By Maricarmen Esper, Character Education Author and SpeakerRead More
What's Happening in Character?
by Calvary Diggs
It’s a little over fifty years ago, and the United States exists in less vibrant tones and colors. No diversity. No rainbows. The atmosphere operates only on an absolute of black and white.
For one child, he first began to understand the diff
erence– one that he’d later describe as ‘inequality’ and ‘injustice’ – when he was denied access to a local library. He’s black. The library was for whites only.
Years later, the child – not so young and naïve anymore – finds a comic about a man named, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The child sees the similarities. Empathizes. Wants to help make the world a better place.
Many years later, he’s in college and a young man.
He decides to take part in the freedom rides. At twenty-three, he marches and speaks alongside Dr. King – his hero. The young man learns to understand generations of pain and hate while enduring a growing list of arrests and hate crimes. He has to exercise grit and determination at Selma as he’s violently attacked by police. And he shows courage and integrity to this day as a congressman working with the rights of others in mind.
This man is Congressman John Lewis, and we are honored to have him deliver a keynote address at the National Forum on Character Education.
As education professionals involved in character education, we frequently ask, “What does good character like in action?” To answer this question, we actively seek real-life role models and genuine examples. They provide us with the inspiration, ideas, and stamina necessary to lead our youth to becoming productive citizens with strong ethical principles. No one embodies these qualities better than John Lewis.Read More
By Barbara Gruener
Fall was turning into winter last year when we realized it was time to freshen up the bulletin board at the end of my hallways. My intern Anna suggested a winter scene and I told her I wanted it to have something to do with kindness. I suggested Kindness = Global Warming. I could totally see it. A snow globe with a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting, until she said, “You want melting snowmen?” Well no, not the global warming that melts polar ice sheets and glaciers and makes life challenging for polar bears. I’m talking about the kind of global warming that warms hearts all over the world. We compromised and agreed on It’s Cool To Be Kind All Around The Globe.
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.
Thank goodness my wife opened my eyes to the importance of empathy before I became a father and a school leader. To be honest, for the first half of my life, I was so driven to achieve the task at hand that I struggled to understand why some people just couldn’t show up, get to work and do what they had to do. By definition, “empathy” is accurately understanding what another person is feeling. If we understand the content of what the other person is saying, but cannot correctly identify the emotion that person is feeling, then we are not demonstrating empathy and we are not even aware of our deficiency.
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.”
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!.”
A 2011 study in Virginia elementary, middle, and high schools found that bullying is considered the primary safety concern of students in all grade levels (Garrow, 2011). Students in middle school were most concerned with bullying (92%), followed by elementary (83%) and high school students (77%). Bullied students may experience many negative effects, including depression and risk for suicide (Kim & Leventhal, 2008). These statistics are alarming, and it is important to understand the ways that schools and districts can exponentially reduce these concerns so that students are able to concentrate on learning and build healthy peer relationships.
Eight years ago, Crestwood Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri, became truly engaged in character education. We were already a pretty good school and doing some character education, but a district decision directed all schools to do more character education following the Caring School Community (CSC) program with its emphasis on autonomy, belonging, and competence. A leadership team of four staff and one parent became excited about the possibilities that an increased focus on character education could bring to our school. Now, eight years later Crestwood has just finished a remarkable year when we were named not only a National School of Character, but a National Blue Ribbon School as well —the only school in the nation to receive both of these prestigious national awards.
Don't miss your chance for a free copy of Teaching Kids to Be Good People: Progressive Parenting for the 21st Century, by Annie Fox. Just click the link on Thursday, 10/18/12 or Friday, 10/19/12 for your free book. Note: The link will only work these two days for a free book. Even if you don't have a Kindle, the downloaded file will work on your Mac, PC, iPod, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone. Here is an excerpt to whet your appetite:
I remember October 1, 2010. My friend Rachel emailed to find out if I’d blogged yet about the cyberbullying incident that ended in a Rutgers University freshman killing himself. I told her the news had really upset me, but I had no insights that couldn’t be found elsewhere. What do you say when yet another teen is so victimized by bullies s/he can’t figure out what the hell to do to make things OK again and gives up everything just to end the suffering?
What is Service Learning?
Simply put, service learning occurs in classrooms as students connect academics—skills and content—with authenticated community needs. Students grow a garden in science class that provides produce for a food bank or orphanage. While studying about World War II, students interview veterans of a past or current war to gain a deeper understanding of the particularities that affect men and women who serve, and use these stories to create a publication or performance to share what they learned with others. Students might take on an environmental issue, like the preponderance of single-use plastic water bottles that fill up dumpsters everywhere. They can use their persuasive writing abilities to develop a convincing marketing campaign for reusable water bottles and create PSAs to broadcast on local radio. And after interviewing the head of a local school with minimum resources, students have connected classroom studies to creating teaching resources that improve educational opportunities in their own backyard.
