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A “KEG” for Home, School and Classroom

Watching the Super Bowl commercials, I noticed lots of kegs of beer images.  So, I looked up the definition.  A keg is a small barrel.  Traditionally, a wooden keg is made by a cooper and used to transport items such as nails, gunpowder, and a variety of liquids.”  (Wikipedia)

I noticed that “keg” had three letters that I could use for this blog on characterKINDNESS, EMPATHY, and GRATITUDE.

I want to remind you once again that:

  • Character (including KEG) is learned.  
  • Character is about relationships, social skills, and emotional self-discipline. 
  • Character is about choices (decision-makingthe ones we make dailyto be good or bad, to be ethical or unethical, to be kind or unkind, to be empathic or not, and to be grateful or not.) 
  • Character is taught to the young by the entertainment and advertising industries, by the media and Internet, by politicians (i.e., Congress), by the environment they live in, by their peers and role models, and by their parents, teachers, schools, youth agencies, and religious institutions. 

KINDNESS is the motivation to be kind to others; the recognition of kindness in others; and engaging in kind behavior daily.”

You have heard and used the popular sayings such as “random acts of kindness,” and “the domino effect,” or “pay it forward.”  To do either one or all three, we need to know what these three pro-social behavior words mean. 

I recently read a blog by Dr .David Hamilton who, citing the research, noted that there are “five beneficial side effects of kindness—it makes us happier, it gives us healthier hearts, it slows aging, it makes for better relationships, and is contagious.”

Jill Suttie writing in Greater Good Magazine reports that a “new study finds that when we witness kindness, we’re inspired to be kind ourselves.  When we see someone being kind or generous, it gives us a warm glow feeling inside.  Researchers call this ‘moral elevation,’ and it not only feels good but inspires us to want to do good ourselves.”

In his book, “How to Raise Kind Kids and Get Respect, Gratitude, and A Happier Family in the Bargain,” Thomas Lickona writes, “Kindness obviously matters a great deal in schools, where children can experience either acceptance and friendship or ejection and abuse, depending on whether a culture of kindness prevails in classrooms and the school as a whole.”

EMPATHY is the “ability to put aside your ego, step into someone else’s shoes and experience their emotions, and to perceive the world through that person’s eyes.”

Sam Chaltain, a partner at 180 Studio, a global design collaboration, wrote a blog titled “The Empathy Formula,” which is E = EC2, a formula that shows three different ways a person can convey empathy.  

  • “The first is ‘cognitive empathy,’ or the act of knowing how another person feels.  
  • The second is ‘emotional empathy,’ or the capacity to physically feel the emotions of another.  
  • The third is ‘compassionate empathy,’ which is what occurs when we combine the previous two in the name of acting upon what we think and feel.”

In her book, “UNSELFIE: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World,” Michele Borba says that her goal was “to create a conversation that makes us rethink our view of success as exclusively grades, rank and score, and includes traits of humanity!  It’s time to include empathy in our parenting and teaching if we hope to prepare children to succeed and thrive in our global new world.”

Neuroscience researchers have found, among other things, that “stress and negative classroom associations impair learning; that motion surpasses cognition; that supportive relationships enhance learning; and that a caring teacher who minimizes classroom conflict positively impacts student achievement.”

One of the key lessons we can teach and model in our classrooms is that “the most important achievements and the greatest happiness are to be found in helping others.” 

Carol Ann Tomlinson and Michael Murphy (The Empathetic School, Educational Leadership, March 2018) write:  Findings from all these disciplines call on a teacher to understand students’ classroom experiences and to orchestrate positive classroom experiences—to see school through the students’ eyes and to respond in ways that minimize negative experiences and maximize positive ones.  Therefore, an empathetic school would place the highest value on not only caring about those who spend much of their lives in schools, but also caring for them.” 

GRATITUDE is “being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen in your life and taking the time to express appreciation and return kindness.”

UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons and University of Miami psychologist Michael McCullough have written about an “upward spiral” that gratitude creates in various dimensions of life.  As they wrote in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2003), “gratitude is effective in increasing well-being as it builds psychological, social, and spiritual resources….Gratitude appears to build friendships and other social bonds….Gratitude, like other positive emotions, broadens the scope of cognition and enables flexible and creative thinking, it also facilitates coping with stress and adversity.…Gratitude not only makes people feel good in the present, but it also increases the likelihood that people will function optimally and feel good in the future.” 

Psychotherapist Amy Morin, writing in Forbes (November 23, 2014) has elaborated on several scientifically backed benefits of practicing gratitude.  It opens the door to more meaningful relationships, improves physical and psychological health, enhances empathy, reduces aggression, improves sleep, increases self-esteem, and increases mental strength.”

Other studies have noted “people who experience ‘gratitude’ have more positive emotions (joy, love, happiness), exhibit fewer negative emotions (bitterness, envy, resentment), and have greater feelings of connectedness (relationships), more hope, and better physical health.”

I am grateful that you have taken the time to read this blog and would be pleased to read your thoughts and questions.  


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

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In Defense of Nonacademic Skills

Experts, teachers and students have said that including non-academic factors into grades and not giving students second chances to learn or make progress can contribute to unfair disparities in grades.  SDUSD


The pressure was on.  If things worked out, I would be the first child in our family’s history headed on the road to a college degree.  The trip did not begin well. 

I hit a speed bump in my first year in school—kindergarten, no less.  I flunked it.  But the school district had a “second chance” policy so they let me repeat it.  Two years in kindergarten—can you imagine what that did to me, psychologically speaking?

In grades 2 and 3, I was in, what my teacher called, a “pull-out” program.   It had something to do with my reading skills.  Three times a week I left my class for an hour, walked down the hallway to another classroom greeted by another smiling teacher.  I knew I was in trouble because there were no girls in the class, just five guys.

