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Character Education Snapshots

It is the month of June, the month of leaves and roses, when pleasant sights salute the eyes, and pleasant scents the noses.     Nathaniel Parker Willis

With my camera in hand, I visited the character education gardens where “everything was coming up roses” and took these snapshots for my scrapbook.

Snapshot 1:  TEACHING CHARACTER AND CIVILITY

“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 2:  THE OTHER SIDE OF THE REPORT CARD

The “citizenship” side of the report card should not take second place in the “race to the top.”  Why?  The Josephsen’s Institute’s annual poll of teens reveals a rather high percentage of teens who cheat, steal, lie, and exhibit a “propensity toward violence” including bullying.  Teacher polls show that teachers find students to be less respectful, more aggressive, more impulsive and impatient, and display more inappropriate language.  One observer of the youth culture noted that the mantra of the “ME” generations appears to be: “I Know My Rights – I Want It Now – Someone Else Is To Blame – I’m A Victim.”  Let us join the many schools and communities in this county who are attending to the “citizenship” side of the report card by implementing programs designed to teach students democratic values, prosocial skills, emotional control and anger management, critical thinking, ethical decision-making, and what it means to be a good citizen.

Snapshot 3:  MORAL AND CHARACTER EDUCATION: THE CONNECTION

“Character education has reintroduced one important aspect of moral development…namely, socialization—helping the young learn how to live cooperatively, caringly, and civilly.” (Paraphrasing our colleague, Professor Kevin Ryan)

Lickona and Davidson have made the case that there are two types of character—“moral character” and “performance character.”  They write: “Moral character [values/virtues and ethics] is necessary for successful interpersonal relationships and ethical behavior.”  The characteristics of moral character encompass such virtues as integrity, caring, respect, generosity, responsibility, cooperation, and the like.  The companion to moral character is “performance character – a needed characteristic for reaching one’s potential in school, the workplace, or any area of endeavor.”  Performance virtues include diligence, perseverance, ingenuity, self -discipline, grit, optimism, and more.

Snapshot 4: CHARACTER EDUCATION: THE TRUE COMMON CORE

Attending to the character development of students in our schools supports academic achievement and social-emotional skill development.

“Character and citizenship are the critical elements of a positive school culture and climate.”      -M. Elias, (2008)

“Character education positively influences academic achievement; and has a broad impact on a wide variety of psycho-social outcomes, including sexual behavior, problem-solving skills, relationships, and attachment to school.”

Berkowitz and Bier (2005)

“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)

Snapshot 5:  CHARACTER EDUCATION: SIX STANDARDS

Standard One: Mission-Core Values-Goals

  • Exemplary character education programs have a clear set of core values/virtues, including a mission statement and specific goals.

Standard Two: School Culture

  • Exemplary character education programs address a school’s culture and its effectiveness to provide a safe environment, character development, community involvement, and student achievement. 

Standard Three: Value Formation-Moral Action

  • Exemplary character education programs nurture and foster students’ interpersonal values, intrapersonal values, and civic virtues.

Standard Four: Staff Development

  • Exemplary character education initiatives include professional development training, workshops, seminar, etc. 

Standard Five: Curriculum-Programs-Partnerships

  • Exemplary character education efforts focus on integrating character education into the full spectrum of school activities and school life.

Standard Six: Assessment/Evaluation

  • Effective character education programs are assessed on a regular basis, and school personnel and others use data-driven information to make informed changes and decisions.

Snapshot 6:  CHARACTER EDUCATION AND THE ARTS

Research has shown that children who receive regular exposure to the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic excellence, to participate in a math and science fair, or to win an award for writing a poem or essay.

Recent research also shows that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in on other aspects of their lives.  The ability to focus requires a balance between listening and contributing, concentration and focus, thinking about one’s role, and how that role contributes to the big picture of what is being created.  Several experts make the case for adding the ”A” to STEM and for promoting programs that develop children and youth’s artistic/performance skills and talents.

Snapshot 7:  CHARACTER EDUCATION AND SCHOOL PRINCIPALS

Jacob Francom researched the roles high school principals assume when developing, implementing, and sustaining character education efforts in their schools.  He found six main roles, three of which deal directly with leader skills and abilities: reflective leaders, collaborative leaders, and moral leaders.  These principals were also plate peddlers (get buy-in from constituents), cultural engineers (character education becomes the foundation of the school‘s environment), and champions (obstacles overcome, successes celebrated.)

“Roles High School Principals Play in Establishing A Successful Character Education Initiative,” Journal of Character Education, Vol 12(1), 2016,

pp. 17-34)

A 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found that three out of four K-12 public school principals believe the job has become “too complex,” with the majority contending that school leadership responsibilities have changed significantly over the last five years.  Nearly half of the principals surveyed indicated that they “feel under great stress several days a week.”

In a teacher survey, 21% of teachers polled completely agree that their school’s principal possesses the subject-matter/content knowledge necessary to help them improve their instruction.  Forty-one percent of the principals believe that they did.

(Education Week Research Center, 2019)

Snapshot 8:  CHARACTER EDUCATION AND TEACHING SKILLS

You may have seen the Business World’s Scorecard where people are talking and writing about “soft skills.”

“Like it or not, emotions are an intrinsic part of our biological makeup, and every morning they march into the office [and our schools and classrooms] with us and influence our behavior.  Executives are starting to talk about the importance of such things as trust, confidence, empathy, adaptability and self-control.”

