What's Happening in Character?
I just finished reading Brain on Fire , a powerful memoir of journalist Susannah Cahalan’s descent into madness. It is a gripping personal story as well as a fascinating look at the cutting edge of neuroscience. But one small story in the book really captured my heart--the story of Dr. Souhel Najjar, the doctor who was instrumental in diagnosing Cahalan’s disease. No one else had been able to figure it out. Dr. Najjar was impressive with his heartfelt and sympathetic bedside manner, but it was his backstory that touched me and explained why he had such an affection for the weak and the powerless.
It’s the time of year when most schools are having award assemblies to celebrate their end-of-year achievements, so I was surprised to learn that Bayless High School, a 2015 National School of Character, decided to move its assembly to the fall. What were they thinking? I called principal Patrick McEvoy to find out.
First, he said the staff realized that they couldn’t really celebrate the whole year because the data often didn’t arrive until the summer. And second semester achievements often weren’t recognized because the semester wasn’t over. Also, the assembly had become a long affair, meaningful for seniors, but perhaps just “something to sit through” for other students. So they kept their celebration for seniors, but moved everyone else to the fall. He said that move has had surprising results.Read More
At 2014 National School of Character, Smith Street School, reflection is so important that the school made it one of its core values. Principal, Lynnda Nadien, reflects on the impact that reflection has had on the students, the teachers and the school culture.
by Lynnda Nadien
As building principal, I am extremely proud of my students' accomplishments in terms of their academic and character development. This year alone, I have witnessed children fundraising, sharing ideas, and literally directing programs to support our school touchstone which includes respect, responsibility and reflection.
Taking time to reflect is very powerful for the entire operation. This allows us to know what works, and what does not work. Reflection has allowed us to build our team’s capacity for all facets of social and emotional well-being of children. Children are highly involved in all aspects as well and they have developed skills to be decision makers and to produce high quality work in all areas. Reflection is an ongoing process, as each day is a challenge and we feel that we have high expectations and each child is meeting those expectations, via reflection. For example, a first grader said she knew her “decision was not a good one”, but “if I can think about it, maybe I can do better tomorrow.”Read More
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
- Elie Weisel
With Holocaust Remembrance day beginning on April 15 at sundown, I have been wondering how the Holocaust is discussed in the classroom and even if it is discussed at all. As Weisel’s quote suggests, studying the Holocaust, or any genocide, for that matter, provides the opportunity to engage students in meaningful discussions not only about tolerance but also about moral action.
Although delving into complex, meaningful topics like the Holocaust, is an essential part of a rigorous curriculum, it can still be an intimidating topic for teachers to address. To learn more about how schools can teach genocide studies in an impactful and approachable way, I turned to 2013 National School of Character, Hanover Park High School District, winner of a Promising Practice for their Genocide Gallery Walk.Read More