Next, junior high school (grades 6-7-8).  My teachers didn’t appreciate students who didn’t pay attention, looked bored, never said much in class, had an attitude of “why are we studying this stuff,” and claimed no “responsibility” for these attitudes.  They “gave” me grades between C- and D-.  A quote from my 8th grade English teacher: “This is the third paper I have corrected.  I am running out of red ink.  You still have trouble with grammar, spelling, and punctuation.”

My teachers, following school policy, failed to include in my grades the nonacademic side of my life, where I know I was getting A’s and B’s (okay, at least C+s).

I worked.  To help out at home, my father got me a paper route.  I delivered the local newspaper to 110 customers, six days a week, two-hours a day, and extra-time on Saturdays collecting weekly payments in rain, sleet, snow, and the summer heat.  I also played basketball and softball in two city leagues.  I was learning non-academic stuff—how to budget, how to manage my time, how to communicate, how to be responsible (except for schoolwork), how to be patient, and how to accept the consequences for the choices I was making. 

In high school, I didn’t do much better.  I gave up the paper route in my sophomore year and took a job in a shoe-store as a “stock-boy” and, when it was really busy, I sold shoes.  (Stop here and reflect on the numerous “nonacademic skills” I was learning there.)  I learned four things—patience, perseverance, the value of discounts, and that I had no future in the retail business. 

My teachers “gave” me low grades because they were under a mandate not to consider “nonacademic factors” (my strength) when assigning grades.   Learning the subject matter was all that counted.

My grades didn’t change much, but I did get into a local college on probationary status.  (It is not what you know, it is who you know.)  To no one’s surprise, I flunk out of my freshman year.  I had eight professors—four each in my first two semesters, who gave me failing grades and no “second chances.”  (I have their names.)

On my way home to give my parents the bad news, I visited the military recruiting depot.  Then things changed—nonacademic skills paid-off. 

I want to share with you what the experts say about the relationship between learning academic content and learning nonacademic skills (character traits and social-emotional learning, for example.) 

The Aspen Institute in this report presents these “Fast Facts”:

  • Nine out of ten teachers believe social and emotional skills can be taught and that it benefits students.
  • Four in five teachers want more support to address students’ social and emotional development.
  • Seventy five percent of the words students use to describe how they feel at school are negative.  Students most commonly report they are bored, stressed, and tired.
  • Integrating social and emotional development improves students’ attitudes and engagement.
  • Supporting students’ social and emotional development produces an 11%-point gain in grades and test scores.
  • Social and emotional; skills help to build cognitive skills.
  • SEL instruction helps students learn academic content and apply their knowledge.

In Education Week, K. Brooke Stafford-Brizard, writes:

“A growing body of research, drawn from the science of child development, demonstrates the extent of the impact that nonacademic and social-emotional skills—such as self-regulation, problem-solving, social awareness, and growth mindset—have on academic outcomes and success in the workforce and in life.  If academic standards are what students must learn, certain social-emotional skills support how they learn.  Recognize that a focus on foundational nonacademic skills, such as self-regulation and relationship-building, will help to support the development of other skills, such as resiliency and agency.” 

Regarding the long-term success of SEL programs, an article in Education Next, reports that “…some schools are better at supporting students’ social-emotional development than others.  But these effects are not all the same.  Schools effects cluster in two domains, social well-being and work habits, and some schools are better at one than at the other.  Schools that promote social well-being have larger effects on students’ attendance and behavioral infractions, while those that improve work habits have larger effects on academic performance….

We find that some high schools are better than others at helping students develop healthy social lives, community connections, and the skills and habits that promote hard work and grit.  We also find that students who attend such a school are more likely to experience positive outcomes in school and after graduation, from being more likely to attend a four-year college to having less interaction with the criminal-justice system.

In a Kappan Online article, three authors report two major SEL findings:

  1. Compared to control students, students participating in SEL programs showed significantly more positive outcomes with respect to enhanced SEL skills, attitudes, positive social behavior, and academic performance, and significantly lower levels of conduct problems and emotional distress.   
  1. The higher academic performance of SEL program participants translated into an 11 percentile-point gain in achievement, suggesting that SEL programs tend to bolster, rather than detract from, students’ academic success….SEL programs managed by teachers and other school staff consistently yielded positive results, and it highlighted the role of careful program implementation in ensuring positive student outcomes.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with having knowledge about history, math, or science.  Please remember: “Knowledge keeps no better than fish.  You have to use it or lose it.”  What “keeps better than fish” are the non-academic skills that are taught, learned, and practiced in and out of school (mostly out).

I end this blog with a list of skills and dispositions that experts say people will need to function successful in personal life and in their careers.  All of items on this list should be taught in P-16 schools.

  1. Critical and analytical thinking.
  2. Inquiry Skills and design thinking methods.
  3. Problem solving skills and responsible decision making.
  4. Communication, relationship skills, and collaboration skills.
  5. Personal management, self-direction and self- awareness.
  6. Technology skills, entrepreneurship and organizational skills.
  7. Civic literacy and citizenship with a global and cultural awareness.
  8. Leadership skills with empathy, perspective, persistence and courage.

The defense rests!

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


Also see The Other Side of the Report Card, Blog Post on January 22, 2013

And News You Can Use, December Issue, It’s About Relationships (six articles on student–teacher relationships)

We’d like to hear your thoughts, questions and feedback:

The “Better Angels of Our Nature”

Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and courage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. – William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust

In this blog, I am adding to Faulkner’s suggestion that children, teens, and adults “must never stop refusing to bear” – to include kindness, respect, apology/forgiveness, and integrity.

