Author Archives: CJ Moloney

Attitude of Gratitude

By Edward F. DeRoche

For a variety of reasons, I have been reading about the “power” of engaging in the “habit” of expressing gratitude in what one says and what one does.  I thought that finding out more about gratitude would be an appropriate topic for this month since this is National Gratitude Month, and we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day.

“An attitude of gratitude means creating a conscious mindset and habit to be thankful, and express appreciation for every aspect of your life, both big and small.”

Interestingly, gratitude’s powers have the ability to shift us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives.  Practicing daily gratitude gives us a deeper connection to ourselves, to our family and friends, and to the world around us.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, writes: “You literally cannot overplay the hand of gratitude; the grateful mind reaps massive benefits in every domain of life that has been examined so far. There are countless ways in which gratitude could pay off in the workplace [and in homes and schools].” 

Research has shown that gratitude can enhance our moods, decrease stress, and drastically improve our overall level of health and wellbeing.  On average, grateful people tend to have fewer stress-related illnesses, experience less depression, and have lower blood pressure.  They are more physically fit, they are happier, have a higher income, have more satisfying personal and professional relationships, and are better liked. 

Studies have shown that people who experience gratitude have more positive emotions (joy, love, happiness) and exhibit fewer negative emotions (bitterness, envy, resentment).  The “gratitude experience” also contributes to feelings of connectedness, relationships, and better physical health.

Here’s is a quote that makes the case for teaching students the “why” and “how” of gratefulness in homes and schools: “Grateful kids are more likely to get A’s in school.” 

Amy L. Eva, Ph.D., the associate education director at the Greater Good Science Center, writes that “you can’t teach gratitude practices in a vacuum—especially to teens….Teens tend to respond more positively to lessons and activities that help them understand themselves and connect with peers….” 

In her article, “How to Teach Gratitude to Tweens and Teens,” she cites a special curriculum that offers insights for authentically nurturing gratitude in students (Greater Good Science Center’s website). 

Dr. Eva writes that there are three key ways to teach gratitude to children and youth. 

  1. Exploring identity.  Identity development remains the central developmental task for adolescents, and this curriculum helps facilitate that by allowing students to explore their character strengths (e.g., traits like honesty, curiosity, perseverance, humility.) 
  1. Capitalizing on strengths.  A gratitude curriculum that builds on strengths is a wonderful counter to focusing on students’ perceived deficits. 
  1. Building positive relationships.  Once they know their strengths, students can leverage them to connect more deeply with others and to do good—in school and beyond. 

Two of the first researchers to study gratitude among youth were Jeffrey Froh (Hofstra University) and Giacomo Bono (CSU-Dominguez Hills).  They have worked with thousands of children and adolescents across the United States. In a recent study, they found “that teens who had high levels of gratitude when entering high school had less negative emotions and depression, and more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and happiness four years later when they were finishing high school.  They also had more hope and a stronger sense of meaning in life.” 

Froh and Bono note that there are some specific practices that teachers can use in their classrooms.  Here are two examples:

  1. One practice is keeping a gratitude journal.  “We asked middle school students simply to list five things for which there were grateful daily for two weeks, and we compared these students to others who were writing about hassles in their life or basic daily life events….Most significantly, compared to the other students, gratitude journalers reported more satisfaction with their school experience immediately after the two-week period, a result that held up even three weeks later.” 
  2. Another practice is what they call the gratitude visit.  In this exercise they had students “write a letter to someone who had helped them but whom they’d never properly thanked; the students read their letter to him or her in person, then later discuss their experience with others who also completed a gratitude visit.” 

I’ll end this blog with three excellent resources for helping teach and nurture gratitude.  

  1. The first—check out the ideas described in the “Gratitude Works Program” sponsored by the National Association of School Psychologists (www.nasponline.org).
  1. A second excellent resource, offered by The Greater Good Science Center, is “Nurturing Gratitude from the Inside Out: 30 Activities for Grades K-8 “in which the curriculum includes 30 activities for grades K–8. 
  1. For a third informative and useful resource, visit characterlab.org/gratitude for a 14-page booklet on the “Why & How” and several instructional activities. 

My GRADITUTE to those of who read and share our blogs with others.

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., Director
Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning & Teaching // University of San Diego
Website:  http:/charactermatters.sandiego.edu
E-mail:  character@sandiego.edu
November 2022 BLOG

Check Your EKG

By Edward F. DeRoche, Ph.D.

An electrocardiogram — also called EKG—is a painless way to monitor your heart’s health.  An EKG can help measure heart rate, heart rhythm, and other cardiovascular factors giving you a clear picture of how you are doing.

The EKG I am talking about in this blog “monitors” your knowledge and teaching of Empathy, Kindness, Gratitude.  You will recall the research by Goleman and Ekman who found that there are three different ways teachers (and others) must address the teaching and learning of Empathy (add Kindness and Gratitude here).

