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Friday, December 11, 2015

Character Building

At ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia this past summer one of the attendees I was speaking with had asked me to describe my school. My quick elevator pitch response was, “A Culture of Collaboration” because as you walk into the school you can feel this character.

Character-building is becoming an increasingly important issue for schools. In my last post I, my focus was that schools are concentrating their energies on securing passes on EQAO have given too little attention to the overall development of the child and their character. The scramble for results has also been at the cost of genuine learning and creative teaching. We should embrace character-building and all-round education not as an alternative to academic attainment but as an essential adjunct of it.

When you build community, you need to teach students about themselves, about the kind of person they want to be. Then you have fewer management problems, and you can teach the curriculum better. Most educators agree that assisting students in building moral character is a worthwhile goal. The virtues stressed in our schools today include: compassion, courtesy, cooperation, responsibility, fairness, tolerance, self-control, courage, knowledge, citizenship, perseverance, helpfulness, honesty, and respectfulness.

Since values are not as stressed in the home as they used to be we should remind parents that they are their children's role models. If children are to develop positive character traits, the adults in their lives must live the values they hold dear, as well as emphasize the importance of building caring relationships rather than accumulating things.

Research shows that character education programs can actually improve academic achievement. In order to understand character education it is imperative to understand the characteristics of the students. The schools that are strong academically and sturdy in building accomplished students are characterized by five main characteristics identified by Elias, Zins, Weissberg et al., (1997):

1. They have a school climate articulating specific themes, character elements, and/or values.
2. They have explicit instruction in social-emotional skills.
3. They have explicit instruction in health promotion and problem prevention skills.
4. They have systems to enhance coping skills and social support for transitions, crises, and resolving conflicts.
5. They have widespread, systematic opportunities for positive, contributory service.

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