Author Archives: CJ Moloney

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 (

“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.”

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:/

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 (

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.

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 

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 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.

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.


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 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 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 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.                                                                          

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.

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

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

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.” 


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: 

What Is Character?

By Ed DeRoche

Is it Traits, Strengths, Virtues, Values or All of Them?

I notice, in my research and correspondence, that I keep running into lists of character traits, strengths, virtues, and values.

I asked myself these three character-related questions:

  1. What is the difference between a “value” and “virtue?”  
  2. What do educators/researchers mean when they talked about character “traits and strengths.”
  3. What are some TSVV examples that would give us a “picture” of what I found and how it “shapes” character education in schools?     

In summary, I found that Values are principles or standards that are considered  important or desirable, while some others may not be desirable or have moral goodness.  Values are subjective and personal since an individual can decide what is important to him or her.    

Virtues are qualities that have high moral value and are considered to be good or desirable in a person. 

Traits, an expert noted, can be negative or positive and are personal qualities that define one’s personality.  Positive traits include compassion, empathy, kindness, and courage.  Negative traits include anger, jealousy, selfishness, and greed.      

Then there are Character Strengths: “the good qualities that people possess—a collection of positive traits that show people’s strengths.” 

Here are a few examples of TSVVs: 

2021 Schools of Character (edited) from Dr. Arthur Schwartz President, (5-13- 2021),

This year we recognized 38 public schools, 1 public school district, 8 charter schools, and 3 private schools, plus one school is in Brazil and one in Mexico).  Our 2021 National Schools of Character highlighted a total of 275 core values.

Here are the top 10 core values cited the most:  


Altogether, 80 unique core values were cited.              

In his book, How Children Succeed–Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, author Paul Tough writes that children need to learn these seven character traits to help them achieve their goals. 

  1. Grit    
  2. Curiosity    
  3. Self-control 
  4. Social 
  5. Zest   
  6. Optimism  
  7. Gratitude

T. Lickona and M. Davidson, Smart & Good High Schools: Integrating Excellence and Ethics for Success in School, Work, and Beyond, lists 8 character strengths with descriptors:

1. Lifelong learner and critical thinker 

2. Diligent and capable performer  

3. Socially and emotionally skilled person  

4. Ethical thinker  

5. Respectful and responsible moral agent

6. Self-disciplined person who pursues a healthy lifestyle

7. Contributing community member and democratic citizen

8. Spiritual person crafting a life of noble purpose

Seligman and Peterson’s book, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, list 24 widely-valued character strengths, organized under six broad virtues:

Wisdom and Knowledge
creativity    curiosity    open-mindedness    love of learning    perspective

honesty    bravery    persistence    zest 

kindness    love    social intelligence

fairness    leadership    teamwork 

forgiveness    modesty   prudence    self-regulation 

appreciation of beauty and excellence    gratitude    humor

In the December 2020 posting in Parenting Hub ,author Elise Schiller noted that:  Kids tend to look up to their parents for a role model and what they want to become once they grow up. 

She lists and describes these 21 Character Traits For Kids and How to Develop Them.  


But wait, there’s more!

In the Kent City School District (OH), the plan is to have teachers focus lessons on a particular character trait each month of the school year.  Each “trait” is followed by descriptors (see September for 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.

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      

The KIPP Schools focus on these character strengths:

  • Zest—Enthusiastic and energetic participation in life
  • Grit—Perseverance and passion for long-term goals
  • Curiosity—Eagerness to explore new things with openness
  • Optimism—Confidence in a future full of positive possibilities
  • Self-Control—Capacity to regulate one’s own responses so they align with short and long-term goals
  • Gratitude—Appreciation for the benefits we receive from others, and the desire to express thanks
  • Social Intelligence—Understanding the feelings of others and adapting actions accordingly
  • Curiosity—Eagerness to explore new things with openness

Mentoring shows us  “How to Build a 36-Week Character Education Curriculum.”  They offer a list of 36 traits from which teachers and school leaders may choose to meet the needs of their students and educational programs.  For space purposes, I selected 10 of their 36-trait curriculums. 

It appears that VAMP (Value-A–Month–Program) is the most popular framework for character education programs in most school districts.  