Shari Caudron, “The Hard Case for Soft Skills”

Currently we have the 21st Century Skills Scorecard that includes:

  • Ways of Thinking (creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning);
  • Ways of Working (communication and collaboration);
  • Tools for Working (communications technology and information literacy); and,
  • Skills for Living (citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility).

Two skills that cut across all four categories are “collaborative problem solving” and “learning in digital networks.”

The Fortune 500 Companies Scorecard identifies five top qualities these companies seek in employees: 

  1. Teamwork
  2. Problem solving
  3. Interpersonal skills
  4. Oral communication
  5. Listening

And so, what is in your character education garden?

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center
University of San Diego
BLOG, June 2020

The Essence of Character

“Habits we train are habits we gain!”  (author unknown)

In March, the Center sponsored a full day character education program offered by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.  It was terrific—all you have to do is ask the 79 teachers who attended.

During the day, a group of teachers asked me:  “Which character traits would you recommend for a character education program?”   

A simple, straightforward question but not easy to answer.  Educators, like you, want to know exactly what strengths, skills, traits, virtues, habits, should make up the “core” of a school’s character education efforts.  

Take your pick as we start with the “character strengths” story.

Seligman and Peterson published a book titled, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, in which they describe 24 widely-valued character strengths, organized under six broad virtues: 

1. Wisdom and Knowledge 

  • creativity:  thinking of novel and productive ways to do things 
  • curiosity:  taking an interest in all of ongoing experience
  • open-mindedness:  thinking things through and examining them from all sides 
  • love of learning:  mastering new skills, topics, and bodies of knowledge
  • perspective:  being able to provide wise counsel to others

2. Courage

  • honesty:  speaking the truth and presenting oneself in a genuine way 
  • bravery:  not shrinking from threat, challenge, difficulty, or pain 
  • persistence:  finishing what one starts 
  • zest:  approaching life with excitement and energy

3. Humanity

  • kindness: doing favors and good deeds for others 
  • love: valuing close relations with others 
  • social intelligence: being aware of the motives and feelings of self and others

4. Justice

  • fairness: treating all people the same according to notions of fairness and justice 
  • leadership: organizing group activities and seeing that they happen 
  • teamwork: working well as member of a group or team

5. Temperance 

  • forgiveness: forgiving those who have done wrong 
  • modesty: letting one’s accomplishments speak for themselves 
  • prudence: being careful about one’s choices; not saying or doing things that might later be regretted 
  • self-regulation: regulating what one feels and does

6. Transcendence 

  • appreciation of beauty and excellence: noticing and appreciating beauty, excellence, and/or skilled performance in all domains of life 
  • gratitude: being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen 
  • hope: expecting the best and working to achieve it 
  • humor: liking to laugh and joke; bringing smiles to other people
  • religiousness: having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of life

The KIPP Schools, another example, focus on these seven “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  

As you know, business leaders are talking and writing about “soft skills.”  Some call them “skills to pay the bills.”  Shari Caudron, in an article titled, “The Hard Case for Soft Skills,” says: 

“Like it or not, emotions are an intrinsic part of our biological makeup, and every morning they march into the office (and our schools and classrooms) with us and influence our behavior…. The ability to understand, monitor, manage and capitalize on our emotions can help us make better decisions, cope with setbacks and interact with others more effectively…. Executives are starting to talk about the importance of such things as trust, confidence, empathy, adaptability and self-control.”

In addition to the “character strengths” and “soft skills“ listed above, we could add social skills, communication skills, higher-order thinking skills (problem-solving, critical thinking, decision-making) and the skills associated with self-control, self-confidence and relationships.

Let’s look at “social skills.”

The Social Skills Improvement System—Classwide Intervention Program (Elliott and Gresham) identified 10 top skills that students need to succeed, surveying over 8,000 teachers and examining 20 years of research. 

  1. Listen to others
  2. Follow the steps
  3. Follow the rules
  4. Ignore distractions
  5. Ask for help
  6. Take turns when you talk
  7. Get along with others
  8. Stay calm with others
  9. Be responsible for your behavior
  10. Do nice things for others. 

www.PearsonAssessments.com)• Include the weekly character trait concerts, and pep-rallies.  

“How to Build a 36-Week Character Education Curriculum” suggest 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 the 36-trait curriculum. 

(Mentoring minds.com)

  • Accountability
  • Bravery
  • Determination
  • Friendliness
  • Gratitude
  • Love
  • Perseverance
  • Politeness
  • Serving others
  • Trustworthiness

Whew!  Enough already. I think I answered their question.

Whoever our students may be, whatever subject we teach, ultimately we teach who we are.         – Parker Palmer, Author, Educator and Activist 

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES. USD

It’s What’s Up Front That Counts —The PRINCIPAL

During the holidays, I had a conversation with a friend who is a district administrator in another state responsible for monitoring and assisting new principals and those experiencing “difficulties.“  Her story was filled with concerns about their administrative skills and leadership abilities.

In this blog, I share information with those of you who are in educational leadership (administrative) positions with a special focus on school principals.

My view about leadership in schools and elsewhere is summarized best by Zenger and Folkman (The Extraordinary Leader):

Character is the center pole, the core of leadership effectiveness.  Character traits, for our leaders and ourselves, include respect, responsibility, compassion, trust, perseverance, honesty, gratitude, self-discipline and courage.