  • The first stage of becoming empathetic is cognitive empathy – the act of knowing how another person feels.
  • The second stage is emotional empathy – the capacity to physically feel the emotions of another.
  • The third stage is compassionate empathy – the combination of cognitive and emotional empathy to take action about what one feels and thinks.

Michele Borba, internationally known speaker and authority on teaching and parenting, lists reading literary fiction as one of nine habits that is essential to raising an empathetic child.  She emphasizes that “reading is not only a child’s key to academic and future economic success, it also makes kids kinder—but it is strong literary fiction such as Charlotte’s Web or To Kill a Mockingbird that causes kids to be more empathetic.” 

The K in EKG represents Kindness.  Kindness incorporates the virtues of respect, compassion, and gratitude.  By the way, all are learned (taught/practiced) behaviors.   

Several years ago I read a book authored by David R. Hamilton titled “Why Kindness Is Good for You” (Hay House, 2010).  A year later Hamilton published a blog in the HUFFPOST describing the 5 Beneficial Side Effects of Kindness.  He noted that:

1.Kindness makes us happier—often called “Helper’s High.”

2. Kindness gives us healthier hearts—acts of kindness often produce “oxytocin” which helps lower blood pressure.  

3. Kindness slows aging (enough said)

4. Kindness makes for better relationships; when we are kind to each other, we feel a connection, and new relationships are forged, or existing ones strengthened.

5. Kindness is contagious.  When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind, and it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friendsto three degrees of separation. 

Many schools have created a “Kindness Curriculum” which includes “Kindness Projects.”  You and your colleagues should review CASEL’s evidence-based Kindness in the Classroom® a social emotional learning curriculum that now focuses on equity, teacher self-care, and digital citizenship.

 https://centerhealthyminds.org/join-the-movement/sign-up-to-receive-the-kindness-curriculum)

Give your students and others in classrooms and school a ”pulse check” – are all the “players” contributing to developing an attitude of gratitude?  Why?  Because: 

  • Gratitude increases resilience and improves sleep   
  • Gratitude improves physical and psychological health   
  • Gratitude reduces aggression and strengthens relationships 
  • Gratitude teaches “students to be more cooperative, patient, and trusting.”

You need more evidence?

Researchers at Berkeley surveyed 400 students, ages 12-14, found that students “who were more likely to be grateful to others showed higher academic interest, grades, and extracurricular involvement, and had lower interest in risky behaviors.”  Positive parent relationships were also associated with gratitude (and probably with many habits of the heart including empathy and kindness.) 

Other studies report that youth who deliberately practice gratitude have higher GPAs; experience more positive emotions, and, ultimately, go on to live more meaningful lives.  In addition, gratitude among middle school students can foster an increased sense of hope and trust in others, and fuel a desire to give back to their community (see empathy and kindness). 

Let me summarize this EKG blog by quoting Vicki Zakrzewski (Greater Good Magazine (2/02/2021).  She writes:   

Character education provides the ‘what’ – the opportunity to think about what virtues they would like to cultivate and what those virtues look like in action.  Students may be able to define and identify qualities such as honesty, gratitude, and integrity, (empathy and  kindness)s, but do they have the skills to put them into action?  In other words, how do we help kids to not only know the good, but to actually do the good?”

HOW?  READ

EMPATHY: Michele Borba, Unselfish: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, (Touchstone, 2017)

KINDNESS: Thomas Lickona, How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain, (Penguin, 2018)

GRATITUDE:  Robert A. Emmons, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Gratitude Works! A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity, and The Little Book of Gratitude, (Jossey-Bass, 2013)

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D. Director, Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego
October 2022

Character, Competency, Leadership

By Edward F. DeRoche

Said the Queen, a woman of character, competence and leadership:

“It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.”

“Our modern world places such heavy demands on our time and attention that the need to remember our responsibilities to others is greater than ever.”

“When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.”

“In times of doubt and anxiety the attitudes people show in their daily lives, in their homes, and in their work, are of supreme importance.”

“Everyone is our neighbor, no matter what race, creed or color.”

This blog is not the first time that I have written about “character and leadership.”  In 2000, I published an article in the Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education, and Development (September 2000, Vol. 39, Issue 1) titled, “Leadership for Character Education Programs.”  In the article, I suggested that school and program leaders should be visionaries, missionaries, consensus builders, knowledge sources, standard bearers, architects, role models, communicators, collaborators, resource providers, and evaluators.

In my March 2013 blog, I reported that the Turknett Leadership Group’s (www.turknett.com) “Leadership Character Model” included three core qualities as the keys of “leadership character”: Integrity, Respect, and Responsibility. 

My February 2017 blog discussed the Qualities of Character and Leadership.  I wrote: “Like most effective leaders, character educators have a vision about the future, about possibilities, about what might be for educating children and youth, about the balance between testing and teaching, about being smart and good.  They ask themselves: who are we (character and values), how do we perform (skills and talents), and how shall we lead (sharing, partnerships, team-building).”