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning & Teaching
School of Leadership & Education Sciences
University of San Diego 
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What’s in Your Character Education Garden

By Ed DeRoche

The idea for this blog came from one of our colleagues who lives near a botanical garden park and sent me pictures of several flower gardens.  A garden has been suggested as a good metaphor for life and that “nature” (the natural world) is a great teacher.    

Plant the seeds of good character in your classroom.  If you plant the wrong seeds you will not have a garden that you like. The foundation of a beautiful garden (life’s goals and dreams) require good soil, water, fertilizer, pruning, and weeding.

Let’s visit our character education garden and share six snapshots for our character education scrapbook. 

MAY is the month of flowers.  It may be of interest first to get a perspective.

May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive.—Fennel Hudson 

Think about “positive attitudes.”

The world’s favorite season is the spring.  All things seem possible in May.—Edwin Way Teale  

Thank about “possibilities,” they are there if one looks for them.

If you tend to a flower, it will bloom, no matter how many weeds surround it.—Matshona Dhliwayo 

Think about “Zoom and room.”

If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.—Frances Hodgson Burnett  

Think about “positive thinking.”

Flowers grow back, even after they are stepped on.  So will I.Unknown

Think about “second chances.”



Our job as teachers and parents is to help young people learn to make good, positive, ethical choices, and learn to take responsibility (a virtue) for their actions; to be willing to accept the negative consequences of their actions/behaviors and to do something about them—being responsible.

Responsibility is knowing and doing what is expected of a person; that is, doing what is right, being dependable, and fulfilling what one agrees to do even is if it means “unexpected sacrifice.” 

Sir Josiah Stamp writes:  “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”

Joan Didion, American journalist, notes that:  “Character is the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own lifeit is the source from which self-respect springs.”


We know that positive relationships can help reduce the negative effects of stress and boost one’s self-esteem.   

We know that it starts with the teacher taking time to build trust with each student.  We know that trust must be a joint responsibility between a teacher and his/her students.  

Teachers tell us that we need to pay more attention to the relationship factor because strong relationships help reduce behavior issues, improve classroom climate, enhance student attitudes and attention, and contribute to student achievement.

James Comer, professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, notes that, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.”

“Character Development is a relational process.  Character is a construct that links the person positively to his or her social world.  Relationships are the foundation of character.”

Tuft’s Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development

Snapshot 3: REPUTATION

  • Reputation is what you are supposed to be; character is what you are.
  • The circumstances amid which you live determine your reputation; the truth you believe determines your character.
  • Reputation is the photograph; character is the face.
  • Reputation comes over one from without; character grows up from within. 
  • Reputation is what you have when you come to a new community; character is what you have when you go away. 
  • Your reputation is learned in an hour; your character does not come to light for a year.
  • Reputation is made in a moment; character is built in a lifetime.
  • Reputation grows like a mushroom; character grows like the oak.
  • A single newspaper report gives you your reputation; a life of toil gives you your character.
  • Reputation makes you rich or makes you poor; character makes you happy or makes you miserable.
  • Reputation is what people say about you on your tombstone; character is what angels say about you before the throne of God.     

William Hersey Davis, Positive Thoughts, September 25, 2016, (bolded words are mine)

Snapshot 4: CIVILITY

Civility is a character trait and habit that include behaviors, such as, showing good manners, being respectful and reasonable, and politely disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same.

“Civility goes beyond being polite and courteous; it involves listening to others with an open mind, disagreeing respectfully and seeking common ground to start a conversation about differences.  Acting with civility requires children to be respectful, reflective, and self-aware.  Learning the skills of perspective taking, empathy and problem-solving helps children understand that their actions and words affect individuals as well as their entire community, encouraging them to rise up and act with civility in tough situations….By teaching skills like empathy, problem-solving and perspective taking, we can help nurture civility in our children.” 

Melissa Benaroya, How to Teach Civility During Divisive Times, Committee for Children, February 24, 2017

 Snapshot 5:  KINDNESS   

Kindness is contagious.  Kindness makes one feel good.  Kindness brings joy.  Kindness requires and promotes good manners. 

