Category Archives: Blog Post

Teach, Inspire, Motivate

As one goes through life, one learns that if you don’t paddle your own canoe, you don’t move.     – Katharine Hepburn

As you read in my February blog, Kendall C. Bronk, an associate professor of developmental psychology at Claremont Graduate University in California, noted that “most young people and even most adults don’t have a purpose in their life” and “finding one’s purpose (and be motivated to carry out those purposes) requires four key components: dedicated commitment, personal meaningfulness, goal directedness, and a vision larger than one’s self.” 

The editors of The Journal of Character Education put it this way:

“We are aware that motivation is central to the foundation of character, and particularly moral character.  Purpose lies at the heart of such motivation (and) is central to the heart by being a core of the motivational impetus to be good.”

This blog offers you ideas suggested by experts on how to motivate your students to learn subject matter, to learn about character-building behaviors, and to learn the importance of relationships and responsibilities.

Here are 21 ideas by TeachThought staff who note that “the best lessons, books, and materials in the world won’t get students excited about learning and willing to work hard if they’re not motivated.”

  1. Give students a sense of control.
  2. Define the objectives.
  3. Create a threat-free environment.
  4. Change your scenery.
  5. Offer varied experiences.
  6. Use positive competition.
  7. Offer rewards.
  8. Give students responsibility.
  9. Allow all students to work together.
  10. Give praise when earned.
  11. Encourage self-reflection.
  12. Be excited.
  13. Know your students.
  14. Harness students’ interests.
  15. Help students find intrinsic motivation.
  16. Manage student anxiety.
  17. Make goals high but attainable.
  18. Give feedback and offer chances to improve.
  19. Track progress.
  20. Make things fun.
  21. Provide opportunities for success.


Here are 10 more motivating strategies that you might use:

  1. Believe in them.
  2. Be extremely encouraging.
  3. Make sure your students are the ones who are working.
  4. Use memory work and recitation.
  5. Make learning fun.
  6. Be wise with your homework.
  7. Have one-on-one conversations.
  8. Get the parents involved.
  9. Help your students be more organize.
  10. Consider whole brain teaching.


And another 10 (edited) “Unconventional Ways to Motivate Students.”

  1. Get involved:  Spending time outside of the classroom gives teachers additional opportunities to act as role models and mentors. 
  1. The VIP is an ally: All kiddos have one, their Very Important Person.  Don’t underestimate the worth of the VIP.
  1. Positive reinforcement:  Don’t give up!  Praise him when you can, take note of his effort, and help him understand how his actions are going to help him not only in the classroom but in life.
  1. Be seen, not heard:  If what teachers want is enthusiastic, hardworking students, we need to emulate that.
  1. Build a rapport:  There are ways to show kindness and interest, and in doing so, teachers are building a solid foundation that usually extends far beyond the classroom.
  1. Get in on the action:  When our students see us as people and not just teachers, they connect with us on a more personal level.
  1. Ownership:  Give students options in the classroom.  If students have a hand in making decisions about their education, they are more likely to commit to them.
  1. Goal setting:  The success in goal setting is not simply establishing them but holding students accountable for them.  Take time to revisit those goals, discuss their progress, and redirect students’ efforts when necessary.
  1. Incentivize:  A homework pass or a school-wide acknowledgment of their successes are great ways to give students a pat on the back and continue supporting and motivating them.
  1. Use their strengths:  Use their strengths, and not just in class.  Motivating them enough to enjoy some aspects of school and work for that diploma is a great starting point.

(We Are Teachers, Stephanie Jankowski, June 29, 2015

There are four specific ways to nurture a sense of intrinsic motivation in students:

  1. Why Autonomy Matters – Giving students a role in deciding what their educational experience looks like can help motivate them; having a say in their classroom environment, being able to choose their homework assignment, allowing them to develop ideas for their own assignments.
  1. Praising Competence Instead of Natural Ability – Students are more likely to do something if they feel like they have the ability to be successful doing it; praising effort instead of natural ability, showing students their growth over a semester, having students become teachers to their classmates.
  1. Helping Students Relate to Others – Building relationships with peers and teachers helps students feel cared about by people they respect.  Create learning situations in which students come to like and respect their classmates; provide opportunities to work with such classmates; create positive relationships between teachers and students. 
  1. Making Students’ Work Relevant – For students to feel motivated, they must see the work they are doing in the classroom as interesting, valuable, and useful to their present lives.  Have lesson plans and discussions about topics prevalent in students’ lives; have students set academic and non-academic goals; challenge students to write about why and what they are learning is relevant. 

