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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. 

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.”

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!

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


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


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.” (

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. (

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  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. 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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Relationships: Teacher-Student and Teacher-Class

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

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

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

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

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

1. Why are student-teacher relationships important? 

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

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

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

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

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

3. How can teachers improve their relationships with students?

In a word: Empathy. (SS) 

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

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

4. How can teachers maintain healthy boundaries with students? 

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

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

5. How can relationships with students support teacher quality? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

March Madness – With Character Comments

“Love never fails. Character never quits. And with patience and persistence, dreams do come true.” –  “Pistol” Pete Maravich, LSU and three NBA teams (Perhaps the greatest creative offensive talent in history

As many of you know, this is March Madness month.  The term is believed to have been created by Henry V. Potter, assistant executive secretary of the Illinois High School Association in 1939—the year of the first NCAA men’s basketball tournament—Oregon beat OSU 46-33.

For the first 12 years of the men’s tournament only eight teams participated.  In 2001, a 65-team tournament format was created.  Credit  television—it put the tournament on the national map.  Now the tournament breaks into four regions of 16 teams.  The winning teams from those regions comprise the Final Four.

The NCAA held its first women’s basketball tournament in 1982.  The women’s tournament started with 32 teams, expanding to 64 teams in the 1994 season.  Today, the women’s format echoes the men’s. The women’s final championship game is played the day after the men’s game.

The tournament is a“gamblers paradise.”  According to the American Gaming Association, fans wagered more than $2 billion on March Madness Brackets for the 2015 tournament.  One stat-group estimated that last year American companies lost about $1.9 billion in wages paid to unproductive workers spending company time on betting pool priorities. MM generates big bucks for gamblers, businesses, and athletic programs.

The excitement is on the court watching the talented young women and men give their all for their school.

“A team isn’t a bunch of kids out to win.  A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.”  – Gordon Bombay, The Mighty Ducks

A question generally asked is “does participation in sports build character?”  As I look at it, it’s a “jump ball” or a “tie” game—a debatable issue.  I’m on the “it does” side.  Heywood Hale Broun (American author, sportswriter, commentator) noted: ”Sports do not build character, they reveal it.”

The second question that usually follows is “what do you mean by character?”  This question suggests that those on either side should, at the very least, be on the same page in defining what character is and what it means.

“A person of character,” writes Lickona and Davidson (Smart and Good High Schools-Integrating Excellence and Ethics for Success School, Work, and Beyond), “embodies both performance and moral character.”

They note that “performance character” is not the same as performance (an outcome), but has certain qualities needed for the further development of one’s potential toward excellence, such as, effort, diligence, perseverance, and self-discipline.  “Moral character is relational, encompassing such qualities as integrity, justice, caring and respect.”

I have been using this definition.  Character is about behavior, about how one acts. It is about the choices that one makes.  It is about relationships (empathy, compassion, fairness).  It is about virtues (respect, responsibility, honesty) that inform the choices one makes.  Character, in sports, is about providing student-athletes opportunities to study, clarify, reflect, decide, practice and act on such virtues as respect, responsibility, perseverance, honesty, empathy, grit, discipline, loyalty, perseverance, teamwork, sportsmanship, and leadership.  For student-athletes it is about sacrifice, commitment, and competition.

The game winner:  “Good character on and off the field or court should be nurtured; bad character should be corrected.”

Many believe that the purpose of sports in schools, at all levels, should be to help participants learn the lessons of good character.

My “Three-pointer”:

1) “The best way to promote what is best about sports with young athletes is to engage in these kinds of practical activities that encourage sportsmanship and other virtues, so that the old adage that “sports build character” is not just a cliché, but an accurate description of what happens on the field.”  – Craig Clifford and Randolph Feezell, Sports and Character

2) “Well-organized sport character education can provide powerful contexts for the teaching and learning of good moral habits.  For character education programs to succeed, athletes need both thinking and reasoning programs, role models, a supportive environment, and the strong moral/philosophical commitment of community members, parents, coaches, teachers, students, boosters, and the media.”  – Jennifer Beller, ERICDIGEST, ORG.-ED477729 – 2002

3) “A sport experience can build character, but only if the environment is structured, and a stated and planned goal is to develop character. This kind of environment must include all individuals (coaches, administrations, parents, participants, etc.) who are stakeholders in the sport setting.”    – Joseph Doty, Journal of College and Character

Let the games begin and the low seeds win!

