What's Happening in Character?

Relevance, Relationships and Service Learning

Posted by Meghann Persenaire on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 @ 09:03 AM

Relevance A young man, formerly incarcerated, stood on our auditorium’s dimly lit stage, and asked our scholars the following question: “Raise your hand if you know someone who is currently or was recently in prison.” With each moment of silence that followed, dozens of scholars quietly raised their hands. Refoundry, a nonprofit that trains formerly incarcerated people to repurpose discarded materials into home furnishings, is one of a few organizations that our scholars partner with each year.

Each month, our scholars select a social or environmental issue or organization that is relevant to them, for which they are passionate. Our scholars select a social or environmental issue that directly affects their families and/or their communities in Harlem and the Bronx. Mrs. Stephanie Fernandez, who also mentors our student government, and Ms. Karina Perez, who also mentors our National Junior Society, mentor scholars and guide them as they write lesson plans, contact organizations, and write proposals to our school’s Board of Directors and administration. However, it is because these issues are selected by and relevant to our scholars that we witnessed the marriage of service and learning, that we saw a month dedicated to “Reducing Recidivism” or “Equality” go beyond the canned food drive.

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Topics: Service learning, Caring Community

Service Learning for Character and Academic Lessons

Posted by David Wangaard on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 @ 08:03 AM

"Your [service learning] program has allowed me to reach students that I thought were unreachable. Their entire outlook on school and on life has changed drastically; I truly cannot thank you enough.”
– 6th Grade Teacher

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Topics: character, Service learning

Students Take Action: Hunger Stops Here

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Apr 7, 2016 @ 08:04 AM

By Rebecca Bauer

With the announcement of the 2016 Promising Practices only a few days away, I’m feeling excited to welcome a new batch of teachers and schools into our network. Promising Practices are an integral part of our work at Character.org because they give us the chance to recognize the amazing work happening in classrooms all around the world.

“These great ideas really highlight the creative efforts of outstanding teachers across the world,” said Dr. Dave Keller, Program Director. “It’s great to recognize what’s going well in the classroom. These practices represent practical, effective ways to develop empathy, conflict resolution skills, and good citizenship.”

Before we announce hundreds of new Promising Practices, I wanted to go back and share a 2015 Practice that I found inspiring. I love to read Promising Practices that focus on service learning because the students don’t merely scratch the service of giving back. Instead, they truly embody the key ingredients that make service learning effective.

Let’s take a look at some of the unique and compelling aspects of Beasley Elementary’s Promising Practice, Hunger Stops Here.

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Topics: Service learning

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

9 MLK Quotes to Inspire Your Day of Service

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Jan 11, 2016 @ 07:01 AM

 

For a number of years now, the Corporation for National and Community Service has declared  Martin Luther King Day, “A Day On, Not a Day Off.” It is truly fitting that we honor this American hero by giving back to others.

For lesson plans, promising practices and articles on service learning, we encourage you to become a Character.org member to receive an official Day of Service Toolkit. For inspiration, read these words of wisdom from MLK.

 

1.

 

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Topics: Service learning

Giving and Receiving in the Holiday Spirit: A Challenge for Parents and Kids Alike

Posted by Phil Brown on Wed, Dec 23, 2015 @ 18:12 PM

By Philip Brown

Whether we are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, we can all agree that the holidays can bring out the best of us and the worst of us. As the big end of year holidays approach it is a common experience to get anxious about how much there is to do, whether we have enough gifts to make everyone happy, and if our celebration of family and religious traditions will go as we hope. Our motives may be the best, but execution is daunting.

For parents there is a particular dilemma that is in our face every day because of the commercialization of the holidays that begins in early November. How can we help our kids understand the joy of giving as well as the pleasure of receiving? How can I make it a holiday filled with love rather than a time of regret and emotional emptiness?

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Topics: Service learning, Parenting

6 Key Ingredients for Powerful Service Learning

Posted by Sheril Morgan on Mon, Dec 21, 2015 @ 04:12 AM

 

by Sheril Morgan, Director, Schools of Character

Entitlement.  Webster says the definition of entitlement is the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges). There have been many conversations about younger generations having a sense of entitlement these days. When parents ask their children to do something, it is often attached to a reward for carrying out the task.  Often children are paid for good grades on a report card, and we forget the power of making meaning which is pointed out in Marvin Berkowitz’s latest blog, “My Son is not My Dog.”   