(“What Teachers Can Do to Boost Student Motivation,” Education Week, Digital Edition, December 9, 2019)

I was motivated to find at least 40 strategies that you might use in your classroom.  I hope that you will be motivated to try some of these ideas with your students.

Success is no accident.  It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.   – Pele

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES. USD
March Blog 2020

On Purpose

I received several emails in response to my last month’s blog about “school principals.”  My plan for this month was to write a follow-up blog focusing on the question that concluded the January blog: “Is my school a better school because I lead it?”

My plan changed after seeing three movies: “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “1917,” and “Little Women.”  Based on the experience of each of the main characters, I was reminded of an important character strength and virtue—purpose. 

The importance of and need for developing a sense purpose in children and youth is new to me, as it may be for you.  I used The Journal of Character Education (V15-N2, 2019) to help me get a sense of what it is about, and what to share with you in this blog.

Let’s start with the question, what does purpose mean?

The Journal editors write: “We are aware that motivation is central to the foundation of character, and particularly moral character.  Purpose lies at the heart of such motivation [and] is central to the heart by being a core of the motivational impetus to be good.”

Several articles in the Journal addressed the meaning of purpose.  A few examples:

  • Purpose has been associated with increased hope and life satisfaction, positive affect, academic achievement, and with life transitions from early adolescence through emerging adulthood.” 
  • Purpose is a character strength, or virtue, that is vital to individual well-being and healthy communities.”
  • “Defining purpose as a beyond the self-life goal suggests that purposeful people are aware of the perspective of others, have some well-developed other-oriented values, such as compassion, justice, equality, and have a sense of social responsibility.” 
  • “The potential for purpose emerges with the development of moral emotions and reasoning, future-mindedness, and the capacity to act on higher-order goals.”
  • “A definition of purpose includes three keys dimensions:

(1) purpose as a sense of direction, 

(2) purpose that is personally meaningful, and 

(3) purpose as a desire to make a difference on the broader world.” 

Kendall C. Bronk’s (associate professor of developmental psychology at Claremont Graduate University): ”Review of the purpose literature concluded that the majority of definitions consists of three irrefutable components: commitment, goal-directedness, and personal meaningfulness.” 

I want to briefly report on three articles.  One addresses instruction (practices) and two that describe curriculum (programs).

Quinn, Heckes, and Shea write about classroom practices supporting the development of purpose among adolescents.  In summary, the most common teacher-practice was “the identification of a goal or long-term intention in the classroom including encouragement, teacher-set goals, student-set goals, and goals set by both.”  In order to help students find personal meaning, teachers most frequently utilized the following strategies: “making outward connections, attending to students’ interests, establishing a strong teacher-student relationship, and making content interesting…(including) using projects and group work, teaching life skills, making outward connections, and civics education.” 

Stillman and Martinez’s article offers a “practitioner perspective” using a Six Seconds EQ Model (Know/Choose/Give).  The inner circle of the framework included these skills—“know yourself, choose yourself, and give yourself”—and three competencies: enhancing emotional literacy/recognize patterns; consequential thinking/navigate emotions/intrinsic motivation/optimism; increase empathy/pursue noble goals.  The EQ Model asked students to think about three questions: “What am I feeling?  What options do I have?  What do I truly want?”

The MPOWER program (Klein, is a school program designed to promote purpose by “helping students connect to supportive people, identify their passion and core values, and discover their strengths.”  The program’s primary thrust is 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.” 

Three Final Points

The Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools purpose is “to promote strong character and citizenship among our nation’s youth.  Character education reaches the habits of thought and deed that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities, and nations.”

I suggest that you read Heather Malin’s book, Teaching for Purpose: Preparing Students for Lives of Meaning, (Harvard Education Press).

“If you are not making someone’s life better, then you are wasting your time.  Your life will become better by making other lives better.”  – Will Smith

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES. USD  February Blog 2020

May I Ask You Some Questions?

This blog, as you will note, begins with two quotes that will frame the questions that are constantly raised when we talk about character and character education with educators and others.

“Students who can effectively manage their emotions and behavior tend to do better in their coursework and on assessments.  In fact, students who report high self-management are 75 percent less likely to face failing grades than students who report low self-management.           
Panorama Research Team 

Paul Tough, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (2012), suggests that what matters to children and youth is adults’ (home, school, community) abilities to “nurture the development of a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence.  Economists refer to these qualities as non-cognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us think of these traits as character.”  