I also like the Turknett Leadership Group’s “Leadership Character Model” (www.turknett.com).  Their view is that “Leadership is about character – who you are, not what you do.”  Their model includes three keys to character-related leadership:  

  1. Integrity (honesty, credibility, trustworthy);
  2. Respect (empathy, lack of blame, motivational mastery, humility);
  3. Responsibility (self-confidence, accountability, focus on the whole, courage).

You may have read a few of my past blogs on school leadership such as:

“What’s Under Your School’s Character Education Umbrella?”

“The Principal: Character, Collaboration and Commitment”

“What is This Thing Called – Leadership?”  

“The Qualities of Character and Leadership” 

“Presidential Character and Leadership”

Three examples of my books on this topic include:  

Complete Guide to Administering School Services

An Administrator’s Guide for Evaluating Programs and Personnel 

Character Education: A Guide for School Administrators

In the character education guide book, we developed the idea that a principal’s leadership role must include being a visionary, a missionary, a goaltender, a standard-bearer, an architect, an educator, a communicator, a provider, and an evaluator.

Interestingly, Jacob Francom researched the roles high school principals assume when developing, implementing, and sustaining character education efforts in their schools.  He found six main roles, three of which deal directly with leader skills and abilities: reflective leaders, collaborative leaders, and moral leaders.  These principals were also plate peddlers (get buy-in from constituents), cultural engineers (character education becomes the foundation of the school‘s environment), and champions (obstacles overcome, successes celebrated.)

“Roles High School Principals Play in Establishing A Successful Character Education Initiative,”  Journal of Character Education, Vol 12(1), 2016, pp. 17-34)

Three Surveys

A 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found that three out of four K-12 public school principals believe the job has become “too complex,” with the majority contending that school leadership responsibilities have changed significantly over the last five years.  Nearly half of the principals surveyed indicated that they “feel under great stress several days a week.”

In a teacher survey, 21% of teachers polled completely agree that their school’s principal possesses the subject-matter/content knowledge necessary to help them improve their instruction.  Forty-one percent of the principals believe that they did. 

(Education Week Research Center, 2019)

A survey of the top reasons cited by principals for leaving their jobs are: poor working conditions, lack of resources, insufficient salaries, inadequate preparation and professional development, overwhelming job with inadequate support, lack of decision-making authority, and high-stakes accountability policies.  The research also shows “that principals are highly committed to their students and staff.  The root of the turnover problem is school conditions.”

(Education Dive, Roger Riddel, July 22, 2019)

Two Article Summaries

Bernard Marr, internationally best-selling author and keynote speaker, writes about the 14 Essential Leadership Skills During The 4th Industrial Revolution.  They include: actively agile, emotional intelligence, humbly confident, accountable, visionary, courageous, flexible, tech savvy, intuitive, collaborative, quick learners, culturally intelligent, authentic, and focused.

In the February 27, 2019 issue of SmartBrief, Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, writes that the “average 21st century school leader is in over his or her head in work demands and expectations.”  

He poses this question: “What are principals to do?”  

His answer: “Become more comfortable with and proficient at delegating.”

How?  His suggestions (edited) include: 

  • Remove bottlenecks, attend to the “continuity of process.”
  • Focus on prioritization.
  • Work only on the things that they are uniquely qualified to do. 
  • Delegate tasks – delegating meaningful work that builds trust and improves morale and engagement.
  • Encourage cooperation and teamwork.
  • Focus on communication.
  • Encourage new ways of looking at things, new approaches to problem solving.
  • Be accountable and responsible in shaping employee behavior. 

The Question

The question for current school principals posed by Baruti K. Kafele, an award-winning former urban principal in New Jersey: Is my school a better school because I lead it?”

His answer:  It’s my strong belief that to lead your school forward, you must consider this question daily.  To answer this question affirmatively, you must be absolutely clear about who you are as the school leader, what your mission is, what purpose drives your work, and how you envision the future of your leadership and school.  These characteristics determine who you are, what you’re about, why you’re about it, and where you are going.  They serve as a mirror for why you do this work in the first place.  You must lead your school with the confidence to say, ‘Yes, my school is, in fact, a better school because I lead it.’  And when you do, students win.”

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, University of San Diego, January 2020

Twelve Days of Teaching Character and Civility

Seminar: I had just completed my 40-minute talk urging teachers and other school personnel to focus on the character development of students in their classrooms and schools: “What is it?”  “Why do we need it?”  “Where do we find the time to do it?”  “How do we do it?”  “How do we know if it’s working or not?”   

After the presentation, I opened it up for questions.  A middle-grade teacher asked: “For now, I just want to know how to I teach my kids to be civil to one another in and out of my classroom?”

On the FIRST day of classes my mentor said to me:  

“You asked me how do you teach students to be civil to one another?”  

Character is about relationships – emotional and social.  It is about teaching your students skills such as sharing, participating, following directions, and listening.  It is about helping them to recognize their own emotions (self-control), how to recognize the emotions in others (listening and questioning), and how to motivate oneself (grit and perseverance).  It is about learning how to be a friend, how to care for others, how to appreciate others, how to be polite, respectful, courteous, civil, and how to resolve conflicts peacefully.

