily good man, but at this dark moment, he is facing ruin, scandal and jail, none of it deserved. Talking to himself and staring down at his drink, he whispers to himself, “Dear Father in Heaven, I’m not a praying man. But if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God.”
This harrowing close-up comes two thirds through this 1946 film that is still so familiar to so many of us. Indeed, some might say too familiar. Indeed, so many of us have watched this movie over the years—or passed on multiple opportunities to do so—that more than a few now roll their eyes at the prospect of committing two-plus hours to a syrupy, 67-year- old, black-&-white parable.
But if you’ve never seen "It’s a Wonderful Life," or have not watched it again since you started caring about character education, then let me suggest that you set aside the time to do so this year.
Earlier this month, I was honored to speak, facilitate, and moderate several sessions at the Global Peace Foundation’s third annual International Summit on Character & Creativity in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There, I shared an abbreviated version of our 11 Principles training, put in the context of transforming school social climate and culture, adapted to fit the customs of a given nation.
In attendance were hundreds of teachers, student teachers, administrators, policymakers and scholars from around the world. It was truly a mountaintop experience for me, just rubbing shoulders with such a diverse and accomplished group of people who share our passion for helping young people to become caring, ethical citizens. Why are ethics so important to all of us?
As you all know, the stories coming from the Philippines are terrible and heartbreaking. The extent of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) is not yet known, but the loss of life and property is perhaps too high to even comprehend.
Another school year is now in high gear, and like you, we at “Character.org” once again find ourselves energized and empowered by all the new, hopeful faces we see each day and the
rejuvenated, resilient promise of the teaching profession, itself.
Making a difference.
That is your raison d’être and it is ours, as well. More precisely, our goal essentially is to help you achieve your overriding goal—to develop “ethical citizens committed to building a more just and caring world.” With that in mind, we know how incredibly busy you all are. So we are truly honored that so many of you will spend valuable time with us this month at our 20th National Forum on Character Education, Oct. 24-27, at the Washington Renaissance Hotel. Rest assured, we are committed to making this conference as useful, as interesting and as enjoyable for you as any professional development you have ever experienced.
By Dr. Raquel Castrodad
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” – William Arthur Ward
The quote from what is a brilliant ad slogan, “Just Do it!,” should be the guiding light and starting point of this voyage towards achieving a virtues-based community. It was for us. We are just a rural school in the middle of a little island, but we had big dreams (and now have even bigger dreams). Stephen Butler Leacock may have said it best when he said, “It may be that those who do most, dream most.”
The attainment of a virtues-based community requires a vision, a plan, the will, and the courage to act. The vision begins. As the possibilities are explored, the vision expands. The journey has begun. It truly is as simple as that! “Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.” said James Allen.
First in a series--how a new student teacher tries to implement character education based on her experience attending a National School of Character before entering college.
With nervous energy and excitement, I arrived at the elementary school where I planned to begin my student teaching. It was superintendent’s conference day, and I was taking the opportunity to get a lay of the land. I walked into the second grade classroom and I could not find it. The heart of an elementary school classroom, it was missing. There wasn’t a carpet or a rug, or even a patch of open floor where the students could congregate around an easel or board. There were only desks. They were laid out in a U shape, with two rows in the center. I couldn’t imagine an effective way to facilitate discussion in this set up. Perhaps I was overly critical, after my professor had assigned us to read McKenna’s “Uncovering the Lessons of Classroom Furniture,” but I couldn’t shake the feeling that building a sense of community in this business-like room would be quite difficult.
Character education is often misunderstood. It is more than a word of the month or an assembly to honor students with good character. It exceeds catching students being good and helping those who are less fortunate. Character education is not a program, but a philosophy about how we ought to treat one another and why.
The fundamental lessons in relationship building and character development need to begin with the staff, not the students. Once relationships among the staff are nourished, trust evolves and true understanding and implementation of character education can begin.
by Barbara Gruener
Is anyone out there as excited about the upcoming CEP National Forum as I am? One of my very favorite things about October is the chance to connect with other character educators from around the US and beyond its borders. It’s been an annual booster shot for me since I first attended when the Conference was held in Houston back in 2004.