What do we know about character?

There are no character genes—character is taught to the young by social media, the Internet, the environment they live in, their peers and role models, and hopefully by parents, teachers, schools, youth agencies, and religious institutions.

  • Character is about strengths and virtues that guide an individual “to act in an ethical, pro-social manner.”
  • Character is about choices—the ones we make daily (good or bad, ethical or unethical).  It is about decision-making—the circumstances, the risks, the chances, the consequences, and the rewards.
  • Character is about relationships and social skills—skills such as sharing, participating, following directions, and listening.  It is learning how to be a friend, how to care for others, how to appreciate others, how to be polite, respectful, courteous, and how to resolve conflicts peacefully.
  • Character is about “emotional” self-discipline. 

To assist administrators, teachers, and others in schools, we offer nine questions about character education that address the WHAT and HOW.

1. What is the environment/climate of the school and what should it be? 

Our answer is that at the very least it should be: Safe – Caring – Civil – Challenging – Empowering.

2. What outcomes do school personnel, parents, and students desire for students who have attended the school for three or four years?

Our answer is this question should be based on at least three categories: character, career, and citizenship.

3. What are the character traits/virtues that should permeate the curricula and co-curricula programs at the school? 

The answer to this question must be a list agreed upon by the school’s stakeholders and incorporated into the mission of the school.

4. What thinking, communication, and social skills should permeate all subjects, programs, and instruction? 

5. What special/intervention programs should be implemented to promote the character development of students, to enhance their social and emotional skills, and to foster their leadership and citizenship skills?

6. What must school personnel do to be sure that all school stakeholders are on the same page relative to the answers to the questions above?

7. What are the EXPECTATIONS for students regarding their behaviors?

8. What are the EXPECTATIONS regarding relationships at your school?

  • Students and students / students and parents / adult and students?  
  • Teachers and parents / teachers and parents and administrators? School and community?

9. How will school personnel (all stakeholders) know that their efforts to do the above have paid-off?

  • How will programs and efforts be assessed?
  • How will students’ academic, social, emotional, and character behaviors and actions be assessed and evaluated?

Then we are always asked –Do character education initiatives work?

A national survey and report ( described three essential life-long skills that must be taught to children and young adults.  

  1. “Social skills and awareness (e.g., communications skills, active listening, relationship skills, assertiveness, social awareness). 
  2. Personal improvement/Self-management and awareness (e.g., self-control, goal setting, relaxation techniques, self-awareness, emotional awareness). 
  3. Problem-solving/Decision-making.” 

The report states: “They found that schools that score higher on implementation of a variety of character education aspects also have higher state achievement scores.  Most notably, such higher scores were most consistently and strongly related to the following four aspects of character education: 

  1. Parent and teacher modeling of character and promotion of character education;.
  2. Quality opportunities for students to engage in service activities;
  3. Promoting a caring community and positive social relationships; and 
  4. Ensuring a clean and safe physical environment.”

“The aim of education is not the knowledge of facts but of values.” —Dean William R. Inge

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, University of San Diego 

November, 2019

Apology, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Love

Last month I read a novel titled, The Hummingbird, by Stephen P Kiernan, (Harper Collins Publishers, 2015).  In the book one of the characters asked another “what would be your answer to each of these four questions?”

Is there anyone you need to say ‘I’m sorry’ to?

Is there anyone you need to say ‘I forgive you’ to?

Is there anyone you need to say ‘thank you’ to?

Is there anyone you need to say ‘I love you’ to?

I bookmarked the page saying to myself, “Here is your May Blog – apology, forgiveness, gratitude (thanks), and love.”

I was struck by the power of the four questions and what they say about “reflection” – something I do not think we do often in our classrooms.  As you know, ”reflection” is a component in learning, a source of both knowledge and beliefs, and an aspect of critical thinking—looking back on the implications of one’s actions. 

I asked a few teachers what they thought about the idea of having students answer these questions about once a month during class-meeting time.  

“I like it!  What a good way to teach students to reflect on the substance of the questions.  I would have them write down their answers and discuss them in class, but only those students who want to do so publicly.”

Another teacher suggested that she would have her students add their own reflective question(s) to the list. 

I have written about gratitude (thanks) and love in two previous blogs—November 2018 and February 2019.  Before we revisit those two virtues, some commentary about “apology and forgiveness.”


The question—how does one “apologize?” 