Studies show that helping children (students) engage in acts of kindness makes them happier, reduces stress, improves self-esteem, and helps them feel calmer and more optimistic.  In addition, research shows that kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a relationship, and when children feel that they are treated with kindness, it helps them develop a feeling of gratitude. When they show kindness to others, it increases compassion, “one of the most important values parents can instill in their children.”

Snapshot 6: THE ROOT

In the 1800’s, Margarethe Meyer Schurz opened the first Kindergarten in the U.S., passionately noting that Kindergarten was a garden for the crop called children.

A compelling curriculum that puts character at the core “promotes equity, empowers students through active learning protocols, and studies character through real-world and literary examples. Such curriculum creates opportunities to connect texts to local issues, take students out into the community, and builds students’ capacity to give back to their community.” 

Ryan Maxwell, “When Character Is Center Stage, Teens Rise Up,”

ASCD Express, May 9, 2019 

“Integrated character education resulted in an improved school environment, increased student pro-social and moral behavior, and increased reading and math test scores.  In addition, schools became more caring communities, discipline referrals dropped significantly—particularly in areas related to bullying behavior—and test scores in moderately achieving schools increased nearly 50%.”        

Marshall, Caldwell, and Foster (2011)


What’s in your classroom/school’s character education garden?

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

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Great Expectations

By Ed DeRoche

Many of you, and maybe a few of your students, have read Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.

You will recall that the main character, “Pip,” as he was called in his early years, had four expectations:  education, wealth, social advancement, and the dream of becoming a gentleman.

Dickens’s story reminded me of a survey of executives from 12 of the nation’s “leading companies” asked:  

Tell us what you’ll want and expect from today’s K-12 students when you eventually hire them? 

Or to put it another way:  What are their EXPECTATIONS (great or not)?   

I have been selective in our excerpts of their comments. 

SYSCO – Michael Fischer, VP:  Schools should provide quality, universal pre-K education that is consistent for all children…. Ensure that every child can read before the third grade.

MCKINSEY – Dirk Schmautzer, Education Practice Partner:  To prepare students for the effective teamwork they will need in the workforce, schools can focus on teaching coaching, collaboration, motivating different personalities, fostering inclusiveness, and resolving conflict.

MICRSOFT – Mark Sparvell, Director:  It would appear that the skills that will have the greatest impact in the modern workplace are the same skill set and mindsets required by students right now to navigate remote learning (critical thinking, creativity, cognitive flexibility and self-regulation).

DELTA – Ed Bastain, CEO:  [We are] proud to be partnering with Atlanta Public Schools and 3DE which are helping to re-engineer public education to empower students to unlock greater economic opportunity in today’s global society….


BOSTON CONSULTING GROUP – Nithya Vaduganathan and Renne Laverdiere, Directors: …Students need help developing a growth mindset, becoming more self-directed and disciplined, learning to prioritize, and overall more digital fluency.

BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD ASSOCIATION – Kelly Williams, VP:  How well we know ourselves, combined with how well we take care of ourselves—at work and in life—influences everything.  Which is why I ‘d love to see equanimity as a core competence in schools. 

CAREFIRST BLUECROSS BLUESHIELD – Angela Celestin, Executive VP:  With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the skills of empathy, openness to continued growth, and self-motivation, as well as the ability to express oneself, have become increasingly more important and need to be continually developed.

CHRYSLER – Lottie Holland, Director:  Students today need to develop and refine skills to communicate clearly, concisely, (through a host of mobile and digital platforms), and with intention in their work, client, and personal relationships, through courses focusing on presentation skills, effective writing, and more.

GENERAL MOTORS – Telva McGruder, Chief DEI:  Our schools excel at teaching students how to learn with special attention paid to cycles of behavior….If we could expand this to accommodate more styles of learning and introduce to students the concept of learning agility as a core skill….We can and should uplift resilience and adaptability as skills for achievement in any work environment….

CIGNA – Dr. Stuart Lustig,  Director:  It’s critical that today’s students have the support they need….Teachers, coaches, and parents play a critical role by encouraging  resilience-building factors: practicing good physical and mental health, staying active and practicing stress-reduction activities, building connections….

