October 07, 2013

Character Education Standards

Six Character Education Standards in Search of an Audience
by Ed DeRoche

As you probably know, the Character Education Partnership publishes the eleven principles of effective character education and uses them for identifying schools that qualify for state and national awards (
www.character.org).    Based on research and award-winning school practices, we created six standards with quality indicators to help define factors that should be present in a school with an exemplary character education program. Space does not permit a listing of all quality indicators; one example is shown for each standard.

Standard One:
Mission-Core Values- Goals
Exemplary character education programs have a clear set of core values/virtues, including a mission statement and specific goals that are shared, used, and assessed.

• Describe the process that the school’s stakeholders experienced in creating the character education programs core values mission, goals, and expectations.

Standard Two: School Culture   
Exemplary character education programs address a school’s culture and its effectiveness to provide a safe environment, character development, community involvement, and student achievement.

“The National School Climate Council concludes that a positive school climate fosters youth development and learning…(that) includes norms, values, and expectations that support people’s feelings socially, emotionally and physically….”  
- R.Sojourner, Character Education Partnership, p.5

• Describe how school personnel promote and model the mission and core values and ensure a psychologically safe and caring school environment which contributes to a positive school culture.

Standard Three:  Value Formation-Moral Action
Exemplary character education programs nurture and foster students’ interpersonal values (those characterizing the individual's behavior and attitudes in a wide range of situations and activities); intrapersonal values (those characterizing the individual's behavior and attitudes toward others, especially as expressed in relation to family, peers, teachers, and persons in the student's immediate social environment: and civic virtues (those characterizing the individual's behavior and attitudes toward the community and society).

• Describe how character development
foster students' self-motivation, self-awareness, social and emotional skills, and ethical problem-solving and decision-making.
Standard Four: Staff Development
Exemplary character education initiatives include professional development training, workshops, seminar, etc. for developing, implementing, and assessing character-building factors such as:  interactive teaching strategies, direct teaching strategies, modeling/mentoring, classroom or behavior management methods, school-wide activities, community service/service learning, and curriculum and programs.

• Describe the time, resources, and plans that help stakeholders engage in consistent self- and team- development opportunities.

Standard Five: Curriculum-Programs-Partnerships
character education efforts focus on “integrating character education into the full spectrum of school activities and school life through such means as (a) involvement across curricular topics, discipline practices, after-school activities, and other such school functions; (b) participation by teachers, principals, school staff, parents, and especially students in program design and implementation; and (c) multiple approaches to teaching character (e.g., instruction, modeling, special events, community service, experiential learning).” Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse, U.S. Department of Education 

• Describe how character education is integrated throughout the curriculum and at all grade levels. Specifically, describe how character education is infused in the general curriculum, includes separate units of study and programs; how they are infused throughout the curriculum? How are they addressed in other content areas? 

Standard Six: Assessment/Evaluation
Effective character education programs and initiatives are assessed on a regular basis and school personnel and others use data-driven information to make informed changes and decisions.
• Describe specific findings and results from assessment efforts that inform stakeholders and others about “what’s working” with regard to such factors as school culture, classroom climate, students’ pro-social and at-risk behaviors, discipline referrals, absentee rates, etc.

 For a copy of the Center’s standards listing all “quality indictors,” email us at character@sandiego.edu.

September 16, 2013

Starting the school year with a sense of humor

Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations. — 
George Bernard Shaw, 
playwright and Nobel Prize winner

To get ideas for a blog on how new and veteran teachers can successfully prepare for a new school year, I spent an hour on the Internet and discovered a rich source of advice and suggestions for teachers. The range of information includes ideas on how to arrange your classroom, 50 ways of getting through the first week and 101 ways for handling stress throughout the school year.

So, what is left for me to say? Very little, except some personal observations for what they are worth and maybe a smile or two because I’ve touched on experiences that you have had or heard about. I begin with a reminder. Your students have had three months off. That means they have lost three months of learning, and some people may blame you for this loss.