Our school, Westwood Elementary, was selected the inaugural Texas State School of Character in 2007 and then honored with the National School of Character distinction in 2009. What an invigorating time that was for our school family. But we didn’t stay atop that mountain for long. Shortly after our celebration, budget cuts meant we’d be merging with the 4th and 5th grade campus next door; we are now navigating a new normal as a preK-5 school family.
by Barbara A. Lewis
Do you want to know something so strong that it survived the atomic explosion on Hiroshima? Might you guess a 400-pound gorilla that can hoist up 10 times its body weight?
Or how about Iron Man or the Hulk (not fair—they’re not real)? Or what about the annoying cockroach? Well, you would be right about the cockroach (which gives you a clue as to why they’re so hard to expel from your house).
But you might not have considered bamboo. Surprise! Bamboo has more tensile strength than steel. Knowing this, you might choose to build your next home with bamboo, because it could withstand 9.0 magnitude earthquake and last for hundreds of years. (You might want a new house before then though.)
When it comes to flourishing in school nowadays, scientific evidence is mounting that confirms what many of us have suspected all along—that if we want children to truly learn, and to perform better in life as both students and citizens, then we have to educate them in an environment that they see as safe, caring and nurturing. In short, school social climate matters, so social and emotional learning (SEL), combined with character education, just may be the magical combination that makes academic growth possible.
By Connie Matthiessen, Associate Editor of Great Schools
(re-posted with permission)
Back to school may be the second biggest shopping season of the year, but my family usually doesn’t join the stampede. My kids aren’t big shoppers, and neither am I; besides, times are tight. Someone will inevitably need a new pair of shoes or a hoodie; I’ll pick up socks, a few shirts, the school supplies their teachers request, and leave it at that.
But I’m bracing for this year to be different. My daughter grew at least six inches over the last year, and she’s starting high school – a combination that amounts to a back-to-school perfect storm.
By Mark Hyatt
President & CEO
This Aug. 28 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech—or as we like to refer to it at CEP, his “Content of Character” speech.
From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, addressing more than 250,000 civil rights supporters who had gathered in 1963 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King reportedly had not intended to list examples of his “dream.”
The majority of parents admit their kids are in front of that TV more than they’d like, but with summer here that could pose a special problem: How to get the kiddos off the couch so they experience something other than TV these next months.
Beware: it’s easy for kids (and us) to fall into the additive habit of spending too much time in front of the boob tube. But there are dangers to our children’s emotional, physical, cognitive, and social development that we should consider. The fact is the more kids watch TV, the more time is lost
for nurturing creativity, learning sports or hobbies, reading and expanding their knowledge, playing in the great outdoors, practicing social skills, or just finding ways to entertain and enjoy themselves. Those key “Family connecting moments” are lost, as are other crucial life lessons and just experiencing those lazy, hazy crazy days of summer.
By Mark Hyatt, President & CEO
Before the summer slips away from us all, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment here to talk about the wonderful experience that occurred June 16-21 at CEP’s second Leaders of Character Camp (LoCC), hosted once again by my alma mater, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Many thanks to our individual sponsors and the SD Bechtel Foundation for making this camp possible.
Despite another unsettling Colorado summer clouded by the threat of continuing wildfires, 19 high school juniors and seniors from across the state were able to put their worries aside for a week and concentrate solely on improving themselves and each other. Led by five AFA cadets and four students from other colleges, the group took part in a range of classroom discussions and competitive outdoor activities designed to promote teamwork, trust, creativity,accountability and other core values.
“It’s a way to equip youth with habits of honorable character,” explained Maj. Dale Sanders, LoCC director and deputy director of the AFA Center for Character and Leadership Development. This year’s challenging group exercises included hiking, biking, rafting, geocashing and paintballing.
By Dave Keller, Director of Transformation & Strategic Initiatives
The moment last night was powerful and uplifting --- and well deserved.
In the history of Major League Baseball, no one has done what New
York Yankees’ relief pitcher Mariano Rivera has done. Simply put: He is the greatest closing relief pitcher ever.
But that’s not why I’m writing about him in a character blog.
By Ed DeRoche
There are only two C’s in “character,” but one can find many words that begin with C in describing good, positive character traits and behaviors. I’ve compiled a few C words that show the attributes of character.
1. Caring: Two important synonyms are “compassion” and “empathy.” Robert Krzaric wrote in The Greater Good’s e-newsletter that caring-empathy is one’s “ability to step into another person’s shoes, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions.” Most importantly, he notes that new research suggests that caring-empathy is “a habit we can cultivate.”