On the SECOND day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I want you to think about the implications of this survey and read this article.  Notice we are talking about skill development that students can and must learn in your classroom (and elsewhere).”

A survey of 8,000 teachers done at Vanderbilt University identified these top 10 skills that students need to succeed: “Listen to othersfollow the stepsfollow the rulesignore distractionsask for helptake turns when you talkget along with othersstay calm with othersbe responsible for your behaviorand do nice things for others.” 

Read:  7 Ways To Teach Children Civility, Matthew Lunch, The EDVOCATE, 2-23-18.  He says that “our children desperately need someone to teach them civility and show why it is important.”  His seven ways include: 1) manners matter, 2) show tolerance, 3) give examples, 4) listen well, 5) apologize regularly, 6) encourage empathy, and, 7) practice what you preach.

On the THIRD day of classes my mentor said to me: 

“We should discuss the curricular and teaching implications of these two studies.  The Pew Research Center lays the foundation for your question about how to teach students to be civil.” 

They report that of the ten skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life, communication skills, was selected by most of the respondents.  In another report about 21st century skills, respondents noted that there is a need to teach children and youth two very important skills: communication and collaboration.  In one sense, these make up a skills curriculum that you and others should be implementing to teach students oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills, including the emotional and social skills that we talked about. 

On the FOURTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I do not know where I read this—it was in my notes without a reference.  The author suggests ways ‘to help students learn to engage in productive, civil discourse in the classroom.’  You might try this with students in your classroom.”

First, begin with yourself—be the model in your classroom.

Second, monitor your classroom climate.

Third, state your dialogue expectations/boundaries clearly from the start.  The author notes that the basic rule of civil discourse is to be respectful and don’t make it personal.

Fourth, start small and build as skills develop.

Fifth, have students watch civil debates and begin classroom debates using non-threatening topics. 

Sixth, have your students use a “private journaling” strategy in which you provide a debatable statement and have them decide whether or not they strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree and write out the “why” to their selection.

On the FIFTH day of classes my mentor asked me to try this activity::  

“When you get a chance, try out this quotation activity with your students.  I hope that after this lesson your students will be able to compare and contrast quotations, find information about the author of each quote, determine the meaning and implications of each quote, write and draw how the quote may apply to what they do and say, and, discuss the meaning of the quotes with classmates, friends, family.”

  1. “Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners, as well as a matter of good health.” —P.M. Forni
  2. “I think civility is important to getting things done.” Amy Klobuchar 
  3. “You can disagree without being disagreeable. “—Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  4. “Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.” —Mary Wortley Montagu
  5. “Civility is the art and act of caring for others.” —Deborah King

On the Sixth day of classes my mentor said to me:

“It’s the holiday season.  Take a break.  Go see the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  Next, watch a couple of episodes of the TV program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Have your students see the movie and a few of the TV programs.  Develop a teaching unit and other activities in your classroom that build on a relationship of care (one of FR’s themes).  For example, have your students create posters of what Mr. Rogers says to them –followed, of course, by classroom discussion. 

“You are lovable.  I like you just the way you are. There is only one person like you in the world. You are my friend; you are special.”

On the SEVENTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I am a proponent of teaching students the why and how of asking questions. Teaching your students the skills of question-asking helps them clarify what others are saying or doing in a situation.  I suggest you access The Right Question Institute and examine their Question Formula Technique, a strategy to teach your students how to formulate their own questions.”  (https://rightquestion.org)

On the EIGHTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I suggest that you consider being the ‘character education leader’ in your classroom and school.  To do that, you should know this about the character development.”

Character is taught to our youth through the media, the Internet, the environment they live in, their peers and role models, and by parents, teachers, schools, youth agencies, and religious institutions.

Character is about strengths and virtues that guide us “to act in an ethical, pro-social manner.”  It is about choices—the ones we make daily (good or bad, ethical or unethical); about relationships and social skill; and about “emotional” self-discipline. 

On the NINTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I want to tell you a story that I read written by 7th grade language teacher, Justin Parmenter, from Charlotte, N.C.  He created an assignment called Undercover Agents of Kindness.  He had each student draw a random classmate’s name from a bowl.  In pairs, they had two weeks to perform an unexpected act of kindness.  Then he had each pair of students write a missions report detailing what they did and how it went.  Why don’t you try a similar activity with your students?  Maybe call it Mission Civility.”

JP writes:  It was my students’ reflections on the kindness activity that revealed its impact most. Again and again, they acknowledged that it was difficult and felt awkward to approach someone they didn’t know well and do something for them. But almost every time they added that they were proud of themselves for doing it anyway and felt the power in brightening someone else’s day.”

On the TENTH day of classes my mentor said to me: 

“I found an interesting article written by Melissa Benaroya titled How to Teach Civility During Divisive Times, Committee for Children, Feb. 24, 2017.” 

She writes:  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.”

One the ELEVENTH day of classes my mentor said to me:  

“Here are four resources to help you teach your students the positive behaviors of being civil and people of good character.”

  • Nine Lessons on Peer Relationships
  • Class Meetings: Creating a Safe School in Your Classroom
  • Behavior Problems in the Classroom: What to know, What to do.
  • 3 Steps to Civil Discourse in the Classroom 

On the TWELFTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I have three gifts for the new year for you (no, not gold, frankincense, and myrrh).  They are PEACE, HOPE, and LOVE!”

