What's Happening in Character?

Professional Development at The National Forum on Character Education

Posted by Jess Gawrych on Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 09:05 AM

How do we build caring and productive communities?

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Topics: character education, Professional Development, 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

Teachers are Learners Too!

Posted by Jennifer Pilarski on Thu, May 12, 2016 @ 08:05 AM

By Jennifer Pilarski, STAT Teacher* at Norwood Elementary

*Baltimore County Public Schools has developed the Students & Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (S.T.A.T.) initiative which has provided each school a teacher who is a professional development resource and instructional coach.

Teacher-centered Learning

If you are a teacher, you've been told to create a student-centered environment, shouldn't those creating PD for teachers have to do the same thing? The traditional forced faculty meetings and lecture style professional development are just as ineffective as lecturing to our students. It is time to provide teachers with customized and personalized learning opportunities and to capitalize on the leadership and expertise within the staff.

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Topics: teachers, Professional Development

Building Unity while Navigating Change: The Story of Westwood & Bales

Posted by Barbara Gruener on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 @ 09:06 AM

by Barbara Gruener

I can remember that afternoon as if it happened yesterday: the song We Are Family started playing over the intercom, our signature all-call to come to the cafeteria for a school staff community circle. It could have meant a number of things; a schedule change we needed to know about, a community concern we could help with, or an important announcement.

Seeing our Superintendent in there told us it’d be the latter.

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Topics: Professional Development

The Power of Example

Posted by Dave Keller on Mon, Jun 15, 2015 @ 09:06 AM

American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with my all-time favorite character quote:

“Who you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”

I’m astonished at the powerful simplicity of these words. As I recall the most influential people in my past, each of them demonstrated behavioral integrity — their actions matched their words. Conversely, some of my most painful memories involve observing hypocrisy in people I had previously trusted.

Maybe that’s why Principle 8 of Character.org’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education resonates so powerfully — and personally — with me. It speaks to the very heart of Emerson’s quote:

Principle 8: The school staff is an ethical learning community that shares responsibility for character education and adheres to the same core values that guide the students.

At first glance, it may seem as though Principle 8 has two distinct parts: (a) be an ethical learning community, and (b) adhere to the same core values that guide the students.  In a sense, I guess that’s accurate. But I really perceive these two elements as being so interconnected that they are, at least in my mind, one and the same. We’re talking about of the power of EXAMPLE.

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Topics: 11 Principles, Professional Development

3 Books All Educators Should Read this Summer

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Thu, Jun 11, 2015 @ 16:06 PM

By Becky Sipos 

Count me among the millions who have watched Ken Robinson’s 2006 Ted Talk on “How Schools Kill Creativity,” (the most viewed in the organization’s history), so when it was time to select books for my summer reading column, I knew one book I would choose was Robinson’s new book

Creative Schools The Grassroots Revolution That's Transforming Education.”

The book is full of inspiring schools and creative educators. Robinson makes a key distinction between teaching and learning and many stories focus on that. I found particularly touching his example about a teacher in Mexico, who taught at a primary school in Matamoros, described as “a destitute town not far from the U.S. border that regularly serves as a backdrop for drug wars.” After several years of traditional teaching with limited success, Sergio Juarez Correa decided to focus on empowering students to learn for themselves. He built his lessons around open-ended questions and encouraged collaboration and conversations.

The transformation was amazing. One girl who lived by a dump and had never done well turned out to be a math prodigy and scored the highest math score ever and was featured on national television. But 10 other students scored in the 99th percentile in math. Not that Correa was impressed by their standardized test scores as he was focused on empowering them to think and do so much more, but the scores showed others the potential that had been ignored among his students.

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Topics: Book Review, Professional Development

A Model for Effective Professional Development

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Jun 8, 2015 @ 12:06 PM

Commitment to professional development means more than setting aside a couple of days for meetings after the school year ends.  As we are emphasizing the importance of Principle 8 this month, we have already shared professional development resources that will allow you to engage with your staff in meaningful ways. Now, I want to highlight a 2015 National District of Character, that has excelled at prioritizing professional development. The Eastern Christian School Association (with campuses in North Haledon, Midland Park and Wyckoff, New Jersey) has devoted much of their time and resources to ensure that staff never stop learning and their efforts have yielded an impressive model that schools everywhere should consider.

