Monthly Archives: February 2018

Teaching Character Education

Who is responsible for teaching character to our society in this day and age? And even more importantly, who is responsible for teaching character to our youth? Is it the household? Is it the media or our entertainment industry? Or is it our educational system?

It seems that for far too long, a child’s character education has been relegated to the confines of their household. Unfortunately, data shows us that parents are spending less and less time with their children these days. And as such, the odds that the small amount of time that parents are spending with their children is focused on conversations leading to the development of good character, are minimal.

Sadly, children are all too often left with either learning their character traits from their friends or from movies and TV. And the likelihood that they are learning any good character traits from these two sources, is indeed quite small. It is doubtful in today’s world of heightened violence and instant gratification, that children are being exposed to life benefiting character education to the degree that will produce the positive results that we seek for our nation as a whole. Positive results meaning a country that doesn’t come to the brink of economic collapse due to the acts of unscrupulous bankers, mortgage professionals, and politicians. Or positive results that leads to a society that doesn’t unethically invade a country on false pretenses, or torture its enemies of war. Character is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. And when and individual has character, we usually view them as having moral or ethical strength. Or better put, the strength to do what is right.

Teaching Character Education

If character development does not take place at home it must be acquired somewhere else. There are a lot of various organizations that are meant to instill values in children such as the various scout organizations. In fact the Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared and the mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare the children who join their organization to make ethical and moral choices that will go with them for their entire lives. The organization was established over 100 years ago and the values are as valid today as they were then. It is just that children don’t have the parents or authorities or whomever to instill these character traits in them unless they are taught character education in the classroom.

To quote the Boy Scout website, “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” And all of these words have meaning. They are good strong words that are meant to reflect good strong children who grow up into good strong adults. Unfortunately many teachers do not have the training to teach character education in the classroom. But there are many schools that have made it their mission to teach character development to the children who enter their schools. These character education schools have taken this responsibility upon themselves. They believe that children taught character will be a benefit to both them and to the society as a whole.

Just as the Boy Scouts of America have values also so do the schools that are teaching these values or character traits. Some of these values are things such as having a suitable and positive behavior, or having respect and compassion for other people. Just recognizing that some people are different and accepting that difference is a part of character education and growth.

There are many ways for teachers to teach character development. One of them is to assign certain reading materials that highlight this character development. Or another way is to engage children who have observed someone who is a bully and get them to interact with each other and the teacher and have them discuss this person. Ask hard questions like do you approve of this behavior or ask them what they would do different. One of the precepts of character education is getting a child to think about their actions and the actions of others. If a child begins to think about different actions then perhaps they will then think of the different outcomes of their actions.

Where to Find Character Education

If a teacher wants to find character education teacher resources they may search the internet for resources. There are a lot of websites that come up when you do a search on character education teacher resources. There are also a number of schools who have created an environment where a person can access character education teacher resources. These schools are actively encouraging teachers to join in the effort to teach character development of children so these children make better decisions, can tell right from wrong or exhibit positive social behaviors to name a few.

There is a list of character development traits on some of the websites that a teacher could use as a guideline in the classroom lessons. There are also lists of discussion topics and suggestions on how to conduct character education. Some topics but certainly not all of them would be to have the students have actual input into decisions that affect them. They may not be able to do this at home but in a classroom situation they may be able to make actual decisions such as how much they may choose to read versus not reading.

Or perhaps they can make a decision as what they would like to have for lunch if presented with different choices. Then when they have made their choices the teacher could start a discussion as to why they made those decisions and what the child thinks the expected outcome might be. For example if a child chooses to have a high fat meal then the discussion could center on self discipline and controlling their impulses. Then the discussion could veer towards the implications of a high fat diet such as obesity. Then the discussion could be about responsibility to the self and what those actions will do to society as a whole. Negative and positive thoughts could be discussed and then the teacher could go toward suitable positive and responsible social behavior and the repercussions of a negative social behavior.

If one does an internet search they may be surprised just how many resources actually are available online. They may also be surprised just how many schools are actively engaging in joining in teaching character education and including it in the spare classroom time or as extra curriculum after school.

A character building session may center on more personal things for a child such as being responsible and choosing the right friends. These are friends that would also have strong character and beliefs in what is right and wrong rather than friends who have the best iPod or wear the right clothes. This too is a character building exercise for a child. If they have to discuss what is important to them in friends they may find they can make choices and don’t have to follow the crowd. In fact almost any situation where children interact is a chance to start a character building session and carry on a discussion. This will help instill values as well as give a child choices.

Character Education Meets Cell Phone

Character education is the second most important subject a school can teach. It must not be taught in a vacuum, however. Character education must be taught in the milieu of day-to-day school, social, and home life. It must be presented with practical applications. In other words, character education must meet cell phone use!

What do you think will happen when it does?

In an August 19, 2009 article entitled “More and More Teens on Cell Phones,” Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research Specialist, Pew Internet & American Life Project, wrote:

Teenagers have previously lagged behind adults in their ownership of cell phones, but several years of survey data collected by the Pew Internet & American Life Project show that those ages 12-17 are closing the gap in cell phone ownership… mobile phone use has climbed steadily among teens ages 12 to 17 – to 63% in fall of 2006 and to 71% in early 2008.

Character education recognizes those statistics and approaches the use of mobiles wisely. It does not storm into a teenager’s life and announce that all cell phone users lack high moral values (they don’t). It does not lecture loudly that mobile use should be regulated tightly so that teenagers cannot possibly abuse it (it shouldn’t).

