What's Happening in Character?

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

Growing Good Character: The Benefits of School Gardens

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 @ 06:09 AM

He came to us with many seeds planted in his life.  The seed of violence from an abusive father.  The seed of anger from a defensive single mother.  The seed of poverty; he was one of eight children.  The seed of hunger--he needed a small snack upon entering school to make it to breakfast without defiant episodes.

Enter the school garden.  It was time to plant our fall beans.  His eyes began to sparkle as he helped prepare the warm dry soil, breaking up clods, removing obstacles, and smoothing the dirt with his hands.  Hope was planted in one small bean seed.  Motivation was nurtured by teachers who encouraged him, saying, "Let's check to see how our beans are doing."

The reason for hard work sprouted from the kindness of caring for the needs of baby plants.  Self discipline grew as he turned his thoughts to the garden, initiating visits to water, weed, and admire growth.  Just as the beans matured, so did his respect for himself and others.

He took joy in gathering the crop to share with his school community, knowing he had been responsible for the outcome.  He washed and stemmed the beans for cooking, being accountable for food safety.  He delighted in the fruits of his labor, smiling as he ate.  He saved one bean to take home, sharing the miracle of growth and transformation with his family.

The school garden, impacting the community one child at a time.

This excerpt, written by Brenda Proebsting, a teacher at 2015 National School of Character, Southwest Early Childhood Center, beautifully depicts the power of getting students out of the classroom and into school gardens.

In a recent Harvard Graduate School of Education EdCast, “Roots of the School Gardening Movement,” host Matt Weber interviewed Jane Hirschi, author of Ripe for Change: Garden-Based Learning in Schools. Jane shared, that while school gardens are not new and date back to John Dewey, our current school garden movement is “driven by an interest in food” and serves as a “link between kids knowing about foods and making healthy food choices.” It is especially important, as our students’ lives become more and more dictated by technology, that we continue to value time outdoors and cultivate their love of nature.

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Topics: Academics,, Community Involvement, Outdoor Education

The Power of Partnering with Parents

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Tue, Sep 8, 2015 @ 07:09 AM

by Becky Sipos

Early in my teaching career, I called a parent concerned about her daughter. I’ll never forget her response: “I don’t call you for help with my job, so why are you calling me for help with yours?” I still vividly recall my shock as I had assumed helping her daughter develop into a responsible adult was a shared commitment.

As I gained experience, I realized that for many parents a call from school always meant bad news and was to be avoided. So I shifted my approach and began sending home positive post cards for every student and calling home with something positive about each child in my classes. At Back to School night I asked both moms and dads in attendance to fill out a card telling me something about their child that I probably didn’t know and to share how I might teach them more effectively. Of course, I occasionally still called home to discuss a problem, but the positive approach worked wonders.

I am recalling these memories because Character.org is focusing this month on Principle 10: engaging families and community members as partners. The start of school is always a good time to connect with parents, but it’s not always easy.

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Topics: parent involvement, Community Involvement

Beyond Fundraising: Parent Involvement in Kids' Character Development

Posted by Calvary Diggs on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 @ 08:09 AM

When it comes to education, and character education in particular, there are many important key players: teachers, parents, and the community at large. Educating youth is a cooperative endeavor. And when schools, parents, and communities deliberately encourage similar values and goals, the opportunities for student success and growth become unlimited.

During the month of September, our blog will focus on Parent and Community Engagement through Principle 10, “The school engages families and community members as partners in the character-building effort.” This Resource Roundup provides advice, strategies, and resources for strengthening the solidarity between school and community and teachers and parents. These channels of communication are essential and must be utilized for more than ensuring homework gets done on time. Educators and parents need to communicate about what matters, both in terms of the child’s academic and character growth.

Getting Started

The first step in any successful relationship is starting it and “A Dozen Activities to Promote Parent Involvement” is a great place to begin. The most common ice breakers that teachers use are letters and emails at the beginning of the term, which they continue throughout the year. More than merely keeping parents regularly informed concerning classroom happenings, these letters are a great way to communicate your classroom rules, values and norms to your students’ families

Need help getting started? There are plenty of templates available online, or you can easily make one that fits your own unique style.

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Topics: parent involvement, Character Resource Roundup, Community Involvement

The 2015 National Schools of Character Press Event

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Fri, May 15, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

At Character.org we frequently reflect on our mission and our role in the greater landscape of education. In addition to working directly with schools, we strive to serve as “bridge builders” connecting teachers, students and administrators to researchers and policymakers. This aspect of our mission was abundantly clear as I looked around the room at our 2015 National Schools of Character Event the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Wednesday morning.

 

Our attendees were quite a varied group including elementary school students, high school students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, legislative assistants, a representative from the Department of Education and a congresswoman. What did all of these people have in common? They are committed to character.

They came to hear about the dedicated work of the 64 National Schools of Character and 3 National Districts of Character that earned recognition in 2015. Since we didn’t have time to talk about each and every school, President & CEO, Becky Sipos highlighted specific school’s practices that were representative of the whole group’s accomplishments. Throughout the year, we will continue to highlight these practices of our National Schools of Character, but until then these examples help to depict the trends that she noticed.

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Topics: Schools of Character, Community Involvement