Overtime: Ten years ago my colleague CJ Moloney and I created a course titled “Character and Athletics” which is offered every semester.  In the course, students examine their personal character development through:

  • experiences in athletics;
  • investigating and critiquing programs that are designed to enhance the character of athletes;
  • discussing/debating historical and current issues that promote or negate character development and ethical behaviors;
  • and, exploring the role of athletics as a catalyst for social justice.

Then we developed a Character and Athletics Course offered by USD’s Professional and Continuing Education.  The course was designed for K-12 teachers, coaches, camp counselors and other athletic leaders interested in cultivating an ethical athletic culture focused on positive leadership, community building, and respect for diversity.  For more information: Professional and Continuing Education Character and Athletics

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, University of San Diego
March 2019 Blog

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

“What’s Love Got to Do With It is” is the title of Tina Turner’s first comeback song after a hiatus that followed an abusive marriage and domestic violence.

February—the month of love and friendship; the celebration of Valentine’s Day (Thursday the 14th), and the call for people of character to do something (cards, candy, cash).

A History Lesson

Americans probably began exchanging handmade valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

A Science Lesson

There is an extreme powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation…This universal force is LOVE….
Love is Light to those who give it and receive it.|
Love is Gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others.
Love is Power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness.
Love unfolds and reveals.
For love we live and die.
Love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limit.
Love is God and God is Love….

– From a letter by Albert Einstein to his daughter

A Question: What Is This Thing Called Love?

The song written by Cole Porter asks:  “What is this thing called love, this funny thing called love? Just who can solve this mystery?”

Psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson, author of the book Positivity, writes about “the science of happiness” and focuses on ten positive emotions – love, joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration and awe. She writes that these ten emotions give life to the “happiness habits” of building and maintaining strong relationships.

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

Another Question: What is Good Character?

Our friend, character education guru, and psychologist Thomas Lickona answers:

It’s having the right stuff on the inside strengths such as honesty, respect, responsibility, caring, and self-control. Character is built, not born. We create our character by the choices we make. Good choices create good character; bad choices create bad character. Character is the key to self-respect, to the respect of others, to positive relationships, to a sense of fulfillment, to achievement, to a happy marriage, to success in every area of life.

Three Views of Character and Love

I found these quotes in my files. I do not know who the authors are.

  • Your character is who you are. To understand yourself is to know your character. To love yourself is to love your character.
  • People of character know how to love. They love unconditionally. They forgive freely. They lift up all people without prejudice or discrimination.
  • You never really know the true quality of someone’s character until the road gets rocky…those, who truly love us, always stick with us; the losers fall off the boat quickly!

Don’t you “love it”? Being “in love” with someone means that you respect him/her; that you are honest, caring, and forgiving. People of character know how to feed all of the attributes of a positive, loving relationship. If this sounds too mushy, I suggest you read Steve Farber’s book, Love Is Just Damn Good Business.

“Love is not just a greeting-card word and not something to be relegated to your private life. In fact, love is damn good business.”

Since I want to be seen as a person of good character, I am heading out to Hallmark to buy Valentine’s Day cards. But wait—would I be more “loving” if I sent an email card? An Instagram? A text? A tweet?

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

Reputation, Relationships, and Responsibility

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

“I know. I’m lazy. But I made myself a New Years resolution that I would write myself something really special. Which means I have ’til December, right?” – Catherine O’Hara

It happens daily—the references to “character.” We read about it, we hear about it, we even practice it (at least most of us do).

The most frequently asked question: “What is character?” A quick answer: Character is who you are when no one is looking—or, these days, when everyone is looking (see tweeting).