Character education faces the fact that, like MP3 players, clothing, cars, or any other material item, these phones have acceptable uses. It admits that, when those acceptable uses are brought under the influence of high moral values, there is not a problem.

The question is this. When character education meets cell phone use, how will it impinge upon it? Of course, it will bring to bear all of the 66 moral traits, but let’s be more precise. Let’s look at six specific traits that moral training will teach and apply to this potential teen problem.

6 Traits that Affect Cell Phone Use

1. Attentiveness. Teenagers must recognize that just as they want others to focus undividedly on them when they speak, they should exercise this trait toward others. That means turning off mobile units at the family dinner table; in school; and in other settings where they could be disruptive. Character education must teach students to exercise attentiveness, even at personal sacrifice.

2. Contentment. Character education will help teenaged boys and girls develop awareness of what they have and who they are. It will help them accept their circumstances and persons, maintaining balance in thoughts, words, and deeds so that they no longer identify so closely with their cellular phones. It will help them be at ease even when they forget their mobile phones – a real source of trauma for many.

3. Cooperation. It has been found that teenagers are less willing to collaborate with others when they have access to cellular phones. Rather than work as a team with family, classmates, or co-workers, they retreat to mobiles. Character education teaches them the value of laying aside cellular phones and working with others to reach a specified goal for mutual benefit.

4. Respect. This quality is difficult for teens to build, and cell phone use often encourages disrespect instead. According to a national poll by market research group Synovate, about 72% of people in the U.S. agree that users’ worst cell phone habit is having loud conversations in public. Teens are among the largest group of those disrespectful, loud offenders. Character education helps them learn to value other people – to esteem highly the rights of others to a quiet, peaceful environment.

5. Responsibility. Another vital quality for teens, responsibility is often negatively impacted by cellular units. Teens who have a task or duty to accomplish spend time talking or texting on phones instead. The task or duty remains undone, or is done hastily and irresponsibly. Character education must help teenagers learn to set aside cellular phones until responsibilities such as homework are completed in every way and to the utmost of their abilities.

6. Self-control. Finally, character education will train teenagers to recognize impulses to use their phones in wrong ways, wrong places, or wrong times. It will teach them to restrain their use, taking power over self, and reining in phone use without being reminded by an adult.

Character Education and the Accidental Teacher

Character education teachers are often forced against their wills to teach the subject. Like business people compelled to travel against their wills, character education teachers are sent to a foreign land far from their comfort zone. Many are sent with little or no training, and given the smallest of expense accounts. Those who enter character education country only once or twice a year for an assembly program may find the trek enjoyable. Those who make multiple trips each month may detest it. Love it or hate it, travel to character education land can be more enjoyable.

Character education teachers can learn ways to travel efficiently without disturbing the flow of their everyday lives. As the business travelers in Anne Tyler’s “Accidental Tourist” became accidental sightseers in the lands they visited on business, educators can become accidental teachers when forced to take on this part of the curriculum. Even though a teacher enters character education land “with his eyes shut and holding his breath and hanging on for dear life,” he can learn to enjoy “the virtuous delights of organizing a disorganized country.” He can become an accidental teacher of renown!

The Accidental Teacher Guidebook

Having traveled often to character education land, I would like to share a few secrets that have helped many other teachers “pretend they had never left home.” To help you remember, let’s collect them into “The Accidental Teacher” guidebook.

Packing the Carry-on Bag

A carry-on bag is all you need. Checked luggage is nothing but a headache. Any frequent business traveler knows the importance of packing lightly and carefully. Essentials are few but – well – essential. Be sure to include, at the very least, the following five items in your carry-on bag.

1. Passport and Visa. You should never try to enter character education land without proper credentials. If you do not yet have them, apply immediately. If your country of origin is doing its job, you will be required to prove that you are a character education teacher par excellence – the best, the truest kind. Your fingerprints should reveal your personal courage of convictions. Make sure you are worthy to receive a visa to your destination.

2. Well-tailored Suit. Only one kind of suit is acceptable for treks into character education land. It must be a custom-made suit of moral values. It must be cut of the same top quality cloth throughout, and fit you perfectly. You must feel as comfortable in it as you do in your loungewear at home. You will be wearing this suit every day of your journey, and you cannot be tugging at a too-stiff collar or sucking in your breath because of a too-restraining waistband. Your suit must give you moral fortitude and confidence on your journey – and must also lend credibility to your presentation. You are, in fact, modeling your presentation in the suit you wear.

3. Portfolio. Character education lesson plans are not a luxury. They are vital to an excellent, successful presentation. Your portfolio should be filled with the best you can purchase. Avoid the temptation to save money by packing only free character education lesson plans. One or two in a portfolio may be fine, but you cannot afford to waste space. Ask your sending organization to invest in a quality portfolio. Carefully choose character education lesson plans that are professionally written by qualified writers. Look for those that are age-appropriate, intriguing, and able to give you the most bang for the buck. Remember, you have goals to accomplish. You are not being asked to simply make one fruitless trip after another.

4. Cosmetics. The well-prepared accidental teacher does not need, and should not pack, any cosmetics. Integrity will blend with every skin type, is becoming to everyone, and is worn by every knowledgeable accidental teacher. You must appear exactly as you are, without façade. Remove from your carry-on bag all little white lies and other cover-ups you may have carried in the past. Be yourself – your best self.

5. Travel Book. As every business traveler knows, a good travel book in the carry-on bag can help you understand your target country better. Tuck in a good book about high moral values, and take time to read it carefully each time you travel.