You may recall that my blog for October, “There is No Debating Civility,” addressed the issue of civility.  I follow-up with five resources teachers and others might use for teaching “civility” in the November issue of News You Can Use.  Next, came the popular November blog, “The Masks of Character,” in which I discussed the virtues of commitment, responsibility, gratitude, perseverance, empathy, and faith.

Tis the season to underscore a few other virtues during this celebration of the holidays.


Kindness is not an inherited trait; it is a learned behavior. – Katie Couric

An article in Scientific American (February 26, 2009) titled “Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts,” features an interview with Dacher Keltner author of Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.  Keltner noted that humans have remarkable tendencies toward kindness, play, generosity, reverence, and self-sacrifice.

The interviewer asked Keltner about “take-aways“ from his study.  His science-based conclusion was that emotions are “the core of our capacities for virtue like cooperation, love and tenderness,” and that “emotions that bring out the good in others and in one’s self can readily be cultivated” [taught and learned, observed and practiced, modeled and mentored]. 

In the link below, two elementary school teachers (Pinger and Flook) discuss the HOW question by sharing their lessons from a “kindness curriculum” for young students (K-3).

The research suggests that “acts of kindness” may help increase and strengthen student relationships, social engagement, and broaden their social networks.


A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires. – Paulo Coelho

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of respect people reveal through their behaviors – respect for oneself and respect for others.  Both are learned behaviors as are all character virtues/traits.

Steve and Lisa McChesney publish and produce a daily self-esteem and self-confidence building newsletter for both children and adults.  Lisa is a public school teacher and Steve manages three karate schools. Visit them at

They say that “schools teach children about respect, but parents have the most influence on how respectful children become.  Until children show respect at home, it’s unlikely they will show it anywhere else.”

“How can you [parents and teachers] show respect to your child? 

  • Be honest.  If you do something wrong, admit it and apologize.
  • Be positive.  Don’t embarrass, insult or make fun of your child. 
  • Be trusting.  Let your child make choices and take responsibility.
  • Be fair.  Listen to your child’s side of the story before reaching a conclusion.  
  • Be polite.  Use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
  • Be reliable.  Keep promises.  Show your child that you mean what you say.
  • Be a good listener.  Give your child your full attention.”


It’s not an easy journey to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you. – Tyler Perry

In this life, when you deny someone an apology, you will remember it at the time you beg forgiveness. – Toba Beta

In an article titled, Leadership, Equity, and Pandemic, Joseph Davis (Ferguson-Florissant School District) noted that “many people and communities carry hurt and anger because of racism and injustice, thus learning to feel empathy and build connection between people is key.  We need to teach forgiveness….”  Forgiveness can’t be forgotten, because so many of us have been wronged in so many different ways, and we carry that toxicity with us.  We need to learn to forgive people so we can move on, and that allows you to engage and to grow in ways you couldn’t before.”  

Davis also noted that those in “positions of power” should respond to the call for “action” and be ready to set an example in this work.  “It may not be your fault, but it is your fight,” he said.

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

  1. Ask for permission to apologize.
  2. Let them know that you realize that 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. apology


“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going  to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey

One of the “better angels” we need watching over us are people who consistently demonstrate that they are trustworthy, honest, and kind.  Integrity is one of the cornerstones of character.  Thus, like other character strengths/trait, we need to work on it, test it, define it, teach it, model it, and practice it.

What then, are the “traits” of integrity?  Here are the main behaviors that reveal if someone has the kind of integrity you want in your colleagues, friends, family, students, coworkers, and leaders. 

  1. Taking responsibility for their actions  
  2. Putting others’ needs above their own.  
  3. Offering to help others in need.
  4. Giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  5. Choosing honesty in all things.
  6. Showing respect to everyone.
  7. Manifesting humility.
  8. Being able to admit they’re wrong. 
  9. Showing regular reliability.
  10. Conveying true kindness.”

A writer put it this way:  “The good news about integrity is that we’re not born with it—or without it—which means that it’s a behavior-based virtue we can cultivate over time.  We can set a goal to show more integrity in everyday life and we can reach that goal by practicing the behaviors above, as well as countless others which too often go unnoticed.”

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, Department of Learning & Teaching, School of Leadership & Education Sciences, University of San Diego, BLOG, DECEMBER 2020

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The MASKS of Character

In an article in “Psychcentral,” Therese J. Borchard writes: “While our coping strategies are as varied as our personalities, here are ten of the most typical masks we wear.  She suggests that we ask ourselves the question “which mask do you wear?

  • the cool guy
  • the humorist
  • the overachiever
  • the martyr
  • the bully
  • the control freak
  • the self-basher
  • the people-pleaser
  • the introvert or, 
  • the social butterfly.”

For this blog, I am adding two MASKS to Borchard’s list but discussing one.   

  • The MASK of Protection (Virus) – have you been wearing one?
  • The MASK of Character

My intent is to say a few words about each the seven character MASKS (strengths/virtues) that are related to our current environment, and testing our character and mental toughness. 

My suggestion:  Create a unit on MASKS with two or three lesson for each of the character strengths that follow.

The MASK of Commitment

Zig Ziglar says:  It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enable us to follow through.”

Three synonyms for “commitment” are also value-words that should guide both teachers and students.  They are duty, responsibility, and obligation.  

Larry Ferlazzo, a renowned high school teacher and writer, asks and answers this question, How Would You Define Success This School Year? (Posted September 2, 2020)     

His answer:  These are my criteria [duty/responsibility/obligation] for success this year in 100% distance learning.

  • Do students come to my class? 
  • Do they learn something valuable? 
  • Do they feel coming to my class makes their lives better? 
  • What realistic suggestions should be added (only from people doing distance learning)?”