By now you may have spent some of your own money on school supplies and your own non-paid time getting your classroom ready — arranging the desks, adding decorations, finding out if the equipment works, hanging posters, counting textbooks, and enjoying the quietness of preparation. You probably have the photocopying machine humming because you know — or have heard — that the best way to quiet a classroom of unfocused, talkative students is to give them a packet of worksheets.

You also know that during that first week of school you have to over plan because when kids have nothing to do, things happen. Some educational specialist will tell you to greet each student  — shake hands, maybe give a hug or two (Careful here. Check the school policy on hugging), and look them straight in the eye when doing this.

The experts also suggest that you to get to know your students names as soon as possible — no nicknames until the second semester. All agree that you must review your classroom rules as soon as possible, generally the first hour. It’s best to post them. Kids have a tendency to forget “rules” at school and at home. The experts also suggest that you  “get to it,” start teaching content, impress the students with your knowledge and make it look like they might learn something.

Some specialists recommend that you send a letter or email to parents during the first week of school There are all kinds of sample letters on the Internet so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Be sure to tell the parents how much you look forward to teaching their son/daughter this year. The rule is that you have to tell parents this tale even though you don’t know their child, yet, or you have had less than positive reports about their child from another teacher.

Another big thing, from what I read, is your statement of “expectations.” If my kids were in your class, I would warn you not to expect too much. I wouldn’t want to contribute to your frustrations without a warning. In your communication with parents it would be best to also talk about behavior, homework and how you grade. Now, this is really important. Your letter or email to parents should require them to sign a “contract.” I checked with a lawyer; it doesn’t mean much, but it is symbolic. My question: What happens to parents who refuse to sign the contract?

I was once told that it is a good idea to end a blog with bullet points. Here are a few:
  • Do not go into the teachers’ room during the first month. You may hear things that will destroy your enthusiasm for teaching the rest of the year.
  • Develop a sense of humor –quickly. Your students’ behaviors will contribute to this. Humor is going to help you stay healthy mentally.
  • In many cases, teaching can be and often is stressful. There are days when you will be angry, frustrated, anxious, and emotional. Do something about it. Take a break, write about your feelings in a journal, go to the movies, the theater, etc. Most importantly, do something physical, try yoga, take a long walk, jog, or work in your yard. Also, be flexible, set your own comfortable pace/schedule, and work on developing a positive attitude about things.
  • Teaching can be a lonely experience. Don’t let it be. Collaborate! Cooperate! Be a leader and team player! Get involved in school and community activities. Take a professional development course. Also, go online, there are a number of teacher blogs and forums that offer advice for dealing with stress, for invigorating your teaching, and for inspiring you to keep going. A positive relationship is to your mental health as location is to real estate.
Ed DeRoche is a former teacher, administrator, school board member, and dean. He has written several books and articles on character education. Currently he is the director of the Character Development Center at the University of San Diego and teaches in-class and online courses on instructional strategies, curriculum and programs, and character-based classroom management.

August 05, 2013


By Ed DeRoche

Politicians, the press, the public, and most educators are excited about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM), and, of course, the ever present thrust for more testing. Many believe the new common core state standards and education incentive programs such as "Race to the Top" are the panacea for saving our young from the embarrassment of not being among the top scorers in the international testing race to the top in reading, math, and science.

We may need to enter a “moral-ethical” race, as well. Consider a few character-related questions: Do we really believe that children are born “morally literate?” (No)  Do we believe that the young need to be taught to be moral (knowing the difference between right and wrong) and ethical (doing what is right) at home, in school, and in the community? (Yes) Do we want our children to be good, caring, empathetic human beings? (Yes) Do we want to help them develop positive social and emotional skills? (Yes) Do we let this happen by chance? (No) If you agree with the answers, what do we do? We help the young learn how to be successful in school, society, and in life—the “new century skills.” 
In California, we should be promoting a “balance” between helping our young to be both smart and good. The California Education Code Section 233.5(a) lays the groundwork for this:

Each teacher shall endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship, and the meaning of equality and human dignity, including the promotion of harmonious relations, kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures, to teach them to avoid idleness, profanity, and falsehood, and to instruct them in manners and morals and the principles of a free government. Each teacher is also encouraged to create and foster an environment that encourages pupils to realize their full potential and that is free from discriminatory attitudes, practices, events, or activities, in order to prevent acts of hate violence….

