Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Character in the Classroom

Last night I participated in the Tuesday #leadfromwithin chat led by Lolly Daskal.  This chat pushes me to be a better teacher and to understand the underpinnings of leadership and organizations. Last night's focus was leadership character which left me wondering how I can best model and promote character development as a teacher of young children.

I started by looking up the attributes of character.  I found a short list on the web, and then took each attribute/description and listed the ways that I can both model and promote these character traits in the classroom.

Respect: To show consideration for the worth of self, others, living things, the environment, property, and rules.
  • Engage students in a discussion about respect including what it is, and what it looks like in the classroom.
  • Take the time to speak and listen respectfully to students and colleagues.
  • Keep the classroom organized and targeted to student learning. 

Responsibility: Responsible people are reliable, accept the consequences of their words and/or actions, can be trusted, take care of themselves as well as others, and are responsible for all they say and do.
  • Follow through with promises.
  • Help students to complete assignments, stay on task and do as they say.

Perseverance: Sticking with a task and not giving up, even when it's hard.
  • Share and stick with the challenging tasks ahead of me this year, and show students that I can make progress with challenging tasks.
  • Help students to persevere through difficult tasks and learning. Teach and coach strategies to support this.

Thankfulness: Being grateful for the things we have, kindnesses shown, and the world around us.
  • Write thank you notes in a timely fashion.  
  • Make the time for students to recognize that many people who help our classroom by writing thank you notes. 

Kindness/Courtesy: Being polite and helpful with our words and actions, and being thoughtful of how others feel.
  • Make time each day to help someone in my midst.
  • Encourage and recognize students' efforts with regard to helping each other and those in our learning community. 

Self-Control: Being aware of the thoughts, feelings, and desires of others, then making a choice about how to behave.
  • Stay focused and work towards optimal collaboration.
  • Discuss self-control with the class, and look for ways to support students' development of this skill. 

Honesty: Being truthful and fair to myself and others.
  • Instill a value and practice of honesty by accepting the truth and building a climate that accepts failure and mistakes as part of the learning process.
  • Honesty with self and others. Thoughtful explanations and conversations related to truthful points and considerations.

Cooperation: Being willing to be helpful and work together to achieve a common goal.
  • Make the time to establish common goals with grade-level team during PLCs and other collaborative meetings.
  • Make cooperation and collaboration a daily focus of classroom work and learning.  Have meetings to discuss and reflect on our efforts in this regard.  Coach students in these efforts. 

Tolerance/Acceptance: Recognizing and respecting the opinions, practices, or behaviors of others, even if they are different from our own, and welcoming new experiences and people in our lives.
  • Starting the year with the "What's Your Culture?" and "Just Like Me" sets the stage for tolerance and acceptance.  Continue to develop students' and my own ability, understanding in this area through reading, writing, listening, conversation and experiences. 
  • "Seeking the story in the stranger" and working to understand collegial, student and personal differences. 

Friendship: A relationship between people who know, like, trust, and support each other.
  • This would be a great area to focus on through one of our interactive read alouds--we could talk about what makes a great friend and how to be a good friend.
  • Look for ways to model being a good friend at school. 
  • The courage to speak up, advocate, and share your thoughts when there's room for growth and change. 
Last night's chat clearly illustrated that a strong character makes a strong leader.  Establishing optimal character traits when children are young gives them a wonderful foundation for their future.  Modeling, explicit teaching, practice and conversation will develop character traits both in your classroom and your home.

I will think more about these attributes as I move forward in the school year.  Do you think there are any missing traits in the list?  How do you foster optimal character development in yourself and your students?  What resources support this work?  Thanks to the #leadfromwithin team for prompting this important thought thread and activity.