By Joe Mazzola
Today is Flag Day-- at time to remember our nation's freedoms and core values. I try to do that regularly.
On Memorial Day, I attended a special ceremony at a small cemetery in the town that I now call home. It was one of the most touching ceremonies
I’ve ever attended. I felt like I had gone back in time to what I picture as “small town America.”
By Carey Casey
Leading up to Father’s Day, there’s a national campaign to remind fathers of the important role they play in their children’s lives. It uses a common phrase for its slogan: quality time.
I endorse this, because we need dads embracing their roles, spending time with their kids, and making memories together. And time is one of the most important, basic commitments that a father makes. Quality time with your kids is a great goal.
At the same time, I hope that term doesn’t give you the wrong idea as a dad ...
Four ‘Character’ Books to Explore
By Becky Sipos, Chief Operating Officer
When I was a teacher, I always looked forward to catching up on the pleasures of reading during summer vacation. I accumulated a big stack of beach reading and fun novels, but I also always took time to read some education books to improve my teaching and recharge my classroom practices.
One year ago, a great American died. His name was Sandy McDonnell. He was an honorable man who left behind a remarkable legacy. It is one we can all learn from.
Sandy was brilliant. After graduating from Princeton and completing graduate school in Colorado, he worked on the Top Secret Manhattan Project during World War II. Afterwards, he went on to reach the very highest levels in the corporate sector. He rose through the ranks to become CEO of a giant aerospace company. Along the way, he traveled the world, met Presidents and heads of state, and received lots of high-level awards and honors.
Bayless Elementary School – St. Louis, MO
Program: Character Camp
Bayless Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri, created a year-end celebration called Character Camp. This Promising Practice empowers students, teachers, and parents to research and create various stations that emphasize the character traits.
Here’s an example of how it worked one year. First, the teachers came up with a theme for the camp, e.g., “Where in the world is Character Carl?” Next, the students and teachers held class meetings to choose a destination for Character Carl to visit. The students had to research the destination so they’d be able to represent the location (through decorations) at the activity site. The decorations were also used at Character Camp, to tie it all together.
It seems like everyone just can’t get enough of Les Miserables. It’s the world’s longest running musical, now seen by 60M people in 42 countries. Along the way, it’s received 96 major international awards. The most recent movie version is a box office smash, earning eight Academy Awards nominations.
Unless your pantry closely resembles the Back to School department at your local Walmart, buying new school supplies each year is something every parent can count on. Not only does it cost money, but supplying students with paper and other school-related items can put a damper on the environment and the world's resources.
Superstorm Sandy devastated much of the East Coast at the end of October. Millions lost homes, pets, electricity, and some have lost hope. However, many of our National Schools of Character have mobilized to help alleviate the issues that many of these communities are facing.
In my last blog I challenged myself, and probably meant to challenge you as well, by asking, “What am I going to do about my character development that will have a positive impact on my students?” In this blog I will explain one example of how I have attempted to answer this question in my classroom.
This afternoon the National Forum on Character Education was celebrated the 20 public schools, 3 private schools, 1 charter school, and 1 school district who became National Schools of Character this year. In a May press release, Lara Maupin stated that “These schools have built strong communities that bring people together around shared goals. Nobody feels alone or unwelcome in these schools. Adults are all on the same page about what’s important and, as a result, kids thrive.”
In Marvin Berkowitz’s Hot Topic discussion this afternoon, he didn’t hesitate to cut right to the point. “We need to make schools less like prisons,” he said. “When you think about it, it’s disconcerting how much the analogy fits. How can we create more enlightened and just schools?” Marvin’s talk focused on utilizing empowerment and democracy to accomplish this.
Topics: CEPLeaders, key lessons, character, character education, CEP2012, cheating, student voice, core values, what works in education, CEPForum10, character education in high school, Character Ed Infused in Curriculum
- Ellisville Elementary School in Ellisville, MO: using character traits in ballroom dancing (CEP VP gave the delegate from Ellisville a quick preview of his ballroom skills)
- Comsewogue High school in Port Jefferson Station, NY: SUSS (Students United for Safe Schools) students focus interventions on bullying to change the social norm. The Comseqogue delegation included seven current students!
- Babler Elementary School in Glencoe, MO : Their "A Leader in Me" program helps students identify one of their strengths that they can encourage in others.
- Cranford High school in Cranford, NJ: Blankets of Love - students band together to make fun, colorful blankets for kids with cancer.