When I had the opportunity to meet with Dick Van Yperen, Director of Curriculum & Instruction, and Tom Dykhouse, Head of School, this past spring, I learned about the Eastern Christian Professional Development Academy. The academy is run by a team of teachers that first assesses the needs of the staff and then uses this information to develop courses that will address those needs. The school pays the experts in the subjects (both Eastern Christian teachers and outside instructors) to teach these courses but the courses are free for all participants to attend. Those who participate even receive equivalent graduate credit. Many of these courses, offered on a trimester basis, focus on leadership and character. Unlike traditional inservice days, these courses take place in the afternoons and evenings and run through the trimester.

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Topics: Professional Development

Faculty Book Studies: a Powerful Form of Professional Development

Posted by Michael Anselmo on Wed, Jun 3, 2015 @ 11:06 AM

by Dr. Michael Anselmo

As we worked our way through this journey, one thing was apparent: the staff needed to be on the same page when it came to character education. 

I have been the principal at Selvidge Middle School for the last 3 years.  Prior to being named the principal, I was the assistant principal for 9 years.  We have an amazing community of learners.  The teachers are an integral part of who we are, and the messages we send to our young people come directly through them.  In the decade I have been at Selvidge we had never conducted a book study with the staff.  This past year we decided to study “Teach Like a Champion” by Doug Lemov. 

What was great about this exercise was that it made everyone on staff hear the same language and reflect on the same issues that present themselves on a daily basis in our profession. Some of us got more out of this study than others, for sure, but it made us all connect to each other.  We had rich discussions about our practices in the classroom, the halls and in our community at large.  

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Topics: Professional Development

Resources for Meaningful Professional Development

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Jun 1, 2015 @ 08:06 AM

During the month of June, the Character.org blog will be focusing on Principle 8, “the school staff is an ethical learning community.” But how do we create that ethical learning community? There are many effective ways to spark ethical discussion and growth amongst your staff.

  1. Start the conversation by doing an all staff book-study.

Recommended Books:
2015 National School of Character, Selvidge Middle School, chose Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov as their all staff book study. The book can prompt discussion of honesty and integrity in the classroom and provide practical strategies for helping struggling students.
In What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things that Matter Most , author Todd Whittaker covers a wide variety of topics, from creating a caring atmosphere to dealing with standardized testing, in an inviting and engaging way.
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Topics: Professional Development

Appreciating Teachers: How Can Principals Show They Care?

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Wed, May 6, 2015 @ 09:05 AM

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, parents across the country are organizing luncheons, baking cookies and buying gifts to thank teachers. Students are making cards and writing notes. What do principals do to appreciate the teachers at their school?

Amy Johnston was the principal of Francis Howell Middle School (Missouri), which was recognized as a National School of Character in 2008. Amy always made it a priority to listen to teachers, value their ideas and collaborate with them to make lasting school change. She emphasizes that teacher appreciation is much too important to limit to a designated day or even week.

"Showing teachers that they are appreciated should be embedded in the very culture of a building.  Appreciation should be ongoing and authentic and not based solely on something a teacher does, but for who they are and what they bring to the table.  True appreciation is beyond the Bagel Breakfast in May; it is asking, listening, grappling and learning with teachers every day.  Giving teachers a voice, honoring their wisdom and experience and making them true partners in school improvement is how great leaders appreciate teachers."

Bob Freado was both a principal and the Coordinator of Character Education for Peters Township School District (Pennsylvania), a 2010 National District of Character. He indicates one important way principals can appreciate teachers is by respecting their time. He begins his reflection with a quote and shares his teacher appreciation strategies.

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Topics: Teacher Appreciation, Professional Development