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES. USD
12-1-19

The Ruler and the Umbrella

“This year, young people across the country and around the globe will spend hundreds of hours honing their academic skills.  But in most schools, they will spend exactly zero instructional hours engaged in the mastery of emotional intelligence.” – Psychologist, Angela Duckworth

Professor Duckworth authors a weekly blog titled “Emotional Intelligence 101.”  In September, she provided the reader with a “beginner’s guide to feeling.”  She mentions the “Mood Meter” developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and suggests that educators try “Yale’s RULER approach to social and emotional learning, developed to help children and adults recognize, understand, label, express, and regulate their emotions.”

In a book authored by Marc Brackett and Janet Kremenitzer (National Professional Resources, Inc.  www.NPRinc.com), the authors write that: 

The RULER Approach…supports the power of emotional literacy training.  Students trained in emotional literacy showed higher academic grades, higher grades in social development and work habits, were more likely top complete their homework, work cooperatively with others, demonstrate self-control, and pay attention to the rules of the classroom and the school. (P. xi)

The model includes: 

“Recognition of emotions

Understanding of emotions

Labeling emotions

Expression of emotions

Regulation of emotions (PRIME).”

One of the questions asked by educators is whether or not to adopt RULER if the school or district has an SEL or character development program?  The answer:

“RULER integrates seamlessly with many other school-based initiatives and its goals and methods overlap with those of other SEL and character education programs.  In general, RULER becomes the backdrop with a common language and a positive and safe climate in which to teach other academic and SEL topics.”

A 12-page brochure about RULER can be found at http://www.rulerapproach.org.

Since we are talking about “rules,” it is interesting to note Robert Marzano’s list of The Golden Rules of Character:  

    • RESPECT:  Respect others just as you want them to respect you.
    • RESPONSIBILITY:  Take responsibility for yourself just as you want others to take responsibility.
    • COMMUNICATION:  Listen to understand—speak to be understood.
    • EMOTION:  Think before you act—act for the good of yourself and others.
    • APPLICATION:  Act on these GR in and out of your classroom and school.

Those of you who have read our postings over the years know that we believe that an “umbrella metaphor” captures the paradigm posed by Davidson, Lickona, and Khmelkov (Education Week, November 14, 2007) that “students need performance character to do their best academic work; (and)…moral character to build the relationships that make for a positive learning environment.  Performance character: qualities such as effort, diligence, perseverance, strong work ethic, positive attitude, ingenuity, and self-discipline.  Moral character: qualities such as integrity, justice, caring, and respect—these are needed for successful interpersonal relationships and ethical behavior.”

Umbrellas have a handle and eight panels.  In our metaphor, the “handle” represents the core virtues of Caring, Courage, Responsibility, Respect, Empathy, etc.  

The “eight panels” of the umbrella represent Academic Achievement—Curriculum—Classroom Climate—Co-curricula Programs—Instruction—Partnerships—School Culture—Special Programs.

A sample of the “special programs” under a school district’s character education umbrella includes:  

    • anger management
    • conflict resolution
    • social-emotional learning
    • emotional intelligence
    • drug and alcohol use/abuse
    • violence prevention
    • peace education
    • anti-bullying programs
    • social skill development
    • virtues and ethics education
    • RULER
    • Project Wisdom
    • Fostering Purpose Project
    • project-based and service learning
    • VIA Institute on Character (https://www.viacharacter.org/character-strengths 
    • citizenship (see December 2018 blog –Civics Education)
    • assemblies, celebrations, award events

These special programs, either individually or in combination, have three goals: 

1) the character development of students, 2) the creation of a positive, safe, and nurturing school culture, and 3) the active involvement of educators, parents and the community.

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

It’s Time for C-P-R

By Ed DeRoche, Ph.D.

Welcome back to a new school year! 

Last month, I read David Brooks’ new book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life—a book about relationships and commitment. 

Brooks says he wrote the book to “compensate for the limitations” of his first book on character, The Road to Character.  That book, he notes, was written while he was “still enclosed in the prison of individualism”—the “resume virtues” of career, successes, accomplishments, rewards, fame, and self-interests, or the “first mountain.”  

Thus, the idea for this blog on Commitment, Purpose, and Relationships.  I hope you take classroom time early in this new school year to encourage your students to think about, talk about, and practice C-P-R at home, in school, and in your classroom.  

COMMITMENTS are the school for moral formation. The “disposition to do well is what having good character is all about.”   (Brooks) 

The word, commitment, has several synonyms.  I picked three— intentionality, responsibility, and promise.  One question for classroom discussion might be, “What promises should you make to your students and they make to you and their classmates? 

Our job as educators (and parents) is to help students understand the importance of making and keeping commitments (responsibility/promises).  This understanding will have a positive influence on their academic performance as well as their personal and social behaviors. 

Psychologist Angela L. Duckworth’s wrote that she “recently surveyed thousands of adolescents about their positive and negative emotions, then asked their teachers to rate them on the same scales.  The correlation between how students were really feeling and what their teachers perceived was surprisingly weak and, in some schools, close to zero.  In other words, it’s hard to know how someone feels unless you ask…and listen.”  

This school year make a commitment to listen, to question, to be “tuned in” to your students’ emotions and behaviors.  