Since 1995, the Character Development Center (CDC) has been making a difference by helping educators, parents, youth agencies personnel, and students learn, teach, and practice the positive habits of good character, citizenship, and social-emotional skills.  We promote 10 BADGES OF CHARACTER: RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, COMPASSION, COURAGE, PERSEVERANCE, TRUST, HONESTY, GRATITUDE, SELF-DISCIPLINE, and AND CITIZENSHIP.  

From the CDC site one may download 8 x 11 posters of each of the 10 badges of character.  Each poster has a definition of the character trait along with a quote.  The CDC site is full of recommendations for educators, administrators, and parents describing how to integrate the “ true core standards” at home, in school, and in the community  (http://charactermatters.sandiego.edu and 

One important point here is that attending to the character development of students in our schools supports academic achievement and social-emotional skill development. A few examples:

Character and citizenship are the critical elements of a positive school culture and climate.” Elias, 2008, p.31

Character education positively influences academic achievement; and has a broad impact on a wide variety of psycho-social outcomes, including sexual behavior, problem-solving skills, relationships and attachment to school. Berkowitz and Bier (2005)

Integrated character education resulted in an improved school environment, increased student pro-social and moral behavior, and increased reading and math test scores.  In addition, schools became more caring communities, discipline referrals dropped significantly—particularly in areas related to bullying behavior—and test scores in moderately achieving schools increased nearly 50%. Marshall, Caldwell, and Foster (2011)

Compared with their peers (in strictly academic programs), participating students also significantly improved on five key nonacademic measures: They demonstrated greater social skills, less emotional distress and better attitudes, fewer conduct problems such as bullying and suspensions, and more-frequent positive behaviors, such as cooperation and help for other students. Also, the effects continued at least six months.... Education Week 1-25-12

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell asks:  Is our only objective to get students ready for success in the workforce? Do we not also have a responsibility to prepare students to be active and engaged citizens? Don't we want our next generation to be caring neighbors, effective parents, and strong role models for the generation after theirs? Aren't we obligated to provide them with the skills they need to successfully pursue and achieve happiness and joy in their lives? I think we are, and I believe technological change and the global economy make it more important than ever that we focus on these things” (the true common core).

July 21, 2013

Medal of Honor Presentation

Ed DeRoche addresses seminar attendees
We had our own July 4th celebration when the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation’s staff and two experienced California teachers provided pre-conference seminar attendees with a one-day training program.  They focused on “lessons of personal bravery and self-sacrifice” as “a teaching resource designed by teachers to provide students with opportunities to explore” virtues such as courage, patriotism, commitment, integrity, sacrifice, and citizenship.
Forty attendees were thrilled to meet, in person, Jay Vargas, a Medal of Honor recipient, and receive the Foundation’s excellent and comprehensive instructional kit of resources, lessons, DVDs and black-line masters. (http://www.cmohedu.org/about_us.aspx)

Jay Vargas, Vietnam Veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient
I want to share some representative observations from attendees, which I have edited.

I really felt a connection to the importance of service to others and how character truly counts; it was powerful and meaningful.

Learning about the value of character education has made me determined to add character education into my classroom’s curriculum. Our nation was founded on the values that exist in service and this should not be forgotten. I feel very humbled to know about several Medal of Honor recipients and their stories, and that they were willing to open up, and at moments be vulnerable in order to share the love, selflessness, respect, and determination that have for their country and friends.

I found the vignettes to be informative and thought provoking: perfect material for my future world history classroom. Beyond the reminders of the costs of war, the seminar encouraged me to reflect on the importance of service to others. I believe that this is truly an important life perspective to cultivate in our students and ourselves.

One of the important things I took from this program, which I think is a good lesson for students also, is that you don’t necessarily need to be special to do something great. The message that I kept getting from the different men in the videos was that they did not think they did anything great or deserved all this attention and honor, they were just doing what they thought was the right thing to do. This is a powerful message because I think it can encourage students to choose to create values and beliefs of what is right. 