- Green Pines Elementary School in Greenwood, MO: Gators Earn, Learn, and Give Back - Students raised money via a book drive and garage sale to make money for the local food bank.
- Jefferson Elementary Elementary in Greensboro, NC. Delivers character traits via a recurring puppet show program during their daily show.
On Saturday morning, conference attendees participated in a session on the fundamental - though rarely practiced - keys to success using social media. Here are a few takeaways from the session:
When keynote presenter Paul Tough became a dad, he never thought he would be using parenting techniques he learned from rats. Tough delivered a compelling keynote address at the 2012 National Forum during the afternoon session. "Parents and other caregivers who are able to form close, nurturing relationships with their children can foster resilience in them that protects them from many of the worst effects of a harsh early environment." Amazingly, we see strong evidence of this in the behavior of lab rats. The effect of good parenting is not just emotional or physiological. Neuroscientists say it is biochemical.
Internationally recognized expert and author Michele Borba gave attendees a tour-de-force of the critical components of effective bullying prevention. Most people don’t realize what an issue bullying is in the United States, but a few statistics make it clear that we have an epidemic. Today, 1 in 3 US students are bullied. Rates are similarly high and rising internationally, where 1 in 5 students is bullied. The problem is so bad that the US National School Safety Center has stated that bullying is “the most enduring and underrated problem in American schools.”
When Sara leaves her house each day, she know she has loving teachers waiting. Every day that 8-year-old Sara goes to school, educators at Plattin Primary in Festus, Missouri make sure she encounters a culture of character. Plattin students start each day off with a curbside greeting from their principle and PE teacher. Once inside the building, students continue to be welcomed by loving staff as well their teachers who meet each student at the entrance to their classrooms.
Scott Taylor gave an outstanding keynote address this morning, using a mix of humor, entertainment, and experiences to share the importance of building strong relationships and maintaining positivity in schools. Principal Taylor shared stories from his own experience, and it’s clear that Principal Taylor practices what he preaches. Every day, he roams the halls of his school to spread positivity, and goes out of his way to let students know he cares. He checks in to every class, every day. He humorously wears 100 ties on the 100th day of class. And on Fridays, “Mr. T” raps about character. “I tell you what,” he said, after sharing an illustrative rap with this mornings audience, “you can teach a lot about character when you talk fast and rap!.”
We just wrapped up an outstanding first day at the 2012 the National Forum on Character Education - #cep2012. The day was filled with lots of excitement and energy.
Dealing with a difficult child is one of those necessary tasks in education and parenting that we would all choose to forgo if given the opportunity. The fact remains that dealing with these kids provides an excellent opportunity to shape and mold a student’s character.
"Every person wants their kids to be good human beings. Depending on the culture, the details get fuzzy. And how those details fits into the national education system is a big issue as well."
Today, a group of Forum attendees spent the morning at Mt. Vernon, George Washington's historic Virginia home. On the bus ride down, I was able to meet Carrie and Barb-- two teachers from Clifton-Clyde High School in Kansas who teach character education to their entire student body. It was so cool here about what their school is doing and I wanted to pass along a few tidbits.
On July 3rd, the eve of Independence Day, the White House hosted a meeting on citizen-based innovation. The main charge of the meeting was to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?” at a time when the country is struggling economically. Each panel and discussion focused on how we can leverage social innovation and the United States’ finest resource—“the people”—to be resilient and move forward, as a nation.
When I was growing up, I heard adults say: “Do as I say, not as I do.” After spending the last decade as a public school superintendent, it didn’t take me long to realize that the kids of this millennium don’t have much use for that approach. Instead, they prefer role models whom they can emulate in every way, every day -- folks who "walk the talk" and live their own message.
“Teachers matter,” said President Obama this week in his State of the Union address. “Instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”
We at the nonprofit Character Education Partnership (CEP) share this concern because “teaching to the test” can deceive stakeholders into thinking students are doing better than they really are. But in the current environment, we are even more alarmed by how the testing status quo seems to be adversely affecting the integrity of our education system, itself.
Recent revelations of widespread testing fraud in Atlanta's public schools are just the latest examples of a disturbing national trend that should finally force all of us who care about education to ask some uncomfortable but unavoidable questions. Chief among them: Has a national over-emphasis on standardized testing actually created a monster that is eroding the character of K-12 education?