I decided to frame my answer to the question around specific character strengths as I did in my November blog (gratitude) and December blog (emotions, empathy, and engagement).

My purpose is to encourage you and others (students, colleagues, parents) to think about, to talk about, to ask the “why and how” questions about learning, teaching, and practicing the “strengths” that support good, positive character behaviors.

For this blog I have selected three character strengths—Reputation, Relationships, and Responsibility.


One cannot answer the character question better than William Hersey Davis has. (Positive Thoughts, 25 Sep 2016) Bolded words are mine. 

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


“Character Development is a relational process. Character is a construct that links the person positively to his or her social world. Relationships are the foundation of character.” – Tuft’s Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development

Research clearly reveals that few factors in K-12 education have a greater impact on students’ educational experiences than a caring relationship with teachers. James Comer, professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, notes that, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” 

We know that positive relationships can help reduce the negative effects of stress and boost one’s self-esteem. In classrooms, we know that it starts with the teacher taking time to build trust with each student. We know that trust has to be a joint responsibility between a teacher and his/her students. Teachers tell us that we need to pay more attention to the “relationship factor” because strong relationships help reduce behavior issues, improve classroom climate, enhance student attitudes and attention, and contribute to student achievement. 

John Maxwell invites us to “Relationships 101” and the six most important “relationship” words. He notes that the least important word is “I.” 

  • The most important word: WE
  • The two most important words: THANK YOU
  • The three most important words: ALL IS FORGIVEN.
  • The four most important words: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION?
  • The five most important words: YOU DID A GOOD JOB.
  • The six most important words: I WANT TO UNDERSTAND YOU BETTER.

Post this on your bulletin board and your refrigerator.


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

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

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

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

And Denis Waitley, speaker/writer:  “The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” 

Character Education Resource Center

The Three “E’s” in December

By Ed DeRoche

Last month’s blog focused on the “G” (gratitude) in the word “Thanksgiving.” Of the ten blogs I have written this past year, the “G” blog received the most responses.

Well, when you’re on a roll, why change things?

So as you know, the word “December” has three E’s in it. I selected three special E’s to discuss this month – Emotions, Empathy and Engagement.


Several months ago I read Dacher Keltner’s book, Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. He writes 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]. “Emotions,” he says, are “the core of our capacities for virtue and cooperation, love and tenderness, and other virtues.”

It’s not news to you that social-emotional learning (SEL) programs are capturing the attention of school personnel and the public. In my March issue of News You Can Use, I provided an array of resources for teachers and administrators who want to implement SEL in their schools.

In a major report titled, The Positive Impact of Social and Emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth-Grade Students, researchers from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning found that SEL programs improved students’ social-emotional skills, attitudes about self and others, connections to school, positive social behavior, academic performance, reduced students’ conduct problems and emotional distress. Bottom-line: SEL programs are among the most successful youth- development programs offered to school-age youth.


In one of my blogs, I asked and answered nine questions about empathy. Let me share with you a very important piece of information that teachers and others need for teaching students about empathy.

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

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

Atticus Finch said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”
(To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee)

That’s a good way of defining empathy – understanding what someone else is feeling because you have experienced it yourself or you can put yourself in his/her shoes.


Engagement includes relationships. So let’s start with some interesting information about “engagement” and then follow that with commentary about “relationships.”

A Gallup Poll found that 63% of students in schools are “highly engaged and enthusiastic about school.” Interestingly, there is an “engagement slide” – peaking during elementary school, decreasing through middle school and early high school, and then increasing through the rest of high school.

In a Kappan article on engagement in schools and classrooms, Shane J. Lopez reports that students polled suggest four ways to keep them engaged—note the relationships factor in each:

1) prepare them for the rigors of the work;
2) get to know them;
3) praise and recognize them for good school work, and;
4) have a school wide commit to building the strengths of each student.

“Teachers who are engaged in their work tend to have students who are engaged in learning.”

