Character education is an umbrella term with a focus on human flourishing to help students, staff and faculty to be the best version of themselves. There are many components or virtues, that make up the bigger picture of character education that can differ across many environments. Some schools or districts adopt a universal commercially prepared program schoolwide, while other schools allow the teacher to include character education in their curriculum autonomously based on classroom needs. You can implement character education in your classroom to support social-emotional learning by focusing on specific qualities and skills. Effective character education considers the responsibility of the teacher, relevance to the students and the influence on the school community.
Responsibility of the Teacher
Students look to their teachers to help them understand appropriate responses, behaviors, and the needs of others. Teachers demonstrate how to exhibit patience and care, and responsibility toward their community. As teachers, we should demonstrate consistency in character education implementation to ensure students feel confident in expectations and trust the modeling of their teacher. Effective implementation of character education also helps students to gain skills in problem solving and being respectful toward others. Your responsibility, as the teacher, is to help students understand that not everyone has the same values or perspectives and how to appreciate the differences.
To support the implementation of character education, you would ensure that students feel safe to share their opinions, welcomed in the classroom and understand how to support one another while navigating individual perspectives and conflicts. An example of how teachers can implement these virtues in the classroom includes facilitating morning meetings or classroom discussions on differing personal perspectives. Creating a positive environment in which students feel safe to speak and feel valued and heard is important to building their self-efficacy.
Relevance to Students
Students need to develop the skills of conflict management, self-awareness and empathy for others, as they are important not only in their current learning environments, but also for their lifetime. Encourage students to demonstrate these skills outside the classroom, such as hallways, cafeteria and playground. This is vital to helping students make connections between virtuous behavior and how it applies in the real world. Conflict management can be addressed through innovative ways such as role playing in the classroom to help students have strategies to implement when they find themselves in certain situations. You can incorporate related literature in the classroom and have students reflect on the statements and actions of the characters. This strategy takes pressure off students while encouraging them to share their own opinion. You will be able to facilitate authentic discussions to develop students’ reasoning skills by taking on others’ perspectives to help understand their own feelings. Self-awareness activities, cultivate an understanding of how one’s actions affect others in the community.
Influence on School Community
Often, schools that participate in developing virtuous attitudes create solidarity within school and community. Regular inclusion of character education helps students understand their greater purpose in the community and the importance of giving back to others. Students make connections between their individual roles and responsibility and how it can have a ripple effect on the school culture and community around them. The goal is for students to seek out individual opportunities to contribute to the well-being of others and be more aware of the positive impact they can make in the world around them. Collectively, the learning of character attributes improves the schoolwide attitude and culture, prompting school faculty, staff and students to be intrinsically motivated to be good citizens.
Effectively implementing character education requires a deeper understanding of the virtues, and increasing awareness of how character development can lead to human and societal flourishing is important. You can begin this process in your school community by implementing, modeling and providing opportunities for students to develop their character. In the next few editions of this blog, we will dig deeper into the building blocks of character.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.