What is This Thing Called Leadership?  This was the question I tried to answer in my July 2017 blog noting that P.B Stark wrote about the 10 C’s of Great Leadership.  His 10 included: character, communication, care, compassion, connectedness, commitment, conviction, competence, courage, and confidence. (https://www.pertstark.com)

In the April 2020 Blog, The Essence of Character: Strengths, Skills, Habits, I reported on the work of Seligman and Peterson and their list of 24 character strengths organized around these six broad virtues: Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance, and Transcendence.

I recently read a book titled LEADING with Character & Competence.  It was written by three-time CEO, Oxford-trained scholar, and consultant, Timothy R. Clark.

In part one of the book, he writes about:

“The Four Cornerstones of Character: Integrity, Humility, Accountability and Courage.”

Character is the foundation that competence must be built on.” 

In part two, Clark discusses “The Four Cornerstones of Competence: Learning, Change, Judgment, and Vision.”

“Those of good character who lack competence remain ineffective.  But competent leaders who lack character become dangerous.”

I said it before, and I will say it again.  You are educational leaders positioned at all levels—in the classroom, at the school, in central office, in your professional community, and in the public arena.  You are “leaders” and “character educators” who deal with “moral and ethical issues” everyday. 

And that being the case, it might be wise to examine the question:

Are you leading with character and competence?

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., Director
Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning & Teaching // University of San Diego
Website:  http:/charactermatters.sandiego.edu

E-mail:  character@sandiego.edu

September 2022 BLOG

Carrots and Sticks

By Edward F. DeRoche, Ph.D.

As part of my summer reading, in addition to reading several James Patterson books, I read EXCEPTION to the RULE because the sub-head caught my attention:  The Surprising Science of Character-Based Culture, Engagement, and Performance.

The authors also captured my attention when they wrote:  “Naming this book Exception to the Rule, we aim to offer a virtue-based approach that challenges the traditional carrot-and-stick paradigm.” (Rea, Stoller, Kolp—McGraw Hill, 2018)

WHAT?  My career experiences as a teacher and administrator clearly made the case that “carrots and sticks” were our modus-operandi in the classroom and school.  “C&S” were used by parents that I knew, (myself included), and community and professional groups that I served on including two terms on a public school board.  “Rewards and punishments” helped us solve problems and make decisions. 

In the book, the authors warn us that “carrots and sticks” will only take us so far—“they do not inspire high performance.  Rules, rewards, and recognitions do not promote excellence.”  I did not know that!  Did you?

But wait, there’s more.  “Teachers and administrators have to understand that a virtue-based school culture (virtue means ‘excellence’) is more powerful than a rule-based culture.”

Here are a few of their views that they want us to think about (implement):

  • “Character and virtues move us beyond our personal needs.  One of the clearest benefits of developing virtues in organizations is increased engagement.”  
  • Character defined by virtue cannot be legislated but can be cultivated.  A virtue-based culture acts as a silent supervisor to mitigate risk without the intended consequence of squashing creativity and growth.”
  • “An extrinsic rule-based approach to ethics (sticks) and extrinsic rewards, recognition (carrots) does not promote excellence.” 
  • Trust and meaningful relationships are more important than intrinsic rewards and recognition.“

What’s wrong with “sticks,” they ask?   Compliance, they answer. 

Making people “comply” is costly both in time and money.  Their examples:  

  • Special education teachers spend 75% of their time in paperwork and meetings in order to comply with well-intended federal legislation….”
  • ”Rules have there place.  What is missing is an understanding of the limitations of rules.”
  • “Heavy-handed rules restrict innovations and creativity.” 

Now the “carrots.” 

The authors start with Engagement-discretionary effort—what people will do when they don’t absolutely have to and when no one is watching or measuring.  Engagement drives performance.” 

The point:  “Excellent leaders and teams are not governed.  They are self-governed more by virtues than by rules” and “fewer rules means that trust is high.” 

In the “ roadmap” for the book, the authors describe the “pillars,” seven specific virtues, a chapter for each.  They discuss what each is, how each works, and how each can be developed to support “a life well lived, with integrity.”  

  1. Trust
  2. Compassion
  3. Courage
  4. Justice
  5. Wisdom
  6. Temperance
  7. Hope—that support the “pediment”
  8. Integrity 

Under the heading, “When Virtue Is Absent,” the authors frame their comments by putting “vice on trial” rather than “virtue.”  What happens to our relationship, they ask, when virtues are missing—“Without trust—what?  Without compassion—what?”  And so on.

So their question isn’t “can we teach virtue?”  Rather, the real question is: “How can we teach virtue better?