How to apologize can be the key to getting true forgiveness and moving a relationship forward in a positive way,” writes Marlee McKee.  McKee offers seven tips for apologizing sincerely and successfully:  

  1. Ask for permission to apologize.  
  2. Let them know that you realize you hurt them.  
  3. Tell them how you plan to right the situation.  
  4. Let them know that inherent in your apology is a promise that you
    won’t do what you did again.
  5. After you’ve talked through things, formally ask them for forgiveness.  
  6. Consider following up with a handwritten note.  
  7. Now it’s time for both people to go forth and live out their promises.


Teaching children “forgiveness” as you may have guessed, is a parent and teacher responsibility.  Enright and Fitzgibbons write that “Forgiveness is a virtue hard to exercise and challenging to implement in the face of injustice, but one that offers a concrete hope for peace.” 

They recommend “family forgiveness gatherings” at least once a week, such as during mealtimes, to talk about “what forgiveness means, how it feels, and what is easy and hard about.”  Here is a strategy that would work in the classroom as well. 

Robert Enright, Forgiveness is a Choice (Washington: APA, 2001); Robert Enright and
Richard Fitzgibbons, Helping Clients Forgive (Washington: APA, 2000); cf. International Forgiveness Institute, web-site:

Jamie Perillo, LPC, a child and family psychotherapist and parent educator, offers seven ideas to help parents and teachers get started on teaching children forgiveness.  He notes that to forgive is to say, “I do not like your words or actions, but I am willing to let it go because it does not help me to hold onto these feelings.”  He suggests that we look beyond the action and explore the person—helping her/him to answer the question: “what triggered the behavior?”

Perillo also suggests that the child (student) should be encouraged to “identify the feeling” he/she is experiencing (anger, embarrassment, disappointment) and then “state the feeling before offering forgiveness.”  

We need to teach our children at home and in school that there are usually two or more sides to an issue or problem.  We need to teach our kids to be able to see things from the other side. Forgiving is much easier when we know the whole story and not just half of it.  Ask your kids how they would want someone to respond when they did something wrong.  They would want to be forgiven.  Then tell them to do likewise.”

Gratitude (Thanks)

In the November blog, I wrote that Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, said:  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).

I wrote that studies have shown that people who experience gratitude and thanks 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.


In the “What’s LOVE got to do with it?” blog, I noted that, Barbara Fredrickson, psychologist and author of the book Positivity, discusses “the science of happiness” and ten positive emotions including love.  

“Love,” she writes, “comes into play in a close and safe relationship.  Love is the most common feeling of positivity and comes in surges.  Love fosters warmth and trust with the people who mean the most to us.  Love makes us want to do and be better people.”

This might be a good time for you to reflect on each of the four questions and plan your next steps.  Take 10 minutes and ask yourself “is there anyone I need to say I’m sorry, I forgive you, I thank you, I love you to?”

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES
May, 2019

Relationships: Teacher-Student and Teacher-Class

April 2019 Blog
By Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center

Sometimes the things you want the most don’t happen and what you least expect happens. I don’t know – you meet thousands of people and none of them really touch you. And then you meet one person and your life is changed forever. Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal), Love & Other Drugs

That person could be a teacher! So, let’s talk about teacher-student and  teacher-class relationships. The first, teacher as coach/adviser/counselor. The second, teacher as conductor/director/ringmaster. 

Both are grounded (or should be) in “relationships” that are positive, rewarding, and productive. Students deserve teachers who are encouraging conductors of learning rather than domineering ringmasters focused on maintaining order. 

In the March 13th issue of Education Week (, Sarah D. Sparks wrote an article titled, “Why Teacher-Student Relationships Matter.” She framed her full-page report around five questions. I have marked the author’s quotes with “SS.” All other quotes come from different references. 

1. Why are student-teacher relationships important? 

Positive teacher-student relationships are associated with fewer disruptive behaviors and suspensions, and lower school dropout rates. 

A teacher’s relationship with students is the best predictor of how much the teacher experienced joy versus anxiety in class. 

2. How does a teacher’s approach affect that relationship? 

Sometimes teachers don’t understand the importance that their relationship with each student has on that student’s identity and sense of belonging. Vicki Nishioka, researcher with Education Northwest (SS) 

Emotional control, and social and relationship skills are learned behaviors that must be taught and practiced by all students. Enter—the teacher! The ones that know how to counsel and conduct; the ones that respect, care about and show concern for the character development of their students. The ones that create a positive learning environment and show that they care are most likely to have their students reciprocate and show respect for them and their fellow classmates. 