From this seminar, one thing that I learned and found special was that I went home with a new meaning and awareness of what it means to be selfless and to sacrifice.

As an elementary school teacher, I feel that this program would be extremely beneficial especially to the upper grades (i.e. grades 4-6) because it teaches students about the greater good and serving others before oneself.  Learning about these qualities that the Medal of Honor recipients possess allows for thought provoking discussions and sharing of experiences.

Character education is something that I am extremely passionate about and will be intertwined throughout all aspects of my future classroom community. In certain classroom environments (potentially upper-elementary through high school), the Medal of Honor Curriculum would be a fabulous way to integrate character education with the study of wartime history.

The seminar provided an opportunity for me to reflect on the character traits of commitment, courage, sacrifice, patriotism, citizenship, and integrity as a person and educator.

As I see it, teachers should use the MOH resources and virtues/traits as a framework to introduce students to the characteristics and stories of heroes and heroines in many fields and professions. Teachers might retain the “medal” theme offering students units and lessons about the “Presidential Medal of Freedom,” the “Presidential Citizens Medal,” the “Liberty Medal” and the “Nobel Peace Prize,” to name a few.

What we are really talking about here is offering young people positive role models that may influence them in their studies, their relations, their behaviors, and their careers.

The 8 C's of Character

There are only two C’s in “character,” but one can find many words that begin with C in describing good, positive character traits and behaviors. I’ve compiled a few C words that show the attributes of character.

1. Caring: Two important synonyms are “compassion” and “empathy.” Robert Krzaric wrote in The Greater Good’s e-newsletter that caring-empathy is one’s “ability to step into another person’s shoes, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions.” Most importantly, he notes that new research suggests that caring-empathy is “a habit we can cultivate.”

2. Choice: Living a life of good character doesn’t happen by chance, nor does it happen by circumstance. It happens by choice. One of my favorite character education authors, Hal Urban, reminds us that no matter what the circumstances — “people, places, times, things, conditions” — your choices determine your actions and behaviors, not the circumstances. Somewhere in this C word, I sense virtues like respect, responsibility, perseverance.

3. Citizenship: Two social studies specialists once wrote that the purpose of schooling is not to help people be better off, but to be better scholars, citizens and workers. They noted that a multicultural society needs roots. These roots, they said, are described in our founding documents, in our symbols and slogans, and in our personal and public civic virtues. Our schools, therefore, are called to educate the young to uphold (and sometimes challenge) core virtues such as trustworthiness, fairness, patriotism, justice, courage, responsibility, respect and honesty.

4. Common sense: “Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.  He is survived by his four stepbrothers I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame,  I Am a Victim.” (CS Obituary printed in the London Times, date and author unknown)

5. Company: “Character is how you behave in response to the company (peer groups, friends, family) you keep, seen and unseen,” according to psychologist Robert Coles in  “The Call of Stories.” Who are the virtuous, the responsible agents, the moral teachers, and the positive role models that keep company with our young people? Is it their peer group, the entertainment industry, the Internet, Facebook, YouTube?

6. Conscience: From the B.C. comic strip Pearls of Wisdom: “A conscience is what hurts when everything else feels great.” No need for further comment.

7. Consequences: The penalty we pay or the internal-external rewards we receive from the choices we make. Behaviors have consequences — some positive, some negative. People make mistakes, including people of good character. But these people have what might be called “character strengths.” They hold themselves accountable, take responsibility, pay the consequences, learn from their mistakes and do not repeat them.

8. Courage: As adults, we know our courage is tested daily. The young can be taught to meet the personal and social challenges to do the right thing; to stand up for their own and other’s rights; to make difficult decisions particularly when such decisions may not be easy or popular; and to have the courage to say “no” when invited to cheat, bully, harass or be unfair, impolite or disrespectful to others. As Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
What C words would you add to the list? Why?

Ed DeRoche is a former teacher, administrator, school board member, and dean. He has written several books and articles on character education. Currently he is the director of the Character Development Center at the University of San Diego and teaches in-class and online courses on instructional strategies, curriculum and programs, and character-based classroom management.