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., Director
Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning & Teaching // University of San Diego
Website:  http:/charactermatters.sandiego.edu
E-mail: mailto:deroche@sandiego.edu
August 2022 BLOG

CHARACTER And CIVIC EDUCATION: You Cannot Have One Without the Other

By Edward F. DeRoche, Ph.D.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

“You are a citizen, and citizenship carries responsibilities.” – Paul Collier

We know that the primary responsibility for the cultivation of ethical behavior and the development of private and moral character lies with families, religious institutions, schools, work settings, and the communities in which we live.

We also know that social studies teachers have a responsibility and a duty to teach all students character and civic virtues.

The question is, given the current political climate, how can civic education strengthen and complement the development of character and civic virtues?

Let talk about teaching civics in today’s classrooms.

Several years ago, two Wisconsin Social Studies educators wrote that a multicultural society needs “roots.”  These roots, they said, “are described in our founding documents, in our symbols and slogans, and in our personal and public civic virtues.  Our schools, therefore, are called to educate the young to uphold (and sometimes challenge) core virtues, such as, trustworthiness, fairness, patriotism, justice, courage, responsibility, respect, and honesty.”

Today—a warning from Jeremy Knoll, a 20+ high school teacher.

I am telling you civics education is gasping for breath.  Too often, people mistake teaching civics as teaching politics.  Civics is the study of rights and duties of citizenship.  It is a close examination of the privileges and obligations of our citizens.”

A report from neaToday (2017) notes that “It’s not an exaggeration to say that civics education is in crisis.”  The proof:

“Only 25 percent of U.S. students reach the ‘proficient’ standard on the NAEP Civics Assessment.  White, wealthy students are four to six times as likely as Black and Hispanic students from low-income households to exceed that level.

Students in wealthier public school districts are far more likely to receive high-quality civics education than students in low-income and majority-minority schools.”

As an educator in California you should know about The California Survey of Civic Education (www.cms-ca.org).

“Polls show that the vast majority of young people distrust political institutions and processes.  Studies find that most students lack a proficient understanding of civics, U.S. history, or our Constitution.

Civic education is no longer a priority in California’s overburdened public schools.  History and civics have all but disappeared in many elementary grades as educators concentrateon teaching reading and math.  In high school, few students even have social studies in the ninth grade.

In 2001, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) published a report titled, The Civic Mission of Schools, which identified six promising approaches that research shows can improve civic education.

“Every school should:  

  • Provide high-quality, formal instruction in government, history, law, and democracy.
  • Incorporate discussion of current local, national, and international issues and events into the classroom.
  • Have students apply what they learn through community service linked to the curriculum and classroom instruction.
  • Offer extracurricular activities that involve students in their schools and communities.
  • Encourage student participation in school governance.
  • Encourage student participation in simulations of democratic processes and procedures.”

I suggest that you read and share with your colleagues and parents in your school the Brooking’s report:

The Need for Civic Education in 21st Century Schools by Rebecca Winthrop.

“The 2018 Brown Center Report on American Education examined the status of civic education and found that while reading and math scores have improved in recent years, there has not been the commensurate increase in eighth grade civics knowledge.   

The study also found that high school social studies teachers are some of the least supported teachers in schools, and report teaching larger numbers of students and taking on more non-teaching responsibilities, like coaching school sports, than other teachers.

Student experience reinforces this view that civic learning is not a central concern of schools.  Seventy percent of 12th graders say they have never written a letter to give an opinion or solve a problem, and 30 percent say they have never taken part in a debate—all important parts of a quality civic learning.”

https://www.brookings.edu/policy2020/bigideas/the-need-for-civic-education-in-21st-century-schools/

Character and civility are about relationships – emotional and social.

Character and civility are about teaching your students skills such as sharing, participating, following directions, and listening.

It is about helping them to recognize their own emotions and be respectful of one another’s opinions and viewpoints (self-control).

It is teaching them how to recognize the emotions in others (listening and questioning).

It is about motivating oneself (grit and perseverance), learning how to be a friend, knowing how to care for and appreciating others.

Civics instruction needs to be underscored by students learning how to be polite, respectful, courteous, civil, and how to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., Director
Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning & Teaching // University of San Diego
Website:  http:/charactermatters.sandiego.edu
E-mail:  character@sandiego.edu

The Rule of Three

By Edward DeRoche

In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.  Tom Bodett

Have you heard or read about The Rule of 3?  I didn’t until last month when I was reading Bill Murphy, Jr.’s article about The Rule of 3 (Understandably.com).

The Rule of 3 has to do with the way we process information and that three is the smallest number of elements we can use to create a pattern.  It seems “that any ideas, thoughts, events, characters or sentences that are presented in threes are more effective and memorable.”

Murphy noted that it works for at least three reasons:   

First, because people respond to patterns, and three is the minimum number of things required to create a pattern.

Second, if you articulate three things, you create an imbalance.  Either all three things go together, or two go together, while the third represents an exception.