APPLE – Susan Prescott, VP:  We’ve been inspired by their [teachers] dedication to help students engage and build community, to have conversations about race and social justice, to build new skills in coding, and embrace their innate creativity and curiosity.

HYATT – Malaika Myers, Chief HRO:  Alongside fostering development of soft skills (including a strong level of empathy), schools should seek opportunities to connect students with real-life work experiences.

I made a summary list of skills and dispositions from their EXPECTATIONS statements: 

  • develop new technological skills 
  • develop effective social and emotional skills 
  • be able to work in environments that will call for collaboration and teamwork
  • be cooperative and able to resolve workplace conflicts
  • learn how to learn and how to motivate others,
  • learn how to deal with different personalities and foster inclusiveness
  • be resilient enough to bounce back from adversity and hardship
  • practice (a strong level of) empathy
  • be critical, creative, flexible, and innovative thinkers
  • be self-aware and self-regulatory
  • know “coding” tools and technologies
  • attend to your personal well-being
  • be able to communicate effectively through a host of mobile devices and digital platforms
  • understand disparities that disproportionately impact underserved communities.

I also checked the results of the popular SCANS report of 1991 published by the U.S. Department of Labor.  The report illustrated the need for employee skills in three general areas:   

  1. basic skills (e.g., reading, writing, math, listening, speaking)
  2. thinking skills (e.g., thinking creatively, making decisions, solving problems, reasoning)
  3. personal qualities (e.g., responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, honesty. 

Several questions come to mind.

  • How do the CEO’s “expectations” and the SCANS findings match those of educators in P-12 schools?
  • How realistic are the “expectations” given the nature of schooling in this pandemic environment?
  • Are teachers trained/prepared to implement some or all of the “expectations”?
  • What are or should be the “expectations” for professional development?
  • How would educators prioritize these “expectations”?
  • What are the “expectations” educators have for CEOs of companies that employ their graduates?

You have read about 21st century skills from a study of more than 250 researchers across 60 institutions worldwide.  They categorized “expected” skills needed into four broad categories:  

  1. Ways of thinking:  creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, decision-making and learning; 
  2. Ways of working:  communication and collaboration; 
  3. Tools for working  information and communications technology and information literacy; and,
  4. Skills for living in the world:  citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility.

I want to underscore a very important reminder about the skills and dispositions noted above.  They cannot be learned in insolation.  That is, if we are going to teach students “critical thinking skills,” for example, we have to offer them something worth thinking about.  That means, that we need teachers to offer students academic content (reading, math science, the arts, etc.) that is rich, rewarding, and relevant.

Think about what are your (great) EXPECTATIONS for your students when they arrive in your classroom? 

My great expectation is that all P-12 students will learn and practice the 3 E’s:

Always be ethical, enthusiastic, and empathetic.

Reference: U.S Companies: Key Job Skills Students Need Post-Pandemic, by Mark Lieberman, Education Week, March 2021, (

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

BLOG, April 2021.

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This, That and Character

THIS:  The headlines:

  • COVID-19 and learning loss—disparities grow and students need help
  • School closures have failed America’s children 
  • School closures having “calamitous” impact on kids and parents
  • Families of children with special needs are suing in several states
  • Why children suffer more violence amid COVID-19

Bellwether Education Partners note because of the pandemic ”that for approximately 3 million of the most educationally marginalized students in the country, March [2020] might have been the last time they experienced any formal education—virtual or in-person….Schools, districts, and communities must develop and implement attendance intervention strategies that start with an informed understanding of students’ unmet needs—and avoid punitive approaches that exacerbate those needs.


As students come back into your classroom, be the teacher aka the pilot that:

Flies (them) to the Moon,
Let’s (them) play among the stars,
Let’s (them) see (what being back) is like on Jupiter and Mars. 


Let’s give students a “character hand” with each of the five fingers being interrelated character “tools” that students need when they go back to school (and those who are in school). 

(1) It starts with PURPOSE. 

It is a surprise to many students to hear the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy.  It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.     

Purpose is a character strength that is vital to individual well-being and healthy communities.  Purposeful people, have some well-developed other-oriented values, such as compassion, justice, equality, and a sense of social responsibility.” 

