Character Education

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For the next four weeks, I’m fortunate enough to be part of an online class and community of educators devoted to learning more about character education and how to incorporate it in the classroom. This class is facilitated by Dave Levin, co-founder of the KIPP movement. Following the KIPP schools for several years and having the opportunity to visit one in Atlanta, I love how these schools so seamlessly marry content learning with character education and have a proven track record in these two areas with so many of their students.

Week 1 was built around an observation by James Baldwin: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” So true and so scary.

Our pre-class assignment was to do a survey which ranked 24 personal character strengths then take the same character strengths and rank them in order of importance of what we expect from our students or children. (https://www.viame.org/survey/account/register) Humor was my number one trait followed by zest and creativity, no surprises here. I’m the laugh-out-loud, pancake-cooking, funny-Friday teacher in Room 128. And while I love to have students with a great sense of humor in my class and value creativity, what I expect first and foremost from my students is grit or hard work and self-discipline. Interestingly, these are two of the lowest on my list (I blame cable tv and cheesecake for this).

So as we are raising our children and educating our students, we need to make sure we model what we expect from them. For me to expect my students to demonstrate grit by cranking out essay after essay after essay while I let them pile up on my desk without grading them in a timely manner is unfair. For me to tell my daughter to show discipline and stretch everyday (she’s working on tumbling and jumps) while I order out dinner because I am too lazy to cook sets her up for frustration. I have thought over and over about this exercise and the implications it has in my home and in Room 128 and realize character education must begin with adults demonstrating character.

What do you most expect from your children or students? Are you modeling this for them?

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