Finally, because three is the maximum number of things people can remember quickly without effort. 

The Rule of 3 influences how we think, what we hear, what we remember, and how we process information on a daily basis.  Here are a few examples.

  • US Declaration of Independence:  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
  • From President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” 
  • Faith, Hope, and Charity
  • Stop, Look, and Listen
  • Blood, Sweat, and Tears  
  • See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
  • Location, location, location
  • The Three Wise Men 
  • The Three Musketeers
  • The Three Little Pigs 
  • Three Blind Mice
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears

I found information describing how The Rule of 3 fits the classic joke structure of set-up, anticipation, and punchline. 

Several writers noted that the Rule of 3 is a “powerful guide when one is writing or speaking.”

In his blog,  “How to Use the Rule of Three to Create Engaging Content,” Brian Clark asks: “What’s so magical about the number three?”  His answer:  

“It all comes down to the way we humans process information.  We have become proficient at pattern recognition by necessity. The number three is pervasive throughout some of our greatest stories, fairy tales, and myths. Information presented in groups of three sticks in our heads better than other clusters of items. I truly do believe writing bullet points as a set of three is the most effective use of the format.” 

A journalist suggested that The Rule of 3 for “character education is the golden rule, basic manners, and the difference between right and wrong.” 

I wondered—is there any information about using The Rule of 3 in school?  There is! 

In an article titled, “The Only 3 Classroom Rules You’ll Ever Need,” the authors suggest three rules that must be taught and practiced by students. 

  • Respect people is the #1 rule.
  • Respect property: Personal property, school supplies, wastefulness, and cleaning up after oneself. 
  • Respect learning: Students need to first understand that all people learn differently and express their learning differently and that they must be actively involved in their own learning. 

In his article, “Using the Rule of Three for Learning,” Ben Johnson writes:

“The Rule of Three for learning basically establishes the requirement that students be given the opportunity to learn something at least three times before they are expected to know it and apply it.  

The Rule of Three for learning helps us as teachers to design our lessons with not only multiple opportunities for the students to acquire the skills and knowledge, but it helps us to deliberately increase the level of complexity and difficulty with each iteration, which, as it turns out, helps the students to remember more because they are experiencing the learning rather than just observing it.”

The VIA Institute on Character offers this take on The Rule of 3 under the title “Three Good Things”:

  1. REFLECT: Think back on today and reflect on the good moments that occurred. 
  2. RECORD: Write three things that went well and why they went well.
  3. REVIEW: Use THE VIA Classification to look for the strengths that you and others used.  (Note – there are 24.)

Here is an idea–The Rule of 3 Character Education Framework for Schools.

The Rule of 3 for Purpose

  1. Attitude
  2. Aspiration (Ambition)
  3. Assessment

The Rule of 3 for Oneself

  1. Self-Awareness
  2. Self -Discipline
  3. Self-Management  

The Rule of 3 for Motivation

  1. Inspire
  2. Involve
  3. Invest

The Rule of 3 for Service

  1. Empathy
  2. Gratitude
  3. Kindness

The Rule of 3 for Communication 

  1. Collaboration
  2. Courage
  3. Civility

The Rule of 3 for Teaching a Character Trait

  1. Highlight the trait and discuss its value and meaning
  2. Provide opportunities for students to practice the trait
  3. Offer effective and constant feedback

The Rule of 3 for each of the Above

  1. Repeat-Repeat-Repeat
  2. Practice-Practice-Practice
  3. Apply-Apply-Apply

What Rules of 3 would you add to this Framework?

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.
Director, Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego
February 2022 Blog

Please share the University of San Diego’s Character Education Resource Center with your colleagues.  If you are interested in USD’s Character Education Development Certificate program – 4 courses for a total of 8 graduate level extension unit– click here for more information.

What Is Peace Education

January 2022 Blog
By Ed Deroche

Like you, I received a few “Peace on Earth” holiday cards and they reminded me of the blog I wrote in January 2015 on peace education.

Another reminder was the fact that I just co-authored, Lessons for Creating a Culture of Character and Peace in Your Classroom: A Playbook for Teachers, (Information Age Publishing) with two peace-loving veteran teachers, CJ Moloney and Patricia McGinty. 

I decided that a good way to start this New Year was to answer the question: What is Peace Education?  “Peace” has been defined as a “state of being that encompasses harmony and balance of mind, heart, and action.”  

The objectives for character and peace education are to help students learn and practice such traits/skills as caring, empathy, compassion, responsibility, commitment, respect, courage, perseverance, trust, honesty, cooperation, integrity, kindness, tolerance, gratitude, diligence, justice, wisdom, self-discipline, and love.  