The MASK of Responsibility

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

As I have said in the past, the word “character” has two Cs in it; one stands for “choices” and the other for “consequences.”  Living a life of good character doesn’t happen by chance, nor does it happen by circumstance.  It happens by the choices one makes.

Our responsibility as teachers and parents is to help young people learn to make good, positive, ethical choices by learning to take responsibility (response-ability) for their actions; be willing to accept the negative consequences of their actions/behaviors and to do something about them.  

Professor Thomas Lickona (2012/Center for the 4th and 5th Rs) created a Respect & Responsibility School Culture Survey instrument of 29 questions developed to assess the extent to which everyone at a school acts with respect and responsibility toward others. 

Retrieved from:

The MASK of Kindness

“Kindness is a behavioral response of compassion and actions that are selfless; or a mindset that places compassion for others before one’s own interests.” – Kristen Fuller, M.D.

The turmoil and uncertainties of the pandemic are likely wearing on you as a teacher, parent or student.  I found an article in Scientific American (February 26, 2009) titled “Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts.”  The article features an interview with Dacher Keltner author of Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.  Keltner noted that humans have remarkable tendencies “toward kindness, play, generosity, reverence, and self-sacrifice.” 

In her book, Kind is the New Classy, Candace Cameron Bure writes:  In this book, we will talk about character traits (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).”  Her six characteristics for choosing friends are “friends who are kind, strong, loyal, gentle, encouraging, and principled.”   Kindness, compassion, and empathy are values we can all get behind regardless of whether we agree on every issue.

The MASK of Gratitude

“Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices.”  – Robert Braathe

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

Practicing gratitude during times like this (Covid-19, online teaching and learning)) may seem tough, but studies have shown that people who experience gratitude have more positive emotions (joy, love, happiness) and exhibit fewer negative emotions (bitterness, envy, resentment.)  Not only does the “gratitude experience” contribute to feelings of connectedness, relationships, and better physical health, it also helps people recover more quickly from trauma, adversity, and suffering.  Gratitude reminds us of all that is good and right in life, renewing our sense of hope.”

Researchers at Berkeley surveyed 400 students ages 12-14 in which they found that students “who were more likely to be grateful to others showed higher academic interest, grades, and extracurricular involvement, and had lower interest in risky behaviors.”  Positive parent relationships was also associated with gratitude.

A teacher told me that he has his students write down three to five things that they should be grateful for every day.  At the end of each week, he asks students to review their list and write a summary of what it meant to them.  He asks: “Is there anyone you need to thank?”

The MASK of Perseverance

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.  In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”  – Maya Angelou 

Perseverance is sticking with a course of action in spite of obstacles.  Perseverance is a skill that one learns.  It helps build self-confidence, improves performance, creates trust, helps one work through relationship issues, and opens the door to “resourcefulness.”  One author noted that as educators, we can provide opportunities for students to pursue their passions, see persistence pay off, and be mindful about their goals and limits.”

Angela Duckworth calls a combination of perseverance and passion—“grit.”  To encourage “grit” among students, she suggests that teachers “MODEL IT! CELEBRATE IT! ENABLE IT!”   

“Grit predicts accomplishing challenging goals of personal significance.  In most research studies, grit and measures of talent and IQ are unrelated, suggesting that talent puts no limits on the capacity for passion and perseverance. 

Janet Arnold, a Behavior Consultant, writes that “someone with good resilience is a person who can bounce back.  Research shows that children who develop resilience and persevere, are better equipped to learn from failure.  They are also more likely to adapt to change.

Marilyn Price-Mitchell (2015) writes, “Children who develop resilience are better able to face disappointment, learn from failure, cope with loss and adapt to change.  We recognize resilience in children when we observe their determination, grit, and perseverance to tackle problems and cope with the emotional challenges of school and life.”

The MASK of Empathy

“If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, you don’t need to be gorgeous, rich, famous, brilliant, or perfect.  You just have to care.”  – Karen Salmansohn

Researchers Dan Goleman and Paul Ekman report that there are three different ways teachers (and others) must address the teaching and learning of empathy:

  • Cognitive empathy: the act of knowing how another person feels.
  • Emotional empathy: the capacity to physically feel the emotions of another.
  • Compassionate empathy: the combination of cognitive and emotional empathy to take action about what one feels and thinks. 

Especially during this pandemic, it is important to help children and youth understand and practice what it means to be empathetic.  Among other things it means non-judgmentally listening; it means acknowledging the importance of how others feel about things; it means putting oneself in another’s shoes; and it means taking action.  That is, to help them realize that they have the power to give back, to respond to the needs of others at home, in school, and in their community. 

The MASK of Faith

This virtue “is an expression of hope for something better.  More than a wish, it is closer to a belief, but not quite.  A belief is rooted in the mind.  Faith is based in the heart.  All that we hold precious rests upon a faith in people, their potential not yet fulfilled.  The evidence of history points us in a different direction—the world is full of ugliness, brutality, and injustices.  Yet there is also tenderness, kindness and concern and that takes the bigger part of our hearts.” Psychology Today, September 28, 2012 

Have faith (an inner conviction/belief) that things will work out and that things will return to “normal” soon.  

Have faith in the compassion and healing powers of our healthcare workers.  

Have faith that our scientists will create a vaccine soon.  

Have faith that we will be back on our jobs and that our children and teacher will return to school.   

Have faith that we, individually and as a society, will have learned lessons from our living through this pandemic.   

Faith will help each of us feel more hopeful and optimistic.

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center

Department of Learning & Teaching, School of Leadership & Education Sciences, University of San Diego, 


What do you think of this blog? We’d love to hear your thoughts, questions and feedback: 

There Is No Debating Civility

I’m at Starbuck’s.  Mask on.  In line, six feet from the person in front and in back of me.  All wearing masks.  A young man enters—not wearing a mask.  The lady in back of me requests that he put on a mask.  His response, “F*** you lady” and takes off.