The following comes from one of our National Forum on Character Education keynoters, Bertice Berry's, blog. She is blogging daily in an attempt to teach her readers and herself the art of transformation. She writes:
It’s a fresh start. A chance to start over. An opportunity to be successful, to put the past behind, to forge a new reputation and to have perfect attendance. The new school year offers students new teachers, new friends, new challenges and new rewards.
Sadly, for many middle and high school students, it’s another year of half-hearted attempts to get to school, cherry-picking classes to attend, discouragement, suspensions, falling behind, temptations from the outside world, little parental encouragement to attend school every day and eventually being labeled a “dropout.”
The following is an excerpt of the book “Character Education with Chess”
The King is the most valuable piece in chess. Its value is absolute because if you lose your King, you lose the game. The other pieces have a relative value which changes depending on the position and situation and are expendable. The King, therefore, symbolizes those crucial things in life that can not be bought and sold.
The gaping hole in the current debates about education is the failure to assess our ultimate goal. In “Waiting for Superman,” for example, the ultimate purpose of schooling — depicted almost farcically through cartoon images in the movie — is the better filling of each child’s head with information rather than the better cultivation of great critical and creative thinkers. As William Butler Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” Our current goal is anything but lighting a fire.
This excerpted blog article is reposted with permission from Zoe Weil, an honored and esteemed speaker at our upcoming National Forum on Character Education. It was originally posted here. Zoe was also recently featured in Forbes Magazine, discussing the heart of education.
by Marvin Berkowitz, of the University of Missouri's Center for Character & Citizenship
I was recently asked how to convince people that character education actually works. The cynicism, skepticism, and conservativism out there often astounds me. Amy Johnston, the award-winning principal of 2008 National School of Character Francis Howell Middle School (St. Charles, MO), expresses the same frustration.
As the character education pioneer in her district, she often presents a comparison of her school’s academic and character data as compared with the other four middle schools in her district. Even early in her character education journey, she started to see her school pull away from the other four in both areas.
When other educators noticed the results she was getting, they began to ask for her secrets. She answered “character education.” To which they typically replied “No. Really. What did it?” So she would explain how she used character education to rethink and reform her school and would describe the specific initiatives she enacted, like looped, multi-aged “homerooms” and a collaboratively-generated set of four core values with a corresponding rubric crafted in part by students. And they would shake their heads and walk away seemingly disappointed. So she laments “they see the data, I tell them what we did, and they don’t believe it. What more can I do?”
Amy’s frustration mirrors the frustration of many educators who believe in character education and base their beliefs on hard data. I hear all too often that “there is no research on character education.” Well that is patently inaccurate.
By Lindsey Wright
The use of technology has been a growing force in education. Once, classrooms were relatively isolated, nestled into a school in a suburb, small town or city. Now, regardless of physical location, today's students have access to the larger world through the Internet. However, the focus of education itself has not necessarily changed.
Educating has always been about preparing students to be successful citizens, in whatever way possible. Strong reading, writing and math skills continue to be important, as does character. Being able to get along with others, having self-control and patience, being honest and trustworthy: these have always been traits teachers have hoped to instill in their students, and that remains true today.
We believe gardening in schools is a necessity.
Most of us probably know that school gardens are a great teaching tool that can be used to enrich curriculum and improve physical health, but we believe in gardens as a way to grow character. We see this everyday in our garden.
We see children sharing, working hard, and being kind. We watch kids grow responsibility as well as vegetables. We see kids engaged, excited, motivated, and proud of their school. We watch as kids make connections between their school, their community, and the planet.
The following is a post from one of our Forum presenters, Sue Lee, the creator of “I Believe in Me!” a 2009 Parents’ Choice Award Winner.
If you’re reading this blog, I hope you will be in attendance at the National Forum on Character Education in San Francisco Oct 28th – 30th. Like me, you are probably very excited that character education is gaining in the educational priority lineup!
I happen to be a forum breakout speaker, my name is Sue Lee and I’m presenting Friday the 29th 2:30-3:45pm. My topic is: Thriving – The Power of Positive Emotional Development. The National Scientific Council On The Developing Child out of Harvard, states, “That emotional intelligence is hardwired into the very architecture of the brain.” As a nation and as educators we must become aware of the significance of that in regards to character education. I will be addressing that a child’s character development is not only hardwired in their brain, but the fact that character development/EQ is actually linked to the physical formation of the brain. That phenomena leads to a developing belief that our nurture becomes our nature.
Here you will find articles from CEP Members, Leaders, Speakers, and select authors from around the country and the world. As a CEP Member please feel free to make comments about the articles you see here. We welcome feedback and suggestions!