May 20, 2013

What is a character educator?

By Ed DeRoche

A strange thing happened to me at a holiday party. I was making the rounds introducing myself to people I didn’t know. The most common question, asked was, “Well what do you do? My answer stops people in their tracks. They pause! They look quizzical, baffled and hesitant about what to say next. Why? Because my answer to the question is “I am a character educator?” Well, let’s have another drink and move on.

What do I say if someone in the group asked, “Well, what is that?” Few do, of course, but how would I answer that question? “A character educator, I would explain, is someone who specializes in educating others, mainly educators and parents, about the need to teach young people (and some adults) what it means to be people of good character.

“But what do you do?” is usually the next question. I tell them: “I teach, write, and consult with educators and parents at schools, in the community, at parent-teacher meetings, at conferences, and in courses. I engage interested adults in conversations about helping young people learn and practice positive social and emotional skills and the virtues that the young need to learn and they need to model; virtues like respect, responsibility, perseverance and empathy.”

By now there are only two or three people in our group, the others have wandered off to get another drink and have conversations about sports, their favorite movies, and the latest issue of People magazine. But for the three or four who remain (I’m counting my wife here), the next question is usually: “How do you do that?”

The “how” question is a little complicated and can lead to a long-winded answer. A holiday party is no place to do that. So I suggest that they let me ask them a few questions. “What do you think of when I use the word ‘character’? After a short discussion, I remind them that the word “character” has two Cs in it; one stands for “choices” and the other for “consequences.” Living a life of good character, I tell them, doesn’t happen by chance, nor does it happen by circumstance. It happens by the choices we make. So as a character educator I try to help adults teach the young to make good, positive, ethical choices and learn to take responsibility (a virtue) for their actions and be willing to accept the negative consequences and do something about them, as well as celebrate the positive consequences.

By this time, we are ready to move on and engage in conversations with others. As we conclude, I suggest three things:  

One, that character matters no matter who you are or where you are. Two, that they might look at character education this way: If exercising builds strong muscles, then practicing the virtues of good behavior builds strong character. Three, one important way that our children learn character is from observing, imitating, and modeling what adults say and do.

This being the case, I remind them that they too are character educators.
For some reason, I seldom get invited back to holiday parties.

Ed DeRoche is a former teacher, administrator, school board member, and dean. He has written several books and articles on character education. Currently he is the director of the Character Development Center at the University of San Diego and teaches in-class and online courses on instructional strategies, curriculum and programs, and character-based classroom management. Join the party.

April 24, 2013

Character Matters Summer Conference

The 17th Annual West Coast Character Matters Conference
Character Development Center
Department of Learning & Teaching 
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego

Pre-conference Seminar
Medal of Honor: Lessons of Personal Bravery and Self-Sacrifice
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Character Matters Conference
Wednesday and Thursday, June 26 & 27, 2013

We value you as a character educator of children and young people. We value your time and talent and the choices you make to enhance your professional development.
Educators continue to choose our Character Matters Conference because they leave motivated and empowered with new knowledge, skills, and content that will increase academic achievement and enhance classroom climate and school culture. The conference is your opportunity to meet new people that you can add to your professional learning network.

Pre-conference Medal of Honor Seminar: June 25, 2013

The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation Medal of Honor:  Lessons of Personal Bravery and Self-Sacrifice

Purpose: To develop an understanding of the Medal of Honor material and how it can be used in your classroom and to share best practices using the specially prepared resources. Presented by two CMOH staff members.

Character Matters Conference: June 26 & 27, 2013

The Question: How do educators and community leaders foster and promote lessons for the mind and heart when teaching character traits and skills in our schools and community?

Presenters: A variety of teachers and counselors will share their ideas, suggestions, and experiences on why and how to implement character traits and skills in your school and classroom.