About a week later, I read that a rabbi was attacked at a synagogue about a mile from where I live.  A 14-year-old boy jumped off his bike, punched the rabbi “spewing” racial slurs and yelling “white power.”  He was arrested on battery and hate crime charges.

Some say ”civility” is on the decline because of technology, the Internet, television, Instagram, Facebook, etc.

Some say most of our citizens believe that “civility” has declined for a variety of reasons including ideological differences, individual and group conflicts, and our political difference and divisions.

Some say just look at the rate of bullying, rudeness, lying, ridicule, vulgarity, and physical violence one witnesses in this country. 

Some say that in local schools, communities, neighborhoods, and households, for the most part, people are civil to one another.

What Say You?

The purpose of this blog is to discuss two questions: 

  1. What do we mean by “civility?”   
  2. How do we teach it to our children and youth?

Civility is imbedded in these and other character strengths: 
self-regulation, social responsibility, citizenship, empathy and kindness, respect and responsibility, humility and modesty, love, social-emotional intelligence, and putting the “common good” over self-interests.  

You are well aware that these are learned behaviors.  

The Pew Research Center reported that of the ten skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life, communication skills were 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.  

Neither report says it, but I bet they mean, civil communication.

So, let’s see what the experts say about how to teach civility.  Here are about 25 plus ways to teach your students the skills necessary to be civil human beings.

Melissa Benaroya 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.”  (How to Teach Civility During Divisive Times, Committee for Children, February 2017)

Matthew Lunch suggests seven ways to teach civility:

1) manners matter, 

2) show tolerance, 

3) give examples, 

4) listen well, 

5) apologize regularly,

6) encourage empathy, and, 

7) practice what you preach.  

(7 Ways To Teach Children Civility, The EDVOCATE, 2-23-18)

Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, suggests 15 Ways to Foster Respectful Behavior.  She writes:  We can teach kids the foundations of civility every day in the way we communicate with them and others, including the following: 

  • Think about the impact of words and actions on others before you use them.   
  • Apologize when you are wrong. 
  • Set ground rules for civil behavior at home and in classrooms. 
  • Teach kids how to become engaged citizens.   
  • Treat children and adults with the respect that you expect from them. 
  • Demand civility of politicians and public servants. 
  • Use respectful language when you disagree with someone.  
  • Don’t let anger and emotion get in the way of listening to others.  
  • Be tolerant of people who are different from you.
  • Teach character strengths, like respect and empathy, at home and in classrooms.  
  • Challenge people’s views, but don’t attack the person. 
  • Acknowledge others for their civility and respectful behavior, regardless of their viewpoints. 
  • Remind kids often why they – and you – should be civil.
  • Empower children to take a stand against bullying.”

I do not know where I read this—it was in my notes without a reference.  The author suggests these five ways for a teacher to “help students learn to engage in productive, civil discourse in the classroom.”

  1. Begin with yourself—be the model in your classroom.  
  2. Monitor your classroom climate—start small and build as skills develop. 
  3. State your dialogue expectations—the basic rule of civil discourse is to be respectful and don’t make it personal.
  4. Have students watch civil debates [a challenge these days].
  5. Have your students use a “private journaling” strategy. 

When you get a chance, try out this civility quotation lesson with your students. In this lesson, your students will be asked to: 

  • compare and contrast quotations,   
  • find information about the author of each quote,   
  • determine the meaning and implications of each quote,   
  • write and/or draw how the quote may apply to what they do and say.   

I also suggest that your students discuss the meaning of the quotes with classmates, friends, and family.

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

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

University of San Diego
BLOG, October, 2020
See News You Can Use-October Issue

Character & SEL: A Roadmap

I just read the 32-page report on “Model Standards” for the teaching and learning of character and social-emotional development.  These standards “provide a roadmap for school leaders and teachers to help children and teens understand, care about, and consistently practice the SEL skills and character strengths that will enable them to flourish in school, in the workplace, and as citizens.”

My intent is to provide an overview of a few major points in the report.  I encourage you to read this report, reflect on it, discuss it with your colleagues and others, and then use the ideas to develop your own school and district’s character and social-emotional programs and initiatives.

The Model Standards address four dimensions of character-strengths – moral character, performance character, intellectual character, and civic character – and five skills of social-emotional learning – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, interpersonal/relationship skills, and responsible/ethical decision-making.

These “character strengths” and “social-emotional skills “are based on Six Core Beliefs.  In summary, they are:

  1. The family is a child’s first character educator.
  2. These strengths and skills are not add-ons, but rather add significant value to student success.
  3. A positive school climate is critical to fostering the whole child. 
  4. Character and social-emotional development requires thinking, feeling, and doing.
  5. The character strengths should be taught, caught, and sought.
  6. The “model standards” align with the fill-range of classroom and school-based initiatives.

The report includes a section describing “a conceptual framework” that includes:

  • The Developing Child and Teen – There are essential building blocks of development.
  • Caring and Supportive Environments – Our role as adults is to offer and provide a “constructive web” for every child and teen to learn and practice the SEL skills and character strengths.  
  • Opportunities to Learn and Practice – Research confirms that well-scaffolded, engaging and evidence-based instructional and curricular design can impact the development of self-regulation and executive functions.   
  • A Thriving/Striving Person of Character – Raising or graduating smart teenagers – to be kind and honest, and individuals who other people trust – a good person.

Section 4–Part 1 of the model defines and describes the four character dimensions – moral, performance, intellectual, and civic.  Each dimension is defined with outcomes by grade and age level, examples and resources. 

Let me share one example from Part 1.  