3. How can teachers improve their relationships with students?

In a word: Empathy. (SS) 

We know from the work of Goleman and others that emotional intelligence consists of four attributes: self-awareness, self- management, social awareness, and relationship management. (You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.) 

Research shows that teachers who cultivate empathy for and with their students are able to manage students’ behavior and academic engagement better. 

4. How can teachers maintain healthy boundaries with students? 

Experts caution that for teachers and students, “relationship” does not equal “friend,” particularly on social media. (SS) 

Most school districts have rules guiding teachers about using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Teachers can create “healthy boundaries,” by using common sense, by being honest with students about who want to share their personal stories, and, of course, there are always the liability issues. 

5. How can relationships with students support teacher quality? 

(Use) student feedback to improve teaching practices, and in particular, such feedback can be used to help teachers build deeper relationships with students. (SS) 

Strong teacher-student relationships have long been considered a foundational aspect of a positive school experience. – Clayton Cook, Professor, University of Minnesota 

I conclude by quoting Neville Billimoria, a friend and Vice President, Mission Federal Credit Union. Neville writes a weekly column called “Soul Food Friday.” 

In one recent posting, he addressed teachers directly about developing positive relationships with students. 

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. 

Great companies that build an enduring brand have an emotional relationship with customers that has no barrier. And that emotional relationship is on the most important characteristic, which is trust. —Howard Schultz, Businessman 

All About Character

October 2018 Blog
By Edward F. DeRoche, Ph.D.

Politicians, the press, the public, and most educators are excited about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM), and, of course, the ever present thrust for more testing.

Most of us know that knowledge keeps no better than fish—use it or lose it. But the one thing that we carry with us for a lifetime is our “character.”

Recent polls of public attitudes toward schools show that Americans want schools to prepare the young to be academically competent, and career ready. But they want more.

The public is urging educators and others to help children and youth develop character strengths such as kindness, gratitude, self-control, social skills, teamwork, diligence, perseverance, strong work ethic, positive attitudes, ingenuity, integrity, justice, caring, respect, and responsibility—all of which are learned.

What do we know about character? We know that:

• Character is learned—taught to the young by the entertainment industry, the media, the Internet, the environment they live in, their peers and role models, and hopefully by parents, teachers, schools, youth agencies, and religious institutions.

• Character is about strengths and virtues that guide an individual “to act in an ethical, pro-social manner.”

• Character is about choices—the ones we make daily (good or bad, ethical or unethical). It is about decision-making—the circumstances, the risks, the chances, the consequences, and the rewards.

• Character is about relationships and social skills—skills such as sharing, participating, following directions, and listening. It is learning how to be a friend, how to care for others, how to appreciate others, how to be polite, respectful, courteous, and how to resolve conflicts peacefully.

  • Character is about “emotional” self-discipline.
  • Character is who you are when no one is looking, or when everyone is looking.

What, then, is character education? Let’s use the U.S Department of Education’s definition:

Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others.

In schools, character education must be approached comprehensively to include the emotional, intellectual and moral qualities of a person or group. It must offer multiple opportunities for students to learn about, discuss and enact positive social behaviors. Student leadership and involvement are essential for character education to become a part of a student’s beliefs and actions.

The most frequently asked question—the one I get most from educators and parents—what’s the payoff?

One, a commitment to making character education an integral part of the education process will increase students’ academic achievement. For example, among middle-school students, the character strengths of perseverance, love, gratitude, hope, and perspective, predict academic achievement.

Two, character education in schools has a broad impact on students’ pro-social and moral behaviors by developing their problem-solving skills, building positive peer relationships, enhancing their self- esteem, improving their interpersonal skills, and strengthening their ability at self-regulation (control).

A third “pay-off”—an effective character education program shows that the school will become a more caring community, that discipline referrals will drop, that quality of peer and adult relationships will improve, and that students’ will make a greater commitment to schooling and academic achievement.

Professors Tom Hierck and Kent Peterson (University of Wisconsin- Madison) found that there are 19 student and staff behaviors that contribute to a positive school climate.

Showing pride in school Collaboration
Taking pride in one’s work Leadership
Helping others
Using time wisely
Being prepared
Love of learning
Making good choices
Active listening Cooperation
Using appropriate communication
Self-reliance Perseverance/resilience
Making an insightful comment Organization
Going above and beyond

Take note of how many of these behaviors are character-related.