PURPOSE:  Our commitments give us a sense of purpose.” (Brooks) 

The question for you, me, and other adults is:  How do we help students develop a sense of purpose about what they do in school, in our classrooms, and elsewhere?  

Our job as educators (and parents) is to help children and youth learn to take responsibility for their actions, to be willing to accept the negative consequences of their actions and behaviors, and to do something about thembe responsible.  

William Damon, Director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence says a sense of purpose is “the long-term, number one motivator in life.”  He writes:  

“Schools must address the ‘why’ question with students about all that they do.  Why do people study math and science?  Why is it important to read and write?  To spell words correctly?  Why have I (the teacher) chosen teaching as my occupation?  Addressing this question in front of students, which unaccountably teachers rarely do, not only helps students better understand the purpose of schooling but also exposes them to a respected adult’s own quest for purpose.  Why do we have rules against cheating?  This is a good opportunity to convey moral standards such as honesty, fairness, and integrity and is a missed opportunity in most schools, even those with strong character education agendas.  Why are you, and your fellow students, here at all?” 

“Research shows that young people rarely have a sense of purpose.  Only about one in five high schoolers and one in three college-aged youth reports leading a life of purpose.” says Kendall Cotton Bronk, Associate Professor of Psychology in the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences (Claremont Graduate University).   

RELATIONSHIP is the driver of change—underscored by a “Tremendous emphasis of listening and conversation.” (Brooks)  

We need to pay more attention to the “relationship factor” because strong relationships are the “life line” in helping to reduce behavior issues, improve classroom climate, enhance student attitudes and attention, and contribute to student achievement.  We know that positive relationships can help reduce the negative effects of stress and boost one’s self-esteem. 

Katrina Schwartz reports:  

“Classroom educators know better than anyone else how much of learning is built on the strength of relationships in the room.  When students like and trust their teacher, they learn better.  Veteran teachers know those factors often hinder teachers’ ability to form relationships.  But a slow shift may be coming as some school leaders are starting to recognize that the health and happiness of teachers, students, and staff depend on making space in school for relationship building.”  

Your take-aways:  

C-P-R is your and your students “life-line” to a peaceful, promising, and productive new school year.  

C-P-R captures essential behaviors that underscore the character formation of students.  

C-P-R must be taught and modeled.   

“At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished.  It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments.  It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better.  It’s about what you’ve given back.”   —Denzel Washington     

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, David Brooks. New York: Random House, 2019.  

William Damon, “Teachers can still instill sense of purpose,” Education Next, Summer 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 3

Kendall Cotton Bronk | Five Ways to Foster Purpose in Adolescents, December 21, 2017. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/ 

Katrina Schwartz, Helping Teens Find Purpose: A Tool For Educators To Support Students’ Discovery, September 25, 2017 KQED News 

It’s August, Take a DIP! Dream, Imagine, Plan

“Dreams are the touchstones of our character.” — Henry David Thoreau 

“Imagination has no age and dreams are forever.” — Walt Disney Company

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” — Albert Einstein

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.  Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” — Gloria Steinem

A few months ago, I attended a high school graduation in which the principal concluded the ceremony shouting out to the 2019 graduates, “DREAM BIG!”

A few weeks ago, I read Zachery Roman’s article, “How I’m Encouraging My Kids to Dream Big and Aim High.”  He writes: 

“Take time to ask your child about his or her dreams and see if there are ways you can help your child achieve them.  Let your child know that no dream is too big or small to accomplish, but it will take hard work, dedication, and a determination to ‘leave no stone unturned’.” 

I also read Scott Jeffrey’s article, “How To Use Your Imagination,” in which he describes a method for producing creative work designed by the Disney organization.

“The Disney group differentiate three roles necessary for generating creative ideas and actualizing them: the Dreamer, the Realist, and the Critic.  The Dreamer accesses the unconscious by allowing the mind to wander without bounds.  Daydreaming isn’t just allowed; it’s encouraged.  The Realist accesses the conscious mind that organizes ideas, develops plans, and sets forth strategies for execution.  The Critic tests the plan, plays the role of Devil’s Advocate, and looks out for what could go wrong.”

DIPDreams, Imagination, and Planningare about character.  To do something with one’s dreams, with one’s imagination, requires having such character strengths as curiosity, open-mindedness, creativity, persistence, and grit.  All necessary skills for “planning.” 

Dreams, in other words, are “aspirations” defined as a “strongly desired goals or objectives.”  Writes Julie Connor:  Passion fuels dreams. Commitment fuels action. Get clear about what you want to do and why you want to do it.  Take action.”

As you know, psychologist Angela L. Duckworth’s research reveals that  “grit and self-control” can predict students’ likelihood of performing well academically, graduating from high school, and going on to college” [three Big Dreams]. 

A recent discovery for me had to do with the relationship between dreams and imagination.

“Imagination can take you everywhere from anywhere.  Everything you see around was once an imagination of someone.  Without imagination this world would come to still and there won’t be any new inventions.  Dreamers change the reality and bring the new way of doing monotonous work.  They make people’s lives easy with their craft.  These imagination quotes will give new dimensions to your creativity.  Be curious, be hungry.”       https://www.overallmotivation.com/

Interestingly, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the United Engineering Foundation offer a program called “Every Child Should Dream Big.”  These two groups have a campaign to place Dream Big [Imagination] educational toolkits [Planning] in every U.S. public school, plus many private schools, and schools around the world in countries including Canada, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, and Madagascar!  www.discovere.org/dreambig.

