Character Education: Programs are not all alike
Right at the same time we are giving greater emphasis to the importance of good teaching in our schools, more students are coming into the classroom less well prepared to participate. They often are not motivated to work hard, listen and pay attention, and frequently do not demonstrate social skills that permit them to be successful with other students. Schools could and should get parents involved and help them learn how to better prepare children, but most school personnel think this is a thankless, often ineffective, and difficult task. Many parents are not interested. Instead of that, many schools look around to see what might be available to help them with all students including those who are disruptive or unmotivated. They often settle on character programs hoping these will enable them to introduce positive behavior that will help students participate more successfully.
We have organized and introduced a character development program in over one hundred schools. We have learned that character education programs are very different and the difference can determine success or failure. For instance, many programs which schools use teach positive vocabulary in an attempt to understand honesty, responsibility, integrity, and other important concepts. While this is a positive step in the right direction, the term character actually means that an individual knows more than the meaning of concepts or has an academic understanding of the difference between right and wrong. We want our children to internalize these concepts and actually do what helps and does not harm themselves or other people. This may be easy to say but it is actually difficult to ensure unless a person who is learning is actually and kindly confronted with the consequences of positive or negative acts and has a chance to discuss (internalize) it. Learning about this, we proposed to teachers that they conduct short class meetings with students where all discuss a behavior (e.g. gossip. lying, cheating, exclusion, and etc.) that a student actually demonstrates. Plus, it helps them understand how it might help or harm someone. Further, after examining that idea, we suggested to the teacher that he/she always identify “what is better,” to help students learn positive actions that eliminated the need for some actions that are not so good. We discovered that this approach carried over to the playground, to the bus, and even to homes where children began to tell their parents what could be done instead of something that was not good which was taking place in their families. At first school personnel were a bit embarrassed when parents told them about the children’s comments but then realized this was exactly what they wanted. This is because students were applying the ideas in their lives outside the classroom. Students changed and improved their abilities to work with each other, felt cared for, and achieved more. We are excited about it. You can find this character education program on AchievementSynchrony.com Let me know what you think.