I selected “performance character” defined with grades 9-12, ages 14-18+.  There is an “outcome” statement, and then there is a list of six activities about what should be learned and practiced.  I listed three so that you’d get the idea.

  • Give an example of a habit you have developed because you wanted to become a better person.   
  • Explain the relationship between being responsible and a person’s reputation.   
  • Explain a time when you had a ‘setback’ but your grit kept you motivated.

Section 4-Part 2 defines and describes the five skills of social-emotional learning – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, interpersonal /relationship skill and responsible and ethical decision-making.  Each defined.  Each with outcome statements.  Each with age and grade levels.  Each with a list of resources.

I selected the skill of “self-awareness” with Grades 6-8, ages 11-13.  There are seven activities that should be learned and practiced.  I have selected three to share.  

  • Describe how different thoughts, situations, and behaviors affect your feelings and emotions.
  • Recognize the times when you exaggerate the severity or consequences of mistakes, embarrassing moments, failures, rejections and other negative events (e.g., “I can never face them again.” “Everyone thinks I’m stupid.”)   
  • List and explain the different external supports you have used when feeling stressed or anxious (e.g., family, friends, teachers, neighbors).

In Section 5, the authors wrote in summary:

“We believe the SEL skills enable and support a young person’s determination and commitment to be a person of character.  The SEL skills help students consistently be honest and trustworthy, caring and compassionate, self-disciplined, intellectually curious, fair, and respectful.  The CSED Model Standards provide school leaders with a unifying vehicle that will bring the staff together toward a shared goal and purpose: supporting students as they strive to become young people of character who will flourish in school, in relationships, in the workplace, and as citizens.”

As a postscript to this report and to satisfy my curiosity, I wondered how others identify “character strengths.”  Here are three examples.

From T. Lickona and M. Davidson, Smart & Good High Schools: Integrating Excellence and Ethics for Success in School, Work, and Beyond (July, 2005) (


  1. Lifelong learner and critical thinker.
  2. Diligent and capable performer.
  3. Socially and emotionally skilled person.
  4. Ethical thinker.
  5. Respectful and responsible moral agent, committed to consistent moral action.
  6. Self-disciplined person who pursues a healthy lifestyle.
  7. Contributing community member and democratic citizen.
  8. Spiritual person crafting a life of noble purpose.

From the perspective of positive psychology:  The Values in Action (VIA) Projecta starting point for the systematic scientific study of good character.  The VIA Classification consists of 24 widely-valued character strengths, organized under six broad virtues: 

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

(Park & Peterson, 2006b; Peterson & Seligman, 2004)

From the North Carolina State Board of Education’s Character and Civic Education Handbook and Guide:  

Respect – Trustworthiness – Responsibility – Fairness – Caring – Citizenship – Accountability – Integrity.

“Character education is the component of social and emotional learning that promotes core virtues, moral sensitivity, moral commitment, ethical reasoning, and personal growth aspirations.”
 – Yael Kidron, Director of Character Education, Santa Clara University

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center 

University of San Diego, BLOG, September 2020


Theme: How My Character Developed During the Pandemic

The Character Education Resource Center, in the Department of Learning and Teaching, School of Leadership & Education Sciences at the University of San Diego, is pleased to announce a new essay and poetry contest for all public, private, and home school students in grades 6 through 8 and grades 9 through 12 in San Diego and Imperial Counties.

This essay and poetry contest enables students and teachers to meet the California Department of Education’s mandate 235.5 (a) for character and civic education in grades 6-12 as well as Common Core Standards.

The purpose of this contest is to encourage middle and high school students to explore and address the issues, thoughts, and feelings that are most important and significant to them as they cope with living through the COVID-19 Pandemic.


How is the pandemic affecting you and the people around you?

How is pandemic related to other significant experiences in your life?

How are you dealing with feelings such as anxiety or isolation during the pandemic?

Each essay or poem should address some of these character traits:
Respect, Responsibility, Empathy, Perseverance, Gratitude.


Essays must be the sole, original work of the student.

Students in grades 6-8 should submit an essay of no more than 600 words. 

Students in grade 9-12 should submit an essay of no more than 1000 words.

The title of the essay and added footnotes do not contribute to the word count.

The text of the essays should be in English, in Microsoft Word or PDF format.  Once students have completed the final version of their essay, they should give them to their teacher.


Poems must be the sole, original work of the student.

One poem per student.

Poems must be single-spaced and not be over 21 lines of text, (blank lines between stanzas are not counted).

The text of the poem should be in English, in Microsoft Word or PDF format.

Once students have completed the final version of their poem, they should give them to their teacher.


To Teachers:  In this contest we require teachers to be the first reviewers.  The teacher’s role is to select up to two of the best essays and two of the best poems for each class that he/she teaches, and to submit only those essays and poems for consideration.

Teachers who teach multiple classes are able to submit two essays and two poems per class.  For example, if a teacher teaches five classes he/she may submit 10 essays and 10 poems in total.

The teacher electronically submits the selected essays/poems (as an attachment) in a WORD or PDF format to the Character Education Resource Center via email,

Include the following in the body of the email for each essay and poem submitted.

    1. Student’s name
    2. Grade level
    3. School name and address
    4. Teacher contact information (email/ phone)
    5. Permission to use the essay/poem, if selected


Essays/poems will be judged by teams of graduate students in a teacher education program in San Diego County, using the rubric identified below.

  • 50% – Knowledge of the theme 
    The student showed a thorough knowledge of the theme in the essay and/or poem.
  • 25% – Creativity and originality of the essay/poem
    The student related the theme to her/his own experiences.
  • 25% – Clarity of writing
    The student’s essay/poem was written in an easy-to-understand format leaving the reader/judge with a clear understanding of her/his explanation of the theme.


