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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
Dear CEP Family—
On behalf of the entire CEP staff and Board of Directors, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and New Year.
Like most of America in these uncharacteristically somber days, we at CEP are filled with great sadness as the K-12 community from coast to coast takes its winter break and bids farewell to 2012. We are sad because we know that too many young people are still suffering in our society, due to many factors, not the least of which is violence in schools and surrounding neighborhoods.
Earlier this month, in the wake of the monstrous tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “Our schools should and must be one of the safest places in society. Now is the time for another, ‘quieter heroism’ in our schools—the courage to move forward, to continue to teach and lead children, and to take smart precautions to minimize the risk of future tragedies.”
We share this commitment to press onward with both courage and character. In 2013, CEP will take up this cause with hope and renewed purpose to help more families, schools and communities surround our young people with life-affirming experiences, role models and media that encourage them to be their best selves.
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.
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.
The world lost a great leader when CEP's co-founder and Chairman Emeritus Sanford N. McDonnell passed away in March. The overwhelming outpour of emotions from those who knew him and whose lives he had touched inspired CEP to archive the sentiments and prepare a book of memories for the McDonnell family. Our Vice President, Joe Mazzola, shared his thoughts in a blog post shortly after Sandy's passing.
As you sit in your crowded lecture hall and toil away at that seemingly impossible math problem, you glance down and see a peer in the next row surreptitiously looking at formulas he has scrawled on his hand. This scene sounds quite plausible to many students. Whether they’ve engaged in the behavior themselves or simply witnessed a friend or fellow student cheating, most students are familiar with academic dishonesty. It’s your job, as a moral and upright learner, to take a stand for what you believe in and do your part to combat cheating. If you fail to do so, you’ll be doing yourself and your fellow learners a disservice.
by Michele Borba
REALITY CHECK: Empathy is the moral virtue that helps children “identify with and feel other people’s concerns.” When they do, they are more likely to reach out and respond in more caring, compassionate ways to others. Unlike genetics or appearance or most temperaments, empathy can be cultivated, and research shows that infants are already hard-wired. The best way to nurture empathy is for children to witness or experience it.
So now review the last few days: What has your child done or seen that would stretch — or shrink — his or her empathy growth?
The Power of Experiencing and Witnessing Empathy
Several years ago, our youngest son brought home a note from his teacher asking for parent volunteers to chaperone a class field trip. His teacher, Cindy Hollinger, was encouraging her students to give up their Saturday morning to participate in a race called “Lauren’s Run” sponsored by the City of Hope. The event was held in the memory of Lauren Zagoria, a three-year old child who died from cancer. Her parents, Janis and Marvin Zagoria, founded the event in her memory and honor and were committed to finding the cure for the disease that took their beautiful child from them.
Our local event was held on a large open field. Each racer would pay an entrance fee of a few dollars, and all the profits would go to pediatric cancer research. Volunteering to drive to that event was one of the easiest decisions I’ve made.
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.
I have a very heavy heart right now because Sandy McDonnell passed away. You see, he was my hero. Like many others who knew and loved this great man, I now feel a huge emptiness in my life that I know will never be filled. I loved Sandy like a father.
It was a great blessing to have him in my corner for the five years I served as CEP’s executive director. Anyone who knows me would surely tell you that I needed all the help I could get, too. And that was especially true since I had no experience in the nonprofit sector until Sandy and others hired me.
Fortunately, on the work front, Sandy was always there for me. He coached and guided me through all of the really important and tough areas of running any organization—like financial management, strategic planning, human resources and more.
And, Sandy did all of this mentoring quietly and behind-the-scenes. Board members, staff and others never knew all he did for me from the shadows. That’s because Sandy was one of those very rare but genuine servant leaders that many of us read about but never meet. He couldn’t care less about being in the spotlight. Instead, he worked to make everyone else around him shine.