The truth is, we all are inherently selfish, and yet we have an incredible capacity to give of ourselves. The holiday season tends to highlight both sides of humanity, our selfish and selfless tendencies.  Thankfully, what we become is often what is nurtured and this presents an amazing opportunity to educators.  This is the perfect opportunity to empower young people to serve their community!

Many educators cringe at the thought of service learning because there is so much misunderstanding of the term in educational circles. However, it doesn’t have to be a daunting experience, and with creativity and shared leadership, it can have a life of its own.

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Topics: Service learning, 11 Principles

Improving Motivation through Student Voice & Choice

Posted by Tamra Nast on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 @ 05:11 AM


By Tamra Nast, Birmingham Covington School Counselor
Edited by Lori Soifer, Michigan State Schools of Character Coordinator

There is no owner’s manual for parents and teachers to tell us how to help each child grow into ethical, empathetic and responsible learners, leaders and citizens. Students come to us with unique abilities and talents. I believe the development of self- motivation is a lifelong skill, and one that can be a powerful force in a person’s life.

Principle 7, of the 11 Principles of Character Education, emphasizes intrinsic motivation over extrinsic rewards. In other words, doing the right thing for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do. True satisfaction and joy come from finding meaning and purpose in what you do in life. This principle emphasizes true heart change over compliance, celebrating and recognizing over rewarding.

Meaningful service learning (embedded in the curriculum), allowing students' voice and choice, and implementing a discipline system focused on learning, fuel the growth of self-motivation in students.


Last year, a group of 30 middle school students from Birmingham Covington School, attended the
Character.org National Forum. They came to teach teachers about their service-learning project. What started as a local water project focused on sustainability grew into a global project focused on eliminating poverty in rural sub-Saharan Africa. The depth, breadth and scope of this project grew exponentially, all because their teacher, in fostering students’ self-motivation, allowed the class voice and choice, and nurtured each student’s talents to determine how best they could meet the goals of the project.

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Topics: Service learning, intrinsic motivation

Promising Practices in Service Learning

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 @ 09:10 AM

by Rebecca Bauer

Are you looking to revamp or improve your service learning program? Challenge yourself to go beyond the typical annual food drive or fundraiser. Read about these three schools’ unique and powerful practices and the lessons we can all learn from them. Consider how you can make these ideas work in your own community!

- Use service learning projects as an opportunity for students to hone their research skills.

At Carusi Middle School, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, the Community Reading Program, Reading is My Superpower!, offers 6th, 7th and 8th graders the opportunity to inspire a love of reading in their younger peers. While many schools have reading buddies and peer mentoring programs, Carusi Middle School’s program stands out for its intentional approach.

Reading mentors take their jobs seriously and understand the importance of their work. Assistant Principal, Kelly McKenzie, shares that they “prepare for the field experience by researching the history of mentorship, selecting texts to read to their mentees and reading texts aloud to develop fluency through the Language Arts Enrichment course.” She adds, “This practice generally fosters strong leadership, models instructional excellence and promotes a positive school environment.”

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Topics: Service learning, promising practices

Why I Serve: A Student Perspective on Servant Leadership

Posted by Franchesca Ramirez on Thu, Aug 27, 2015 @ 08:08 AM

As a part of Principle 9, shared leadership, we aim to emphasize the crucial role students play in character education initiatives. One way we can value students’ contributions is by providing them the opportunity to share their own thoughts. Franchesca Ramirez, the author of this post, is a member of the Milton Hershey School Class of 2016 and will be a part of the team presenting “The Balance of Values & Accountability” at the 2015 National Forum on Character Education.

We struggle to define a leader by their qualities alone because all leaders are uniquely composed of their own set of skills and traits. 

I have been blessed with my own unique composition over the span of my time at Milton Hershey School. I always had leadership potential, but the ignition of that flame was a result of the time and effort of various adults in my life. Individually, the teachers and advisors in my life at MHS have contributed their own efforts in ultimately making me the leader I am becoming, I will forever be in debt to these people I call mentors for the character they’ve inspired in me. For this reason, I was inspired to serve.

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Topics: Service learning, student voice, Student Leadership