Starting Your School Year with a Sense of Humor 

August 2018 Blog By Ed DeRoche

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.  The curriculum is so much necessary raw mater, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant for for the soul of the child.” — Carl Jung

To get ideas for a blog on how new and veteran teachers can successfully prepare for a new school year, I spent an hour on the Internet and discovered a rich source of advice and suggestions for teachers. The range of information includes ideas on how to arrange your classroom, 50 ways of getting through the first week, and 101 ways for handling stress throughout the school year. 

So, what is left for me to say? Very little, except some personal observations for what they are worth, and maybe a smile or two because I’ve touched on experiences that you have had or heard about. I begin with a reminder. Your students have had three months off. That means they have lost three months of learning and some people may blame you for this loss. 

By now you may have spent some of your own money on school supplies and your own non-paid time getting your classroom ready— arranging the desks, adding decorations, finding out if the equipment works, hanging posters, counting textbooks, and enjoying the quietness of preparation. You probably have the photocopying machine humming because you know—or have heard—that the best way to quiet a classroom of unfocused, talkative students is to give them a packet of worksheets. 

You also know that during that first week of school you have to over plan because when kids have nothing to do, things happen. Some educational specialist will tell you to greet each student—shake hands, and look them straight in the eye when doing this. Maybe give a hug or two (careful here, check the school policy on hugging). The experts also suggest that you to get to know your students’ names as soon as possible—no nicknames until the second semester. 

All agree that you must review your classroom rules as soon as possible, generally within the first hour. It’s best to post them. Kids have a tendency to forget “rules” at school and at home. The experts also suggest that you “get to it,” start teaching content, impress the students with your knowledge and make it look like they might learn something. 

Some specialists recommend that you send a letter or email to parents during the first week of school. There are all kinds of sample letters on the Internet so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Be sure to tell the parents how much you look forward to teaching their son/daughter this year. The rule is: Stop thinking of what could go wrong and start thinking of what could go right.  

Here is something you might consider. I just heard a speaker who talked about having his children sign a “contract” with him and their mother about the use of media in their home—what is expected, what they can and cannot do, how much time they can spend on their media devices. This might be a good idea for you. Develop a “contract” (or call it an “agreement”) in which you list your expectations for the students in your class. Invite parents to do the same—invite them to send you information about their expectations. It might be interesting to get the students in on this idea as well by having them list their expectations. Thus, a three-way contract to be discussed and used as a guide for the school year. 

I was once told that it is a good idea to end a blog with bullet points, so here are a few: 

• Do not go into the teachers’ room during the first month. You may hear things that will destroy your enthusiasm for teaching the rest of the year. 

• Develop a sense of humor—quickly. Your students’ behaviors will contribute to this. Humor is going to help you stay mentally healthy. 

• In many cases, teaching can be and often is stressful. There are days when you will be angry, frustrated, anxious, and emotional. Do something about it. Take a break, write about your feelings in a journal, go to the movies, the theater, etc. Most importantly, do something physical. Try yoga, take a long walk, jog, or work in your yard. Also, be flexible. Set your own comfortable pace and schedule, and work on developing a positive attitude about things. 

• Teaching can be a lonely experience. Don’t let it be. Collaborate! Cooperate! Be a leader and team player. Get involved in school and community activities. Take a professional development course. Also, go online, there are a number of teacher blogs and forums that offer advice for dealing with stress, for invigorating your teaching, and for inspiring you to keep going. A positive relationship is to your mental health as location is to real estate. 

Did You Know that KINDNESS is the “New Classy?”
By Ed DeRoche
July 2018 Blog

In June, I wrote a blog on “kindness” noting a few highlights from a new book written by Professor Thomas Lickona, How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain. The blog set the stage for his presentation at our annual “Character Matters” conference in late June.

The weekend following the conference, I went to a bookstore and I discovered a book on the same topic titled Kind is the New Classy. It was written by Candace Cameron Bure (CCB). I bought the book.

I read the book as a teacher and parent would; that is, what could I take from this book on kindness that I might use in my home and classroom?

CCB’s book is faith-based. She reveals a strong belief in God (example: “Go to God First,” p.73). She uses quotes from Scripture to underscore her views and comments about “kindness.” She writes that the secret she has learned is that “kindness is classy, unexpected, even counter- cultural, and ultimately wins the day.”

In the book’s introduction, titled “The Real Secret of Classy Women,” she writes: “I believe our world is in need of more women who value the virtue of kindness….In this book, we will talk about character traits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control) I believe make women truly remarkable…it simply takes choice and lifelong practice.”

