SO What is Character Education?

After focusing on literacy and life skills for the S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills, and Character Education curriculum, I began research specifically on how character education. I knew that getting students to read and to read better was critical. I also recognized how easily I could teach important life skills through my story, but I also realized that good character is also a foundation skill that many students should improve.

 

 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society”.

Character tells us who you are. It represents how you think and what you value. We can know a person’s character through their words and actions. And we decide if we want to associate with a person based on that same character. Young people may not know how to think and act in ways that support positive community values and help build society, but they can learn. That’s where character education comes in.

 

 

Some of the traits of character education looks to foster in students include: being caring and compassionate, courage, diligence, perseverance and resilience, honesty and fairness, respect, loyalty and citizenship. Schools, parents and communities play a role in teaching character education. Teachers and parent can:

  • Model the character traits they want to see in their children and students
  • Find teachable moments in everyday activities, for example, meal times at home or class meetings in school
  • Carry out activities with a specific aim to teach character, for example, cleaning the school, helping out an elderly neighbor

Character education is important to individuals and in society. For an individual, character education:

  • Helps them build positive relationships with others
  • Make a contribution towards society
  • Earns them respect and favor with other members of society
  • Builds self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Increases one’s effectiveness as a leader
  • Guides their actions towards what is good for all

When schools teach character education, they see these benefits:

  • Improved school and class attendance amongst the students
  • Higher academic performance
  • Reduced instances of violence in and out of school
  • Fewer disciplinary issues
  • Reduced cases of juvenile delinquent behavior like vandalism, and petty theft 

What are the pillars of character education?

The pillars of character education were developed by Michael Josephson, a former law professor and attorney, and champion for character education for youth. In 1992, he brought together a group of youth development experts and educators to create the Six Pillars of Character. The six pillars form the basis of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Program. These are Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, Citizenship which I also felt were important to include in the S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills, and Character Education curriculum.

Each pillar aims to promote cohesive environments in schools, caring, responsible communities, fair and just societies which uphold the rights of others, integrity, and respect for all. Each pillar of character has a corresponding color. While the color-coding is unique to the CHARACTER COUNTS program, the S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills, and Character Education curriculum teaches the ideals in each pillar.

  1. Trustworthiness is blue. It is about many things. Trustworthiness is:
  • doing what you will say
  • doing the right thing even when it’s inconvenient
  • keeping your promises
  • being loyal and standing by the people who matter like your family, friends and country, 
  • being honest in your words and actions
  • not lying, cheating, and stealing (even if no one will know)
  1. Respect is yellow/gold. Respect is:
  • Being considerate of others feelings
  • Display good manners and avoid foul language
  • Following the Golden rule – “to do to others as you would have them do to you.” 
  • Treating other people’s thoughts and ideas as equally important and valuable
  • Accommodating others and appreciating differences
  • Resolving differences, arguments, and anger amicably and calmly 
  1. Responsibility is green. Responsibility is:
  • Doing what you say you will without being reminded all the time
  • Doing the right thing at the right time
  • Showing initiative when something needs to be done
  • Setting a good example for those around you
  • Planning ahead
  • Being accountable for your thoughts and actions
  • Thinking before you act
  • Using self-control 
  1. Fairness is orange. Fairness is: 
  • Taking turns and giving others a chance
  • Playing by the rules
  • Treating others fairly
  • Being open-minded and listening to others
  • Not taking advantage of others
  1. Caring is red. Caring is:
  • Being kind and considerate of others
  • Showing you care with your words and actions
  • Practicing empathy
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Helping those in need
  • Forgiving others and being gracious
  1. Citizenship is purple. Citizenship is:
  • Doing your duty to your community and country, like voting
  • Caring about what happens in your community
  • Protecting the environment
  • Obeying law and order
  • Being a good neighbor
  • Playing your part in making your home, school, community, and society a better place. 
  • Respecting authority and leadership

 It has been exciting and rewarding to witness the growth and even complete transformation of students using the S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills, and Character Education curriculum. And I’m excited about all the new students who will get to use it this school year…even virtually.