Most Peace Education Programs encompass the virtues that underscore good character and citizenship. The program objectives are offered with the hope that they will help: 

  • students learn alternatives to violence, and adults and students learn to create a school and home environment that is peaceful and conducive to nonviolent attitudes and behaviors;
  • students learn skills including identifying bias, problem-solving, sharing and cooperation, shared decision-making, analysis and critical thinking;
  • enhance students’ self-esteem enabling them to imagine life beyond the present;
  • students to recognize and express their feelings in ways that are not aggressive or destructive by using conflict resolution strategies, being empathic, and engaging in nonviolent action in relation to problems both personal and societal; 
  • students understand the nature of violence, examine the causes of conflict, stress the benefits of non-violence, and how to handle conflict. 

Rhonda Jeffries and Ian Harris note that Peace Education Programs properly implemented in schools “improve school climate, help students learn alternatives to violence, address the acts of violence in a student’s school and community, nurture the seeds of compassion rather than hatred, competition, and revenge, and helps create a school and home atmosphere that is peaceful and conducive to nonviolent attitudes and behaviors.”

“Cooling the Climate Using Peace Education in an Urban Middle School,” Middle School Journal, November 1998

Many Peace Education strategies, “woven into the day-to-day fabric of school life,” are planned primarily through instructional methods such as:

  • cooperative learning,  
  • reflection circles,  
  • student leadership programs,
  • case studies,
  • storytelling,
  • role-playing,
  • peer mediation programs,
  • journaling,
  • using posters and bulletin board messages,
  • using special teachable moments, and,
  • creating ways of teaching character and peace in subject matter areas with units and lessons that incorporate peace themes. 

To help you and others to implement a peace education program at your school, these questions should be discussed by all personnel (including parents and students):

  • What is a peaceable school?  (Examples are out there for review and for ideas.) 
  • What are the concerns, if any, at the school?
  • What does the group want to do and how will they do it?
  • What resources will be needed; i.e., professional development?
  • What strategies will be used to start the program?
  • What happened after the plan was implemented?
  • What changes need to be made after the first six months; at the end of the first year?

You should also know that The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) support the idea that “teachers play an essential role in helping young people obtain the knowledge, skills, and perspectives to envision their role in creating a more peaceful world.”  

The Institute has a teacher award program that selects “six outstanding American middle and high school teachers each year to receive education, resources, and support to strengthen their teaching of international conflict and the possibilities of peace.  The Peace Teachers Program expands to new states each year, ultimately working towards a network of 50 alumni educators across the U.S. 

www.usip.org/peace-teachers-program

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.
Director, Character Education Resource Center Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego
January 2022-Blog

An Attitude of Gratitude

“Give yourself a gift of five minutes of contemplation in awe of everything you see around you.  Go outside and turn your attention to the many miracles around you. This five-minute-a-day regimen of appreciation and gratitude will help you to focus your life in awe.”  – Wayne Dyer

We begin by expressing our gratitude to the educators, parents, colleagues, and others who are readers of our three publications –this blog, the Message Board, and our newsletter.

We thank them for their strong commitment to the character development of children and youth, and for teaching them how to use the tools they need to be moral, ethical, and responsible human beings.

Gratitude is one of twenty-four character strengths.  It is a “moral emotion” expressed in words and deeds.  Gratitude is a behavior and experience that can and should be developed and made habitual.  It has been said that gratitude “stimulates a sense of obligation.” 

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, writes:  You literally cannot overplay the hand of gratitude; the grateful mind reaps massive benefits in every domain of life that has been examined so far.  There are countless ways in which gratitude could pay off in the workplace [and in homes and schools].”

What do we know about programs and practices that foster an attitude of gratitude? Let’s start with the workplace.

In the business world it has been found that there is “a link between gratitude and resilience, the practice of building positive relationships, of working collaboratively with others, and regularly expressing gratitude, improves performance and contributes to positive emotions. 

A leadership consulting group noted that “taking time to reflect on your work can improve your performance. It’s critical to not just pause to reflect on your work, but also to practice gratitude. We see a potential link between gratitude and increased happiness and good health.  

In schools  and classrooms, benefits to students who study and practice gratitude reveal some fascinating results. 

Two of the first researchers to study gratitude among youth were Jeffrey Froh and Giacomo Bono.  They found “that teens who had high levels of gratitude when entering high school had less negative emotions and depression, and more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and happiness four years later when they were finishing high school.  They also had more hope and a stronger sense of meaning in life.”

Gratitude instruction and programs “among middle school students can foster an increased sense of hope and trust in others and fuel a desire to give back to their community.” 

Note this:  “Youth who deliberately practice gratitude have higher GPA’s, experience more positive emotions, and exhibit feelings of connectedness, relationships, more hope, and better physical health.

If you’re looking for a way to cultivate positive social and emotional skills in your classroom and school, help your students recognize and express gratitude to their classmates, to others in school, and to family, friends, and community.

The HOW! 

Here are three excellent resources for helping teach and nurture gratitude in your school and classroom.  