I liked the way CCB framed each of her 10 chapter titles.

1. Finding Your “Why”– Kindness knows its purpose
2. Grace under Fire – Kindness keeps its cool even in hot topics
3. Kindness, Please – Kindness recognizes the image of God in all people
4. Dream Big, Pray Harder – Kindness gets ambitious for the good of others
5. Bad Hair Days and Bad Heart Days – Kindness practices healthy self-care
6. The Gift of Self-Control – Kindness takes responsibility for its choices and actions
7. Come On In – Kindness opens its door 
and life to others
8. Graciously Bold – Kindness steps forward in confidence for what’s right
9. My Best Friendship Advice – Kindness works to cultivate meaningful relationships
10. Sending Out the Bat-Signal – Kindness starts small and trusts every action matters

Each chapter tells the why and how through stories, quotes, and examples. She concludes each chapter with an invitation called “Your Turn.”

Here are a few excerpts from the book that caught my attention.

• Manners Matter – “Good manners are about putting others’ needs first, before your own.”

• Kindness “sends out chemical shock waves. It increases our mental, emotional, and physical energy, helping us to combat negative forces like anxiety and high blood pressure.”

• “Kindness, compassion, and empathy are values we can all get behind regardless of whether we agree on every issue.”

• CCB’s chapter on “self-control” is instructive. “It is a gift,” she writes, that “God has given me, and my job is to use it.”

• She notes three areas in which to use the gift of self-control: “our bodies, our minds, and our souls.”

• She reminds us that “the only thing you can truly control is your own behavior.”

• One last gem that caught my attention has to do with her six characteristics for choosing our friends. “I want friends,” she writes, “who are kind, strong, loyal, gentle, encouraging, and principled.”

Kind is the New Classy and it should be. CCB tells us why and how. She discusses character traits such as peace, goodness, faithfulness, and empathy. She reminds us of the importance of self-control, manners, and friendships.

My “kind” advice as a parent and teacher: Buy the book! Read it! Use it! Share it!

As Forrest Gump might say it: “Kindness is, what kindness does.” It is about caring and respecting. What it does benefits givers and receivers.

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES

The Skill of Question-Asking

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question; I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”  —A. Einstein

Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Does question-asking apply to the teaching and learning of positive character strengths and ethical decision-making?
  2. What resources could help you and your students appreciate the importance of developing question-asking skills?

The answer to the first question is “yes” and here is one reason.

The word CHARACTER has two Cs in it; one stands for CHOICE and the other for CONSEQUENCES. Living a life of good character doesn’t happen by CHANCE, nor does it happen by CIRCUMSTANCES.  It happens by CHOICES.  There is another very important “C” that should be considered – CONSCIENCE.

If character is necessary to inform our “choices” and “consequences,” (conscience) then children and youth need to learn and practice the skills of question asking.

In his paper “The Art and Architecture of Powerful Questions,” Eric Vogt reminds us that:

  • Questions are a prerequisite to learning.
  • Questions are a window into creativity and insight. 
  • Questions motivate fresh thinking.
  • Questions challenge outdated assumptions.
  • Questions lead us to the future.

“Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers.”  Robert Half

Here are four teaching suggestions that help answer the second question.

  1. Give Me Five: 5-W’s & the H
    • This strategy is applicable for deconstructing subject matter content, current events, and relationships.  A relationship example:
      • There is a fight on the playground.  Five students are involved and are sent to the office (which means the principal or her delegate has to deal with the problem.)  They are given a GMF sheet with a diagram of an open hand, each finger has question on it, and so does the palm.  The five students are separated, given the sheet, and told to write about the incident:
        • Who was involved? (thumb question)
        • Where? (finger question)
        • When? (finger question)
        • What happened? (finger question)
        • Why? (finger question)
        • How? (Resolution) (palm question)

The students have 10-15 minutes to complete the GMF sheet.  They return to the office for a “debriefing” to discuss the first five questions.  Then the How question:  “How are the five of you going to solve this problem?”  “What’s the solution and the consequences?”