September 9 to 18
Contest announcement

October 23
Student submission to their teacher

November 16
Teacher selections submitted to CERC

Week of November 23 (Thanksgiving Week)
Awards Announced


Middle School and High School Student Awards for Essays & Poems

First Place: $150 VISA Gift Card

Second Place: $100 VISA Gift Card

Third Place: $50 VISA Gift Card

Two (2) Honorable Mentions:  $25 VISA Gift Card

Winners will be announced on Character Education Resource Center website and social media.

Email us at with any questions regarding the contest.

Make a gift to the Character Education Resource Center in support of the contest.

Presentology (The Study of the Present)

Background:  Early in my teaching career, I was a junior high school social studies teacher.  Part of my teaching assignment was teaching a “current events course.”  The texts I used were the local and state newspapers.  Our intent, at the time, was to engage students in a study of and conversations about what was going on in their community and in the world, and why. 

As a result of these experiences, I wrote three books on the use of newspapers in classrooms:  Project Update: The Newspaper In The Elementary And Junior High Classroom, Character Matters: Using Newspapers To Teach Character (co-authored), and The Newspaper: A Reference for Teachers and Librarians.  

WHY Teach Current Events (CE)? 

Here are six reasons for having CE become a key part of your classroom and school’s curriculum.

  1. Your students are already talking about what is going on in their world and the “real world” anyway, so under your guidance, take time each day to let them talk about current events—hearing and discussing multiple issues respectfully.
  2. A CE curriculum will introduce your students to a wide range of new content—the more you know, the more you grow.
  3. A CE curriculum will contribute to creating, hopefully, students who are informed, engage, active citizens as well as lifelong news readers.
  4. A CE program will provide the opportunity for teachers to help students develop digital media literacy skills, improve reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem solving, oral expression, and listening skills.
  5. A CE program will encourage your students to improve their language, vocabulary, and writing skills especially using the “news style “—Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How—also an important skill for summarizing and interpreting digital content.
  6. Most CE teachers report that they tend to use a variety of grouping methods in their classroom as student collaborate to study, discuss, and debate issues and events.

Prior to the advent of digital media and technology, research using newspapers (the print copies) and current events in classroom showed: 

  • Students who use newspapers tend to score higher on standardized achievement tests—particularly in reading, math, and social studies—than those who don’t use them.
  • Newspaper use helps teach students to be effective readers. 
  • Reading newspapers can help develop and improve student vocabulary, word recognition skills, and comprehension. 
  • Newspapers are effective tools for teaching many math concepts, particularly fractions, decimals, currency, and averages.
  • In surveys, students overwhelmingly support the use of newspapers in the classroom and have a positive attitude toward reading newspapers.  
  • Using newspapers increase awareness of and interest in current events. 
  • Students who read newspapers in school tend to continue reading them when they become adults.   

My original guess was that the findings above would be the same for students in today’s schools and classrooms where using technology (online learning), digital media, and social posts, for the teaching and learning of currents events and citizenship is common. 

I was wrong. 

One of my colleagues sent me an article with the headline: “Study: U.S. adults who mostly rely on social media for news are less informed, exposed to more conspiracies.”

Another suggested that I look at the Pew Foundation study that found “more Americans get their news from social media than from newspapers, that people who use social media for news are less knowledgeable than other news consumers, that they are also more likely to see and believe misinformation, and are not as concerned about it as people who consume news elsewhere.”

If that was not surprising enough, a CERC advisory committee member sent me an article on the “state of civics instruction” in which several surveys found that “barely one in four Americans could name the three branches of government,” that “just one in three Americans could pass the nation’s citizenship test,” and that “less than one-fourth of eighth-graders were judged proficient on the 2018 National Assessment of Educational Progress civics test.”

Two HOW Ideas!

One idea:  In her article, “The Best Way to Teach Current Events? Let Students Lead,” Meghan Selway, notes that one of the problems teachers have in teaching current events is that students lack the background knowledge required to understand news events. 

She asked her seniors what would make current issues more meaningful to them and they said they needed time to learn about the issues and events.  Her solution?

  • Give students choices—have them select two topics from a list she provided.  
  • Next she created “Current Issues Groups” of three to five students based on their interests.  The groups met in class every other week to read the articles and then discuss the news events posted for their topic with their peers.  
  • Then, she tracked student participation by “creating a website for each class on Google Sites where students posted relevant news stories bi-weekly on a blog with accompanying questions.”…

Another idea:  Heather Wolpert-Gawron is an award-winning middle school teacher and PBL coach.  In “Teaching Current Events in the Age of Social Media,” she writes that [edited]: 

Students have to know about the world around them, and part of our job as educators is to prepare them for the realities of the world outside the classroom walls.  We need our students to leave classrooms knowledgeable and critical but also hopeful.  Make your classroom one of positivity so that they have a place to go to feel that the state of the news is not necessarily the state of their own lives.”

She describes four resources that will help you.

1. Utilize resources that differentiate informational reading levels. 

Look at resources like Newsela to filter news stories not by topic but by grade level, so that articles are suited to your students’ emotional stages.

2. Create an archive of resources that focus on more positive stories.

  • Start with Common Sense Media’s list of news sources for kids.  Remember, however, that every site has articles that need to be vetted.   
  • DailyGood: This is a great resource of straightforward pieces with an emphasis on the amazing and interesting.  
  • Yes! Magazine: The tagline for this magazine is “Powerful Ideas, Practical Actions.”  It focuses on problems, yes, but also on how people are solving those problems.  
  • Positive News: This site focuses on challenging stereotypes and sharing what people are doing to tackle the world’s challenges. 

3. Help students read critically to tease apart the true from the questionable and the false. 

From PBS to KQED, from Common Sense Media to The New York Times, there are many outlets out there to help teachers tackle this challenge.