The first—check out the ideas described in the “Gratitude Works Program” sponsored by the National Association of School Psychologists at www.nasponline.org. 

A second resource, published by The Greater Good Science Center, is “Nurturing Gratitude from the Inside Out: 30 Activities for Grades K-8 “ in which the curriculum includes 30 activities for grades K–8. 

For a third informative and useful resource, visit characterlab.org/gratitude for a 14-page booklet on the “Why & How,” and several instructional activities. 

I suggest that you read “A white paper prepared for the John Templeton Foundation by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, written by Summer Allen, Ph.D., titled The Science of Gratitude (2018).  It makes a powerful case for WHY & HOW every school and every classroom should have programs that help all students develop and practice an attitude of gratitude.

https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/GGSC-JTF_White_Paper-Gratitude-FINAL.pdf

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
-William Arthur Ward

The test of all happiness is gratitude.-G.K. Chesterton

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D., Director Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego
December 2021

Journaling: Thinking and Writing About Things

By Edward F. DeRoche

“Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. 
What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.”                                                                                          -Natalie Goldberg

As you may know, we have sixteen educators on the Center’s Advisory Committee.  We are constantly in communication about character education issues and resources.  They keep me up-to-date about the “real world” of P-12 education. 

Last month, I received this idea from a committee member.  She suggested that a blog on “journaling” might be of interest to readers and listed a few “journaling questions” for teachers to use as prompts.  

  • What are some of your biggest strengths?
  • Can someone turn a weakness into a strength over time?  Why or why not?   
  • What are your top five positive qualities?
  • What do you LOVE to do?  
  • What activities make you feel the best?
  • How do you feel today?
  • What are some hopes you have for the future?
  • What ways do you feel you learn best? 
  • When was a time you succeeded at something? 

I am a fan of question-asking.  Q&A fosters curiosity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-reflection.  So I asked myself these three questions: 

What is journaling? 

What are the benefits?  

Can teachers use it and, if so, how?

My experience with journaling is making out “To Do” lists.  Thus, I did what any college professor (or anyone else) would do—I “googled” it!  And I am amazed about what I discovered.

The WHAT 

It appears that journaling is part of what some call the “self-care movement.”  As several authors wrote: 

“Journaling is an outlet for processing emotions and increases self-awareness.”    

“Writing in no stranger to therapy.  Writing’s power to heal lies not in pen and paper, but in the mind of the writer.”  

“Typing out journal entries on a laptop or even on a phone can yield effects that are just as positive, particularly if it’s more comfortable and convenient for you.” 

“A journal is not a record of the minute details of your daily life.  Instead, it’s a private space for exploring what you think and feel about the people, events, or issues that are important to you.”

The BENEFITS  

The practice of journaling may increase “mindfulness, memory, and communication skills.”  In addition it may lead to better sleeping habits, greater self-confidence, and a better understanding of one‘s emotions.  Here’s a thought:  Have you ever felt better just talking about a problem with your friends or parents?  Well, consider your journal as a friend who is always there.

I found an article published by PositivePsychology.com that listed 83 benefits of journaling that “can help you clear your head, make important connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and even buffer or reduce the effects of mental illness (depression, anxiety, and stress).”

The benefits of journaling for children [I am reporting five of the twelve they listed] include:

  • Exploring and identifying their emotions.
  • Allowing themselves to feel “taboo” emotions like anger.
  • Examining the pros and cons of something to help them make a decision.
  • Reflecting on their thoughts about something after the fact.
  • Gaining insight into their own motives and the motives of others.

I may be wrong, but from what I read journaling may be one major anecdote to the abuse of the Internet and social media websites.

HOW Teachers Can Use It?  

Here is one answer. 

“Teachers can use journaling as a kind of window into how students are thinking about what they are learning.  This is a great assessment tool as well and teachers should learn how to incorporate journaling in their classroom.”

I discovered many ways that teachers can use journaling in their classrooms—for assignments, for projects, for assessment purposes.  Here are a few suggestions.

Motivational journal that sets your day in a positive direction by reflecting on inspirational quotes. 

Gratitude journal that lifts your spirits by focusing on the things you are grateful for.  

Writer’s journal that prompts you to reflect on famous quotations, social issues, or literary themes.  

Thematic journal that invites you to record your thoughts and progress on specific problems or interest areas.       

Success journal that documents today’s triumphs to help cheer you through tomorrow’s slumps. 

Free-form journal that allows you to write about anything and everything, providing insights into how your thoughts and emotions unfold over time.   

Writing to heal journal suggests that writing about emotions and stress can boost immune system.

In my search, I found so many excellent resources to help teachers use journaling as an instructional strategy that I decided that the December issue of News You Can Use should focus on journaling resources and references for teachers and parents.  Something to look forward to!