It is clear that in schools and in life there is a very close connection between emotions, engagement (relationships), and empathy. As author Robert J. Marzano writes:

Positive relationships between teachers and students are among the most commonly cited variables associated with effective instruction. If the relationship is strong, instructional strategies seem to be more effective. Conversely, a weak or negative relationship will mute or even negate the benefits of even the most effective instructional strategies.

Let’s “wrap-it-up.”
December is the month of holy days and holidays.

During this month let us celebrate and apply at home, in school, and where we work these positive emotions—joy, gratitude, hope, inspiration, awe and LOVE.

During this month let us not engage in what Professor William Glasser calls the “seven deadly habits of relationships – criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding to control.”

During this month let’s respond positively to Maria Shriver’s request that all of us join the “Inner Peace Corps.” She reminds us that “we are the American family and many of us are hurting and feeling isolated, lonely and scared. Let’s step up. Let’s serve one another. Let’s be friends.”


Edward DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center December 2018 Blog
For past issues of News You Can Use and Blogs: 


November 2018 Blog
By Ed DeRoche, Ph.D.

For a variety of reasons, I have been reading about the “power” of engaging in the “habit” of expressing gratitude in what one says and what one does. I thought that this would be an appropriate topic for this month—celebrating Thanksgiving Day. 

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.).” 

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

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

In her article, “How to Teach Gratitude to Tweens and Teens,” she cites a special curriculum that offers insights for authentically nurturing gratitude in students (Greater Good Science Center’s website). Dr. Eva writes that there are three key ways to teach gratitude to children and youth. 

1. Exploring identity. Identity development remains the central developmental task for adolescents, and this curriculum helps facilitate that by allowing students to explore their character strengths (e.g., traits like honesty, curiosity, perseverance, humility.) 

2. Capitalizing on strengths. A gratitude curriculum that builds on strengths is a wonderful counter to focusing on students’ perceived deficits. 

3. Building positive relationships. Once they know their strengths, students can leverage them to connect more deeply with others and to do good—in school and beyond. 

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

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

1. One practice is keeping a gratitude journal. “We asked middle school students simply to list five things for which there were grateful daily for two weeks, and we compared these students to others who were writing about hassles in their life or basic daily life events….Most significantly, compared to the other students, gratitude journalers reported more satisfaction with their school experience immediately after the two-week period, a result that held up even three weeks later.” 

2. Another practice is what they call the gratitude visit. In this exercise they had students “write a letter to someone who had helped them but whom they’d never properly thanked; the students read their letter to him or her in person, then later discuss their experience with others who also completed a gratitude visit.” 

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

I’ll end this blog with a strategy that you, as the teacher, can modify to meet your and your students’ needs and interests. I like sharing quotes with students and others. So let’s call this November activity: “Gratitude Quotes Month.” 

Activity: Gratitude Quotes Month
There are four full weeks in the month. Let’s assume that the third week—the week that includes Thanksgiving Day—will be a “no school” week. 

•Each week students will discuss three quotes.

•Have them read the quotes and tell a little about the author of each quote.

•Reflect on the quotes—share what the quotes mean with others.

•Rewrite the quotes in their own words—draw them, practice them, write
about what happened after they tried them.

•Discuss their experiences in class near the end of each week.

Here are the quotes for the first full week of the month, November 5th – November 9th:

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

“The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.” – Henri J.M. Nouwe

“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” – Brene Brown

Quotes for the week of the November 12th – November 16th: 

“There’s no such thing as too much gratitude. The more of it you express, the more reasons you’ll be given to express it.” Mike Dooley   

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

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”  –Cicero 

Thanksgiving Day Assignment, Thursday, November22nd 

•Have students make a list of the things they did with family and friends that show or demonstrated the virtues of ‘kindness,” “thankfulness” and “gratitude.”

•Ask them to bring their list to class next week for a discussion.

For the last week of the month, November 26th – November 30th, have students share the results of their Thanksgiving Day assignment and the following two quotes.

At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – President John F. Kennedy

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, USD NOVEMBER 2018 BLOG