Featured Speaker
Dana Brown, Social Entrepreneur and Community & Youth Organizer

Heart-Based Language
Educating our Global Society Students
Through Common Core & Trauma-Informed Schools

Dr. Audrey Hokoda, SDSU, Child & Family Development
Rosa Ana Lozada, LCSW, CEO, Harmonium
Carol Prime, SDSU, Center for Critical Thinking & Creativity
Lynn Underwood, Executive Director, Commission on Gang Prevention & Intervention
Dr. Dorothy Zirkle, SDSU,Chair, Nursing and Public Health

Other Conference Presenters

Susan Schock, Teacher with 42 years of experience including 16 years teaching first grade at Toler Elementary School, a California Distinguished School with a school-wide emphasis on character. 
Fitting Character Education into Your Day
Susan will share how she fits character education into her busy day. From literacy to read-aloud to social studies to classroom management, opportunities to add character to your day are there waiting for you. Participants will leave with easy, ready-to-use activities and tips they can put into practice in their own classrooms and schools.

Featured Speaker
David Hanlon,
High School teacher and head of the Vista High School Character Leadership Program.
David will share best practice strategies for creating a comprehensive and effective character education program at your school site.

Leor Levin, Teacher, Wells Middle School, California State School of Character  
Integrating Mindfulness

Attendees will gain insight as active participants into the benefits of mindfulness, as well as how mindfulness can be integrated into the classroom throughout the day.

Molly Maloy, Elementary School Teacher, Specialist Certificate in Character Education
Bringing Character Alive in Your Classroom
  • Using picture books to teach character within the context of theme (aligned to the Common Core standards)
  • Character videos (with students choosing a character trait, writing a script, filming, and editing)
  • Fostering a positive classroom environment

Jocbethem Tahapary, M.Ed. Counselor, Oak Valley Middle School, PUSD
PLUS Program
This session will describe the PLUS Program used in the Poway Unified School District. PLUS stands for Peer Leaders Uniting Students and the program offers students the opportunity to engage in conversations and interactive learning activities. 


Character Matters Conference-ONLY Registration Fee:
$200 per individual
$125 per individual for schools sending two (2) or more educators
$75 for students with ID (non-credit)
Includes:  Breakfast & Lunch –two days, two books, packet of 8x10 posters

One-Day Seminar ONLY – Medal of Honor Training Program Registration Fee:
$100 per individual
$100 for students with ID (non-credit)
Includes: Breakfast & Lunch, MOH instructional binder plus handouts (value= $120)

Seminar and Conference - 3 Days
$275 per individual
$250 per individual for schools sending two (2) or more educators
$150 for students with ID (non-credit)
Includes: Breakfast & Lunch –three days, MOH binder ((value = $120), two books and packet of 8x10 posters

Contact us for more information: character@sandiego.edu

April 10, 2013

Character & Academic Achievement

By Ed DeRoche

Believe it or not, character education (including social-emotional programs) promotes academic achievement.

“I don’t believe it!”  “How can you make such a statement?”  “For such an outlandish statement you need to show me proof!”

The case is rather straightforward.  When teachers – all school personnel for that matter – take the time and make the effort to nurture character development traits (values/virtues) such as respect, responsibility, self –discipline, caring/empathy, honesty, trust, and fairness, there is a “pay-off” academically, socially, and emotionally.  Students, in all classrooms and in every school, need education and guidance regarding their behaviors, their attitudes, and their actions.

A few quotes from the research (without references as I want to limit this blog to about 600-words) will clearly suggest that character education instruction and academic achievement are related.

“A 2011 meta-analysis of school-based social and emotional learning programs, published in Child Development, found significant improvements in academic achievement, behavior, and attitudes compared with control groups.”

“[Our study] found that greater reliance on character education translated to higher state academic test scores.  Additional positive results have been found within the closely related field of Social Emotional Learning.”

“[Researchers] performed a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, social and emotional learning programs involving 270,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.  Compared to control groups, SEL participants demonstrated significant improvement in social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance.”

Russell J. Sojourner, Director of Leadership Development, Character Education Partnership writes: “Perhaps no case is more compelling than that of Ridgewood Middle School (Arnold, MO), which Charles Haynes and I reported in USA Today on February 20, 2007.  Simply by transforming the horribly negative school culture of a failing school by using character education principles, they moved from state test scores with only 30% success in communication arts and 7% success in mathematics in 2000 to 68% in communication arts and 71% in mathematics.”