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.
Director, Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego
November 2021 

Character-Related Acronyms

By Ed DeRoche

A friend of mine, a writer/lecturer on topics of leadership in business, sent me this “business model” asking if I thought it might be relevant and useful to P-12 educators “particularly those interested in the character development of children and youth.” 

In his research he came across this acronym: 

KASH – Knowledge, Abilities, Skills and Habits.  All four directly affect the performance of an individual as well as an organization.

Knowledge:  condition of being aware of something
Abilities:  feelings or emotions about someone or something
Skills:  physical ability to perform tasks
Habits:  repeated and consistent behavior

In previous blogs, we have discussed the nature of “character” and “character education” including knowledge (a compelling curriculum that puts character at the core), abilities (competencies and capabilities), skills (social and emotional), and habits (of the mind and heart).

This blog continues the acronym theme.  Let’s look at a few.  I will leave it to you to decide how best to use them in your school and classroom.

The RULER MODEL 

The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence notes that there are five skills of emotional intelligence: 

Recognition of emotions
Understanding of emotions
Labeling emotions
Expression of emotions
Regulation of emotions

YCEI is quick to point out that RULER is not a program.  It is “an approach for infusing emotions into the DNA of a school…providing training to school administrators, teachers, staff, students, and families, helping them to understand and apply key lessons from the research.                                                                                    http://www.rulerapproach.org

When regulating or managing emotions we discovered the use of another acronym, PRIME.

Prevented (e.g., frustration avoided)
Reduced (e.g., rage lessened to annoyance)
Initiated (e.g., happiness generated, feelings of optimism)
Maintained (e.g., pride preserved/self esteem increased)
Enhanced (e.g., joy increased to elation)

You have heard about the SMART acronym.  

SMART refers to goals as being [edited]:   

Specific:  Explicit and precise with no wiggle room when asking who, what, when, where, or why.

M
easurable:  Ways you can measure progress at any point along the way.

A
chievable:  Working toward your goal can either lead to satisfaction or it will lead to frustration.  How realistic it is to attain your goal?

R
elevant:  Do your goals really matter to you?  Are they relevant, worthwhile, timely?
Time-Bound:  Set deadlines.  Stay focused and prevent distractions.   

I asked myself this question:  Why is it important for teachers, students, and others in schools to develop and use SMART goals?  The answer: “According to educational research, educators who establish goals notice a significant improvement in their classrooms and their self-perception.”  

https://www.talesfromaverybusyteacher.com/2021/06/creating-smart-goals-with-your-students.html 

VAMP

Did you know that many schools and school districts use “VAMP” to frame their character education programs?   VAMP is an acronym for the “Virtues – A – Month Program.”

VAMP helps all school personnel, students, and parents/guardians to focus on a specific virtue.    

VAMP encourages everyone to be on the same page in the teaching, learning, and practicing of a particular monthly virtue.  It does not mean the other “habits of the heart” (respect, empathy, perseverance, etc.) are ignored.  All virtues are interconnected. 

Many teachers and schools coupled the VAMP character education framework with an “events calendar.”  That is, how can and does a monthly calendar event (special day), being observed and celebrated, support the virtue of the month and other virtues.  

The Cobb County (Georgia) Character Education program is centered on a monthly virtue program; that is, over a four-week period the intent is to infuse a specific virtue into the total school environment, and the community. 

For example, for the month of September, the virtue is RESPECT. 

Another example of VAMP is one I noted in my June Blog.  The Kent City School District (OH) has teachers focus lessons on a particular character-related virtue each month of the school year.

September – Work Ethic and Responsibility 

October – Respect for Self and Others

November – Compassion

December – Self-Control

January – Tolerance

February – Trustworthiness

March – Cooperation

April – Respect for Community/Environment

May – Commitment/Dedication

June – Fairness/Justice  

Each virtue is followed by descriptors.  Here is September as an example.   

September – Work Ethic and Responsibility   

Students should: 

  • Attend to task; demonstrate persistence; show best effort. 
  • Be able to carry out a duty and be trustworthy.    
  • Exercise sound thinking and good judgment knowing that they are personally accountable for their actions.

Another example: The Core Virtues Foundation lays out a three-year plan.  Here are the virtues for the months of September and October.

  • September:  Respect—Responsibility
  • October:  Diligence—Self-Control—Self-Discipline—Perseverance

I don’t use social media.  I don’t text.  Phone calls and emails are my major contact methods.  However, I have been told that acronyms play an important part in social media communication.  So, I looked it up. 

BTW, you may AMA about the importance of character education.  IMO and IRL, character matters, and, AFAIK, most people agree. 

(By The Way, you may Ask Me Anything about the importance of character education.  In My Opinion and In Real Life, character matters, and As Far As I Know, most people agree.)

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning & Teaching, School of Leadership & Education Sciences University of San Diego
BLOG, August 2021 

We’d like to hear your thoughts, questions, and feedback: character@sandiego.edu