Help your students develop a sense of social responsibility in and out of class.  Help them focus on the WHY of things in their lives and express/communicate their “purpose in life.”

The MPOWER program (Klein, is a school program designed to engage students in “grappling” with three essential questions: “What do they want to achieve? Who do they want to become? How do they lead purposeful lives?”  The 4-Ps of MPOWER are: “people, passion, propensity, and pro-social benefits.”

(2) Then we add PERSEVERANCE. 

Michele Borba’s exciting new book, Thrivers, has an excellent chapter on this topic.  She writes: “Perseverance is the trait that pushes the envelope to help kids thrive and often makes the critical difference in whether they succeed or fail.”  

Dr. Borba describes perseverance lessons that “focus on effort, not the end product.”  To name a few: “read and discuss,” “model,” “practice one thing at a time,” “use bounce back examples,” and “encourage students to do the hardest things first.”  

Professor of psychology, Angela L. Duckworth, calls it grit.  She notes that it is among the most important predictors of success.  She and other researchers have found that grit and self-control can predict students’ likelihood of performing well academically, graduating from high school, and going on to college.

(3) Let’s have the third finger be about GOALS. 

This one works for me.  It is called SMART (obviously an acronym).  The most successful goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals:   

  • Specific—the goal is targeted rather than broad and/or vague.
  • Measurable—the goal can be quantified (measured with numbers).
  • Action Oriented—the goal is something that you can actively work towards and control.
  • Realistic—the goal is something you can actually achieve with the resources available to you.
  • Time Bound—the goal has a beginning and ending or a deadline that you will yourself to hold.

It takes practice.  The success in “goal setting” both for you (try it) and your students (teach it) is holding yourself and students accountable for them.  There are a variety of resources out there to help you teach your students HOW to set meaningful goals for themselves.  One of my favorites is “10 SMART Goals Examples for Students of All Ages.” (

Set a “teaching goal” that you will teach your students how to write “SMART goals” that focus on character-related habits and skills.

(4) Now the all-important RELATIONSHIPS. 

Relationship traits and skillsrespect, trust, kindness, caring, love, and gratitudeare learned behaviors that must be taught rather than just caught.  Enter—parents, teachers, peer groups, and social media. 

We know this: “Positive teacher-student relationships are associated with fewer disruptive behaviors and suspensions, and lower school dropout rates. AND a teacher’s relationship with students is the best predictor of how much the teacher experienced joy versus anxiety in class.”

Neville Billimoria, Vice President, Mission Federal Credit Union, writes a weekly column called “Soul Food Friday.”  In a recent posting, he offered this quote: 

“Author Andy Stanley once said, ‘Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.’  Far too many principals share rules with their teachers, but they don’t have a relationship with them.  And far too many teachers don’t have positive relationships with their students.  So what happens?  Teachers and students disengage from the mission of the school….To develop positive relationships you need to enhance communication, build trust, listen to them, make time for them, recognize them, show them you care through your actions and mentor them.  Take the time to give them your best and they will give you their best.”

(5) We close our hand and make it a fist because we want to be RESPONSIBLE.

In my “Court of Virtues,” responsibility is the King, respect is the Queen.  Thus each of the four “character tools” (five fingers) are dependent on a person being responsible for his/her actions and behaviors.  This means that the character skills imbedded in both self-awareness and self-discipline should be taught and practiced by our students with emphasis on accountability, trust-building, and dealing with consequences.

It means doing what must be done when you don’t want to do it.  It means following through on commitments, not making excuses, or blaming others.  It also means “doing the right thing, at the right time.”  For you, their teacher, it means using “lessons, readings, discussions, case-studies, and current events.” 


Character is about strengths and virtues (respect, responsibility, empathy, etc.) that guide an individual to act in an ethical, pro-social manner which includes how to be a friend, how to care and appreciate others, how to be polite, respectful, courteous, and how to resolve conflicts peacefully.  

Character is about choicesthe ones we make daily (good or bad, ethical or unethical).  Character is about decision-makingthe circumstances, the risks, the chances, the consequences, and the rewards.

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

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