Here is one of my favorites because it introduces us to the emerging field of positive psychology.  “We have found that students’ academic achievement is influenced by a set of character strengths.  Among middle-school students, the character strengths of perseverance, love, gratitude, hope, and perspective predicts academic achievement.  Similar results are found as well among college students.”

Here is another:  “Youths’ social, emotional, and academic development are related, and promoting social and emotional development can lead to several desirable outcomes…an increase in positive student behavior and academic performance, and also a reduction in disruptive behavior and emotional distress.”

The Child Development Project (Oakland, CA), implemented in many elementary schools and written about in several research publications, demonstrated the “transfer effect” of their character education program.  When compared to a control-group, students in CDP’s character education program were found to be more concerned for others, demonstrated more altruistic behavior, learned greater conflict resolution skills, had a greater liking for school and classes, and were more motivated to learn school subjects.  Most important, however, “years later, students from the program’s schools were making greater academic progress relative to their peers….” 

Regarding Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed, J. Nocera (New York Times) says: “…tapping into a great deal of recent research, Tough writes that the most important things to develop in students are ‘non-cognitive skills’ which Tough labels as ‘character.’  Many of the people who have done the research or are running the programs that Tough admires have different ways of expressing those skills.  But they are essentially character traits that are necessary to succeed not just in school, but in life.”

As we say and promote at this Center, CHARACTER MATTERS.  It matters because helping children and youth develop positive character traits and skills is an important means of helping them become both smart and good, managing their emotions and behaviors, and becoming productive and contributing citizens.

March 07, 2013

Character & Leadership

When you deal with human beings in leadership situations, you deal with what is essential to the study of leadership, namely, moral and ethical issues. Through the study of lives, one finds out how individuals have confronted specific actions and decisions relating to leadership positions. - James MacGregor Burns, December 4, 2004

The film “Lincoln” is the talk of the town. It has resurrected an interest in the leadership styles of presidents, a topic that has been written about by many historians and leadership scholars. We offer an undergraduate course on the topic.  The film confirms my readings about Lincoln’s character— integrity, trust, honesty, fairness, a “sharing leader”(Burns’ term) along with a strong sense of values, a commitment to them (example: liberty and equality), and the ability to communicate (persuade). Lincoln’s “approach shows that truth is a common denominator for all interactions, among any group, and with people of varying personalities.” (D. Phillips, Lincoln On Leadership.)

While there are no specific formulas for successful, effective leadership, there are guidelines that potential and current leaders should not ignore. Studying Lincoln would be a good place to start. Other examples are worth investigating as well.

“Character,” according to Zenger and Folkman (The Extraordinary Leader)
is “the center pole, the core of leadership effectiveness.” Greenstein (The Presidential Difference) offers six qualities (might they be called “character traits?”) related to the leadership styles and performances of presidents. These are public communication, organizational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence

Historian and presidential scholar, Robert Dallek’s “Lessons from the Lives and Times of Presidents,” describes seven factors that distinguish effective and ineffective presidential leadership - vision, pragmatism, charisma, consensus, trust, judgment, and luck. Notice the “character factors” specified or implied—trust, perseverance, integrity, respect, responsibility, etc.

The Turknett Leadership Group (www.turknett.com) offers the “Leadership Character Model” stating that “Leadership is about character – who you are not what you do.”  The model includes three core qualities as the keys of “leadership character”:

Integrity -- honesty, credibility, trustworthiness. “Without integrity, no leader can be successful.”

Respect -- empathy, lack of blame, motivational mastery, humility. “Respect helps create a culture of partnership and teamwork.”

Responsibility -- self-confidence, accountability, focus on the whole, courage. “Great leaders accept full responsibility for personal success and for the success of projects, teams, and the entire organization.”

Those of you in the education profession are “character educators.”  You deal with “moral and ethical issues” everyday. You are also educational leaders positioned at all levels—in the classroom, at the school, in central office, in your professional community, and in the public arena.
It might be wise to examine who you are (your character and values), how you perform (your skills and talents), and how you lead (sharing, partnerships, team-building).

By Ed DeRoche