Character Education and the Accidental Teacher

Character education duties often hurtle downward from administrators to crash painfully into unwilling hands. Educators who contracted to teach other courses suddenly become accidental teachers of this subject, forced to make unsought trips into character education country. In Chapters 1 and 2 of this guidebook, we gave such accidental teachers travel tips on what to pack, where to stay, and where to eat when required to take such “business trips.” In this final chapter, we prepare a proactive presentation on character education – a character education lesson plan that will be both captivating and effective.

Character education presentations should be viewed as priorities – especially by the accidental teacher who has been sent to deliver them. It is important to remember that trips into the lands of mathematics, science, history, and other subjects will be unsuccessful if character education presentations fail.

Prepare your proactive presentation weeks before you must give it, working to make it so excellent that even the king of character education land will applaud. The following points should always be included. Others may be added if time and your expense account allow.

Parts of a Proactive Presentation

1. Proactive Approach. Too often, accidental teachers engage in reactive character education lesson plans. Reactive presentations look at the past instead of anticipating the future. Focusing only on weeding out undesirable bad behavior, they encourage reactivity. That is, they encourage students to change their performance or behavior just because they have become aware that they are being observed. The accidental teacher must work to avoid reactivity.

This can best be done by consciously adopting a proactive approach. Anticipate the moral needs of your listeners in character education country. For example, give a presentation on responsibility before, not after, listeners prove themselves irresponsible. The control you exercise with such a presentation will cause listeners to build and exercise responsibility immediately. Irresponsibility is avoided or greatly reduced through proactive presentation of the trait.

Be enthusiastically proactive in your speaking. If you aren’t interested in what you have to say, your listeners will not be interested either.

2. Story Power. Have you noticed how often dynamic public speakers use stories in their presentations? Storytelling is considered by many to be the key to business communications. It is the key to character education communications, too. Even the great teachers of ancient Greek and Rome recognized that fact. They used story power to teach high moral values – and the accidental teacher will want to do the same.

Listeners get caught up in story-powered presentations. They identify with the central figures of stories, their attention riveted on your presentation to learn what happens to those figures. Stories are non-threatening. Stories don’t point the finger, or shake it in listeners’ faces. Stories in character education presentations link powerful emotions with information – a key way to drive knowledge deep into your listeners. Stories, and the understanding they impart, are retained long after lecture have disappeared in a memory dump.

So base your presentations on books, but not just any books. Choose books that are purpose-written for inhabitants of character education land. For young listeners, select books that provide clear definitions of moral traits, and weave explanations of those qualities into exciting fiction. For more mature listeners, choose how-to books written specifically for character education country.

3. Professional Input. Proactive presentations link professional input to story power. Give your presentation maximum clout by using character education lesson plans prepared by the author of the book on which you base it. An author who is a professional in both the educational and literary worlds will deliver the kind of input that keeps listeners captivated while conveying accurate knowledge.

The materials you carry with you should speak to every type of learner in character education land. Auditory learners will benefit from listening to the story and your discussion of it. Visual learners will benefit from visual aids you use as well as the images supplied by their own imaginations during your presentation. Kinesthetic learners will need the interaction described below to get full benefit out of your meetings in character education land. Professional input should include materials that appeal to these and other learning styles.

Professional input should also include evaluation for use at the end of your presentation. It would never do to leave a presentation without evaluating whether or not you were effective – whether or not you attained the end for which you were sent on your journey. You want results, and should test for them in a variety of ways.

4. Interactive Time. Get listeners involved in your presentation. Have them sing along with you, tying the music to your presentation theme. Get some up on stage to perform a skit that will help them remember. Many speakers use tactics such as these to be sure listeners are alert, and so should the accidental teacher. Add a workshop to your presentation, introduce a craft or other project, and you will push your information into sometimes recalcitrant minds.

5. Take-Away Bags. You may have attended a seminar at which every participant received a bag of “goodies” to take away at the end of the meeting. The bag held items that served as incentives, motivators to make you eager to do what the speaker urged. It held reminders, too, that helped you recall what you learned for months after the speaker left town.

Make sure your presentation has provision for the distribution of take-away bags. You don’t need an actual bag or even a bagful for each attendee, but be sure everyone has at least one or two items. You could even use your interactive time to create take-away bag items with participants.

6. Closing Awards. Yes, seminars do give awards to participants, and the inhabitants of character education land will be happy to receive awards for their exercise of the qualities you urge on them. You won’t need awards for your first trip to the country, but be sure you work them into your presentation for succeeding journeys.

Remember, a proactive presentation must anticipate the moral needs of your listeners in character education country. It must help them build high moral values before anyone observes a damaging lack of those values. It must plant good trees instead of trying to knock bad fruit off of sick trees.