4. Teach students the necessity of unplugging sometimes.  

Teach students that unplugging is healthy for their hearts and heads.  Unplug, recharge, and oxygenate your brain with exercise.

Three Additional Resources

Besides using your local news sources, here are a few sites that will help you plan with a current events curriculum and instructional activities.

Twenty-five great ideas for teaching current events…

NEA – Teaching With The News

Cnn Student News Today Student News Today

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

BLOG, August 2020

Teaching PEACE

In the Center’s July newsletter, we described 25 Steps on becoming a culturally response teacher.  Several responses and questions helped me develop the content for this blog.  A few respondents believed that “civility is on the decline “and one teacher wrote: “We need a citizens’ peace treaty.”  

I had my topic for this blog.

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


“Perseverance” is the ability an individual or group has to keep going to reach a goal in spite of how hard it is to attain or how many obstacles one faces.  

Perseverance builds self-confidence, improves performance, creates trust, helps one work through relationship issues, and opens the door to “resourcefulness.”

Angela Duckworth calls it “grit.”  To encourage “grit” among students, she suggests that teachers “MODEL IT!  CELEBRATE IT!  ENABLE IT!”

“Grit predicts accomplishing challenging goals of personal significance.  In most research studies, grit and measures of talent and IQ are unrelated, suggesting that talent puts no limits on the capacity for passion and perseverance.”



Psychiatrist Alfred Adler defined empathy as “seeing with the eyes of another, hearing with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”

Sam Chaltain ( developed “The Empathy Formula” noting three types of empathy:

  1. Cognitive empathythe act of knowing how another person feels. 
  2. Emotional empathythe capacity to physically feel the emotions of another.  
  3. Compassionate empathythe combination cognitive and emotional empathy; to take action about what one feels and thinks. 

Michele Borba says this about writing her book, UNSELFIE: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.

“My goal was to create a conversation that makes us rethink our view of success as exclusively grades, rank and score and includes traits of humanity!  It’s time to include empathy in our parenting and teaching if we hope to prepare children to succeed and thrive in our global new world.”


Bruce Tulgan is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, a management research and training firm.  In an article, Teaching Positive Attitude, he offers this advice that is applicable to educators.

“Research shows that if you make an effort to display positive words, tones, and gestures on the outside, it has a positive effect on your internal brain chemistry and it actually makes you feel better on the inside.  Good attitudes can be a self-fulfilling prophesy: Behave as if you feel positive, and you will eventually begin to genuinely feel positive—and experience positive results.”

Here are five reminders about the importance of helping your students learn how to develop positive attitudes [edited]:

  1. Positivity makes it easier to ask for help.  When you see an obstacle in your path, you’re more likely to reach out to a teacher or parent for advice.
  2. Positivity can even improve your health—by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.
  3. Positivity increases your satisfaction in life and school.  When you choose to embrace positive thoughts and focus on the things you’re grateful for and successful at, you stop comparing yourself.
  4. Positivity helps you grow.  Positivity can be useful by prompting students to take risks and try new things in the classroom and at home.
  5. Students who learn from their mistakes can still focus on the positive side of things.


Collaboration requires commitment.  Commitment requires courage.

Canice Nuckols says there are “2 critical factors” and suggests four ideas with regard to teacher collaboration [edited]: 

The critical factors: 

  • The first is teachers’ “buy in to the idea of collaboration.”   
  • The second is that teachers understand “how to effectively engage in collaborative work with fellow teachers is critical to the process.”

Her four collaboration ideas are:

  1. Create a shared vision.  Develop statements addressing the group’s vision, goals, and an assessment plan.  This connection between the shared vision and subsequent goals (and assessment) will define the work of the team and ensure ownership on the part of each individual.   
  2. Develop a collaborative community.  Mutual respect and trust for each other can be gained by getting to know each other on a personal as well as a professional level  This will take time to develop and will require a lot of work among the members—attending all meetings, being an active, contributing member, and accepting of the ideas of others.
  3. Establish protocols.  In order to progress towards the goals established by the group, teachers/members will need to develop protocols to ensure the smooth functioning of the group—defining roles and responsibilities, how the group will communicate thoughts and ideas, and defining time parameters.
  4. Proactively manage conflict.  The group should establish a conflict management plan that includes providing support and time for individuals to work through the reasons that are causing conflict.  All members of the group should be vigilant with regards to managing their own responses and interactions with their colleagues.…


In its June 17th, 2020 issue, Education Week ran this front-page headline:

“Are America’s Schools Ready For Tough Talk on Racism?  We want equality is easier to say than We stand against racism.”

I don’t know the answer to the question.  I do know that I need clarity on the meaning of the two words “equity and equality.”  You might as well. 

Robert Longley, a history and government expert, says:

“In education, equality means providing every student with the same experience.  Equity, however, means overcoming discrimination against specific groups of people, especially defined by race and gender.”

In an article titled, Racial Equality or Racial Equity? The Difference It Makes, author Paula Dressel, Ph.D., writes [edited]:

“Racial equity results when you cannot predict advantage or disadvantage by race.  But the route to achieving equity will not be accomplished through treating everyone equally.  It will be achieved by treating everyone equitably, or justly according to their circumstances.This is why we advocate the dual aspirations of raising the bar and closing the gaps.  Yet, when resources are limited, as they often are, it is critical to invest in ways that erase those gaps that for too long have compromised the promise of children, families, and communities of color.  Racial equity matters.”

“If you are a parent [or teacher]—regardless of your race or the race of your child—ask your child’s teacher or principal: ‘What is the school doing to ensure all students, especially Black and Latino students, are getting access to rigorous academic experiences?’”

Gloria Lee, founder and CEO of Educate78

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

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.


“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


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.


“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.


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)


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.


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.


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)


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