Palm Question Thumbnail

  1. KAACCE – Bloom’s Taxonomy : Have your students memorize this acronym KAACSE (pronounce is as Kay-Sea) and what each letter means:
    • Knowledge – questions that have students list, define, tell, label, show, name, relate, recall
    • Comprehension – questions that compare, contrast, explain, rephrase, classify, interpret, outline, infer
    • Application – questions that solve, select, plan, choose, construct, experiment, organize, build
    • Analysis – questions that separate, compare, contrast, dissect, examine, infer, simplify, test for
    • Synthesis – questions create, construct, combine, design, adapt, modify, predict, and improve
    • Evaluation –questions that judge, criticize, conclude, assess, appraise, estimate, deduct, prove/disprove
  1. Teach your students Arthur Costa’s Levels of Questioning.
Level One
Defining Describing
Identifying Listing
Naming Observing
Reciting Scanning
Level Two
Analyzing Comparing
Contrasting Grouping
Inferring Sequencing
Level Three
Applying a principle Evaluating
Hypothesizing Imagining
Judging Predicting


  1. The staff at the “Right Question Institute” recommends that teachers use a 6-step process called the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), summarized as follows:
    1. Teachers design a question focus
    2. Students produce questions
    3. Students improve their questions
    4. Students prioritize their questions
    5. Students and teachers decide on next steps
    6. Students reflect on what they have learned

“Teaching this skill in every classroom can help successful students to go deeper in their thinking and encourage struggling students to develop a new thirst for learning.”

You will discover that question–asking is teachable, easily modeled, relevant to the Common Core Standards, applicable to 21st Century skills, and a life-long skill effective in gathering and processing information, solving problems, and making decisions (hopefully ethical ones) both professionally and personally.

To conclude – a few questions for you:

  • Why did you read this blog?
  • What did you learn?
  • How does this help you with the Cs in question one?
  • How can you use the information in your classroom with your students?

“In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question.”  — Richard Saul Wurman

Peace Education

“If we are to reach real peace in this world … we shall have to begin with the children.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Happy New Year!

Let’s talk about peace education, another program that is found under the “Character Education Umbrella.”

Peace education programs encompass the virtues that underscore good character and citizenship.  The objectives are to help:

  • students learn alternatives to violence, and adults and students 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 co-operation, shared decision-making, analysis and critical thinking;
  • enhance students self esteem enabling them to imagine life beyond the present;
  • the young recognize and express their feelings in ways that are not aggressive or destructive; using conflict resolution strategies, being empathic and engaging in nonviolent action in relation to problems both personal and societal; and
  • 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 efforts improves school climate, address the acts of violence in a student’s school and community, and helps create a school and home atmosphere that is peaceful and conducive to nonviolent attitudes and behaviors. The authors report that peace education efforts help students learn alternatives to violence, nurture in students the seeds of compassion rather than hatred, competition, and revenge.

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

Here is useful framework for program implementation:

Seven Phases of Planning a Peaceable School

Phase        Activity                                    Question

  1.             Develop a focus                     What is a peaceable school?
  2.             Specify needs                         What are the concerns?
  3.             Reaffirm commitment          Why should we take action?
  4.             Identify principles                  What do we want to do?
  5.             Design a model                      How do we get there?
  6.             Select an approach                What strategies do we use?
  7.             Implement plan                      Are we ready to get started?

I would add a Phase 8:  Evaluate progress / What happened after you implemented the plan?

A typical peace education curriculum and its instructional strategies focus on conflict resolution and problem solving that are personal, community, national, and global.  The intent is to offer students alternatives to violence, and assist both adults and students to create school and home environments that are peaceful and conducive to nonviolent attitudes and behaviors.

Some strategies used by teachers and other school personnel include:

  • peer mediation programs,
  • posters,
  • encouraging students to assume leadership roles, using special teachable moments,
  • keeping the peace message before all school personnel,
  • creating ways of teaching peace in subject matter areas with units and,
  • lessons that incorporate peace themes.

“Peace is woven into the day-to-day fabric of school life primarily through instructional methods such as cooperative learning and constructive controversy and conflict resolution programs such as ‘Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers.’ Through developing and maintaining peaceful relations with diverse schoolmates, students actually experience what they need to establish in society as a whole once they become adults.” (Johnson and Johnson, 2006).

“The pedagogy used in peace education is cooperative, participatory and active, including case-studies, storytelling, role-plays, empathy activities, negotiation and mediation practice, journaling, reflection circles, and alternative futures exercises. The learning objective of peace education aims to transform conflict through dialogue and nonviolence, and particularly where peace education affects youth conflict is transformed across generations.” (Kevin Kester, 2008)

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…..”  Martin Luther King, Jr. (Remembrance: 1-19-2015) 

Readers interested in a list of web sites about peace education are invited to send an email to character