In CERC’s July issue of News You Can Use, we began with our usual “Using Quotes in the Classroom” with the topic “Dream A Little – A Lesson.”

I leave it to you to decide why and how you might encourage your students, early in this new school year, to DREAM BIG, be IMAGINATIVE, and PLAN carefully.

Perhaps you could start with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech from August 28, 1963.  He offers eight “I have a dream” statements; your class discussion might begin with:

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES 

August, 2019

ALL-STAR TEACHERS PLAY THE SKILLS GAME

The 90th annual MLB All-Star Game was played on July 9th at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.  The American League won the game for the seventh straight year.  Players are selected based on their SKILLS by three groups—fan voting, player voting, and the Commissioner’s office.  

In schools and classrooms, we call it the SKILLS GAME taught by All-Star Teachers at all grade levels.  The “fan voting” includes parents and students.  “Player voting” includes teachers and staff.  The “commissioner’s” selections are from school and district administrators. 

What might you find on a SKILLS SCORECARD?

On one of the older cards, you will find Bloom’s Taxonomy—the “go to game” for thinking skills a few decades ago.  

Many of you will remember the SCANS Scorecard, highlighting the need for employee skills in three general areas:  

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

You may have seen the Business World’s Scorecard where people are talking and writing about “soft skills.”

“Like it or not, emotions are an intrinsic part of our biological makeup, and every morning they march into the office (and our schools and classrooms) with us and influence our behavior.  Executives are starting to talk about the importance of such things as trust, confidence, empathy, adaptability and self-control.”    – Shari Caudron, “The Hard Case for Soft Skills”

Currently we have the 21st-Century Skills Scorecard that includes:

  • Ways of Thinking (creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning);
  • Ways of Working (communication and collaboration);
  • Tools for Working (communications technology and information literacy); and, 
  • Skills for Living (citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility). 

Two skills that cut across all four categories are “collaborative problem solving” and “learning in digital networks.”

The Fortune 500 Companies Scorecard identifies five top qualities these companies seek in employees:  

  • Teamwork 
  • Problem solving
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Oral communication
  • Listening

Another Scorecard offered by the Pew Research Center showed that adults identified several essential skills that were most important for children and youth to learn “to get ahead in the world today.”  These included communication skills as the most important, followed by reading, math, teamwork, writing and logic. 

There are two other very essential Skills Scorecards.  One is on the topic of Emotional Intelligence (ET) and the other is a scorecard that describes Social Intelligence (SI).

You know well the All Star for Emotional Intelligence.  Psychologist Daniel Goleman hit a couple of “homeruns” with his books Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, and Working with Emotional Intelligence.  His scorecard included such skills as self-confidence, self-awareness, self-control, commitment and integrity.  

In discussing emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman cites Peter Salovey, a Yale professor who categorized components of emotional and social skills into five areas: 

  • Knowing one’s emotions
  • Managing emotions
  • Motivating oneself
  • Recognizing emotions in others
  • Handling relationships

The scorecard for Social Intelligence is also revealing and relevant. 

“Social intelligence [social skills] is as important as IQ when it comes to happiness, health, and success.  Empathetic people are less likely to experience anxiety, depression, and addictions later in life.  They are also more likely to be hired, promoted, earn more money, and have happier marriages and better-adjusted children.” –Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D., Board-Certified Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychologist

“If we increase social skills, we see commensurate increases in academic learning.  That doesn’t mean that social skills (including cooperation and self-control) make you smarter; it means that these skills make you more amenable to learning.” – Stephen Elliott, Vanderbilt Peabody Education and Psychology Researcher and co-author of the newly published The Social Skills Improvement System.

Lastly, there is the Ten Skills Scorecard from the work of Stephen Elliott and Frank Gresham who surveyed over 8,000 teachers and examined 20 years of research in classrooms across the country.  They identified these top 10 skills that students need to succeed: 

  • Listen to others
  • Follow the steps
  • Follow the rules
  • Ignore distractions
  • Ask for help
  • Take turns when you talk
  • Get along with others
  • Stay calm with others
  • Be responsible for your behavior
  • Do nice things for others

“Top 10 Social Skills Students Need to Succeed,” Research News at Vanderbilt University, 9-27-2007

Does this sound like the “skills-game“ teachers are now playing in schools and classrooms?  If so, then give these teachers your vote and be sure they are rewarded for being an ALL-STAR. 

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, University of San Diego. BLOG, July 2019

WHAT’S UNDER YOUR SCHOOL’S UMBRELLA?

By Ed DeRoche, Ph.D.

One of my favorite movies was E.T. You may recall a scene in that movie where the two brothers, after spending sometime with E.T., mount their bicycles to go to school, and the older brother asks, “Did you tell him about school yet?” The younger brother answers,  “How do you explain school to a higher intelligence?”

Not easy! But the question served as an idea for this blog. Namely, how to explain character education to parents and the public? The answer: define character, character education, and describe a framework that their school and school district might use in one form or another.

