Teaching Tuesday: School Character Development

By Dr. Tracy Vasquez

A female teacher helping a young student with class work

Character development within schools is an integral part of student growth. As a teacher, you may implement different strategies to aide in the development of each and every student in your classroom. These strategies support students’ learning to understand their virtues as a component of their cultures and identities, and also how components of character are displayed to impact relationships, communications and communities.

Modeling Character

You can model virtues by holding open and honest discussions with your students about success and challenges you are having, and model how you can extend through these as opportunities for growth. When you model your own virtues in the classroom, you show how your beliefs of value for every student comes alive in respectful interactions and caring treatment. For instance, when a student experiences a change in their family through divorce or loss, we can show compassion by inquiring about the student’s well-being and providing a plan to help the student catch up on missed assignments.

Reflection and Self-Study

To help students understand, recognize and strengthen their own virtues, you can provide opportunities for students to practice and celebrate them to encourage further application and development. In some schools, this may look like a student journal with different prompts prepared at designated reflection times. Students could incorporate writings, drawings and quotes related to these prompts.

As educators, an important component of this is our ability to regularly practice reflection ourselves. Consider what went well in your lessons for the day, but also what didn’t go as planned. Use a journal for yourself, write Post-it notes in your plan book or debrief with a trusted friend or colleague.

Scenarios and Simulations

Identifying or creating scenarios of age-matched characters can additionally help students apply virtuous behaviors and interactions. This may mean selecting stories and books that focus on character development. Hearing about how their favorite literary characters handle difficult situations by applying strong character traits can help children learn to do the same.

Another approach is to snap photos of students in your own class demonstrating their virtues in a positive manner. This can lead to a class discussion and recognition for the students. Acknowledge these opportunities and share how individuals can apply their virtues to improve the well-being of the class or for themselves. For example, if you observe a student sharing a snack, take the opportunity to verbalize to your students what they are doing is kind and generous.

A more advanced simulation of challenges in the community can also help students understand the larger impact their virtues can make. By practicing community awareness, service and volunteerism, your class members can demonstrate social justice by showing they prioritize all cultures in your community. An example of this could be a class working together to raise funds for those in need, such as a talent show organized to collect canned goods for the community. You could also lead students to engage in responsible citizenship by leading your classroom in picking up trash around the school yard or teaming up with another classroom to clean up the school.

Schools play an essential role in our communities to educate students about character. You can be integral in character education and provide a place for your students to practice respectful interactions and collaborations. The components of character can be regularly practiced by teachers and students to recognize and develop positive characters, as well as to improve school functioning and flourishing in their communities.

Want more? Check out all of the articles from Teaching Tuesday and return each week for a new post. Learn more about Grand Canyon University’s College of Education and our degree programs and join in our efforts to elevate the education profession.

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.

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