Here is what we know about character:

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, trusting, etc. Character is about “emotional” self-discipline and how to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Character education is “education that nurtures and promotes the ethical, intellectual, social and emotional development of individuals. It is a continuous learning process that enables young people and adults to become moral, caring, reflective, responsible individuals. Character education represents a relationship between knowledge, values and skills necessary for success in life.” (https://ethaca.com/character-education/)

For years, we have been using the umbrella as a metaphor to help our colleagues, students, educators, parents and others better understand and appreciate what character education is and why it is necessary. The metaphor provides a framework for schools and school districts.

The HANDLE of a school’s character education umbrella could represent, for example, Seligman & Peterson’s 24-character strengths listed under six broad virtues of character:

1) Strengths of Wisdom and Knowledge
2) Strengths of Courage
3) Strengths of Humanity
4) Strengths of Justice
5) Strengths of Temperance
6) Strengths of Transcendence.

Their 24 character strengths include: creativity; curiosity; judgment; love-of-learning; perspective; bravery; honesty; perseverance; zest; kindness; love; social intelligence; fairness; leadership; teamwork; forgiveness; humility; prudence; self-regulation; appreciation of beauty; gratitude; hope; humor; and spirituality.

Most umbrellas have EIGHT PANELS.  Each of the eight panels tells us how we develop, nurture, foster, teach, and promote the core virtues/strengths in the HANDLE.

Panel One: Vision, Mission, Goals, Objectives

Clear statements about each are crucial to communicating the “who, what and why” of your character education program, practices and projects.

“Good character is not formed automatically; it is developed over time through a sustained process of teaching, modeling, learning, and experience.” – Maryland State Department of Education

Panel Two: Academic Programs & Standards

Character Strengths – Emotional Intelligence – Social Skills & Relationships – Civics – Citizenship

“…Without good character, individuals may lack the desire to do the right thing. Character strengths, when exercised, not only prevent undesirable life outcomes but are important in their own right as markers and indeed causes of healthy life-long development.” (Park & Peterson)

Howard, Gardner: “Your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them.”

The distinct advantage of learning social skills are: more & better relationships, better communication, greater efficiency, advancing career opportunities, and increasing overall happiness.  Preparing students in four key areas of civic readiness: knowledge (of government, civic rights); skills (public advocacy, gathering and processing different viewpoints); actions (volunteering, voting); and dispositions (concern for others’ constitutional rights and freedoms, respect for processes and laws governing the republic). Nebraska State Board of Education

Panel Three: Classroom Climate & School Culture

Behaviors – Attitudes – Expectations – Hidden curriculum – Assemblies – Celebrations – Award events – Honoring student’s voice & ideas

Schools that are infusing character education into their curricula and cultures are seeing dramatic transformations; pro-social behaviors… are replacing negative behaviors. When you walk into a character education school… you find an atmosphere of mutual caring and respect, where students value learning and care about their teachers, classmates, communities, and themselves. (www.character.org.)

Panel Four: Curriculum

There are 3- B ways for you and others to examine before creating a character education program at your school or at the district level:

Buy It. Borrow it. Or Build it.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Check the research, find out what works, examine programs in other school districts, talk to experts. When you have the information you need create a character education program that fits the culture of your school district. t is important to remember that no two schools are alike even in the same school district. All schools have their own “personality.”  Note the list in Panel 8.

Panel Five: Extracurricular Programs

Studies have shown that students who participated in school-based extracurricular activities had higher grades, higher academic aspirations, better academic attitudes, leadership and time management skills, and social skills than those who were not involved in extracurricular activities.

The character-related values for students participating in school extracurricular activities include leadership, adaptability, social skills, grit, perseverance, responsibility, and sense of community, teamwork, and aspirations. Margo Gardner, a research scientist at Columbia University’s National Center for Children and Families (NSCF), has calculated that the odds of attending college were 97 percent higher for youngsters who took part in school- sponsored activities for two years than for those who didn’t do any school activities.

Panel Six: Assessment/Evaluation

I suggest the creation of a school or district character education assessment committee (CEAC). At some point there are six questions that should be answered.

1) What should we assess (audit)?
2) When should we start assessing the program?
3) Who should do the assessment?
4) How will we do the assessment –what instruments should we use?
5) What should be our assessment plan –a year plan?
6) What do we plan to do with assessment results?

3 Ways to Assess School Climate & Character by Character.org  One = Give students surveys about character & climate regularly Two = Incorporate character & climate into teacher/staff evaluations Three = Create an effective induction  process for new teachers.  Character.org: 11 Principles of Effective Character Education

Panel Seven: Partnerships & Community-based Programs

Character education is and has always been a community affair enhanced by strong and effective family, school, and community partnerships.  School-community partners provide resources to a school and expand the number of people participating in modeling good  character and help promote character education.

“Partnerships are essential for helping students achieve at their maximum potential. Partnerships are a shared responsibility. In effective partnership programs schools and other community agencies and organizations engage families in meaningful and culturally appropriate ways, and families take initiative to actively support their children’s development and learning.”  – National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments

Panel Eight:  Special Programs (examples)

Anger management, conflict resolution, social-emotional learning, drug & alcohol use/abuse violence prevention, peace education, anti-bullying programs, student leadership programs, mindfulness strategies, restorative justice, positive behavioral Interventions & supports (PBIS)

Three questions for you:

1) How well do you or others explain your school’s character education program (if you have one) to parents and the community

2) What’s under your school’s character education umbrella?

3) What “metaphor,” if any, would you use as framework for your school’s character education initiatives?

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

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