Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

School Culture / Climate

28

Jun

The “Kindness” Book

 

by Ed DeRoche, Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego

Last month, I received a copy of Thomas Lickona’s (TL) new book, How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain (Penguin, 2018).

I’ve read it—twice. The book advises parents, teachers, and caregivers on everything they need to know about “kindness,” and about ten essential virtues that function as a “supporting cast” for kindness – wisdom, justice, fortitude, self-control, love, positive attitude, hard work, integrity, gratitude, and humility.

TL notes that his long career has focused on character education and teacher training. A long-time proponent of character education, one of his earliest books, Character Matters–Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility (Bantam, 1991), was a major resource when Professor Mary Williams and I started writing and speaking about the topic, and when creating the Center here at USD.

I want to focus this blog on what I see as the framework that TL uses to develop the “important principles and practices” that can guide parents, teachers, and caregivers in helping children and youth on the road to good character; that is, character, character education, and character coaches.

He suggests that there are two types of character—moral character and performance character. Moral character “inspires us to be good and performance character enable us to do good well.” He reminds us that the good side of one’s character consists of our virtues, our good habits, and that the bad side of character involves our bad habits. He notes that “in a very real sense, we become our habits. Our responsibility as parents and teachers is to help kids develop good habits…Character, good or bad, is composed of learned habits and behaviors.”

The way I see it is that:

  1. The word CHARACTER has two Cs in it; one stands for CHOICES and the other for CONSEQUENCES.
  2. Living a life of good character doesn’t happen by CHANCE, nor does it happen by CIRCUMSTANCES.
  3. It happens by CHOICE and is influenced, most times by CIRCUMSTANCES and CULTURE.

Given today’s situations, we should underline TL’s observation that: “Human behavior has always been influenced by the interaction of character and culture. Think of character as what’s on the inside—the capacities and dispositions that influence how we act and react.

Culture is what’s on the outside—all of the factors in our environment…and then in any given situation, the outside influences bring out either the best or the worst of our character.”

“We know,” he says, “that good character involves knowing what’s right, and doing what’s right—and that doing is the hardest part. We become good by doing good.”

In regards to character education, TL writes schools that have effective character education initiatives ensure that students have voice (an opportunity to shape the culture of their school) and are engage in “high quality” cooperative learning. Character education “trains the heart as well as the mind.” It helps children “not just to know that something is wrong, but to feel that it is wrong.”

From the perspective of character education, TJ writes, every moment of the school day is a “character moment.” “To a large degree, our children create their character by the choices they make every day.”

Not in the book, but something that educators and the parents should know: Researchers at UC-Berkeley surveyed 400 students ages 12-14 in which they found that students “who were more likely to be grateful to others [I am adding “kindness” here] showed higher academic interest, grades, and extracurricular involvement, and had lower interest in risky behaviors.” Positive parent relationships was also associated with gratitude (and probably with many habits of the heart including “kindness”).

TL urges parents, teachers, and caregivers to become what he calls character coaches.

  1. Being a character coach means “teaching children character skills like self-control and kindness in very deliberate ways and then helping kids practice them again and …”
  2. Becoming a character coach “means giving your child/children opportunities for moral action in family life (and I would say in schools as well) and…the toughest part…is doing so in the heat of the moment….”
  3. Character coaches know that the “family is a child’s first school of virtue and that the qualities that make up good character…grow in a family ”
  4. “Character coaches do all they can to help children and to stay on the road to good ”

Research, TL tells us, finds that children’s character development is best supported by “a stable and loving family environment where they teach respect for legitimate authority, where children are held accountable for their actions and behaviors [and] where children have meaningful responsibilities in family life.”

The book is filled with advice, examples, stories, research, and resources for home (parents/caregivers) and school (teachers/administrators).

Here are a few – by the numbers:

3 Ways that family meetings foster character development

6 Principles that can guide our efforts to raise kind children

15 Character-based tools and strategies for your discipline toolbox

10 Tips for holding good family meetings (and I might add for good classroom meetings)

7 Guidelines for children’s TV watching

4 Steps to making good decisions

10 Ways to teach and practice gratitude

20 Questions using the “True-Love Character Test”

 

“Every child deserves a home and school where children and youth are learning to be smart and good.”

 My advice as a parent and teacher:

Buy the book! Read it! Use it! Share it!

 

Ed DeRoche, Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego

24

Apr

The Principal: Character, Collaboration, Commitment

by Ed DeRoche, Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego

This blog was written as a direct result of reading David Brooks’s column, “Good Leaders Make Good Schools which I will summarize below. The column topic reminded me of previous notes and publications that I wrote about school leadership.

For example, several years ago, I published an article in the Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education, and Development (September 2000, Vol. 39, Issue 1) titled, “Leadership for Character Education Programs.” I suggested school principals and program leaders should be visionaries, missionaries, consensus builders, knowledge sources, standard bearers, architects, role models, communicators, collaborators, resource providers, and evaluators. For each responsibility, I offered commentary about the “what and why.”

Elsewhere, I wrote described two views about character and leadership.

One was that of Zenger and Folkman (The Extraordinary Leader) who made a clear case that “Character is the center pole, the core of leadership effectiveness.”

The other was a summary of the Turknett Leadership Group’s “Leadership Character Model.” Their view is that “Leadership is about character – who you are not, what you do.” Their model includes three core qualities as the keys of leadership character:

  1. Integrity [honesty, credibility, trustworthy];
  2. Respect (empathy, lack of blame, motivational mastery, humility); and
  3. Responsibility (self-confidence, accountability, focus on the whole, courage).

(www.turknett.com)

Current research about school principals is exciting and informative. The Knowledge Center at www.wallacefoundation.org contains more than 70 publications about school leadership. In my readings of a few of the reports, I found evidence that effective principals establish leadership teams, led by the principal, assistant principals, and teacher leaders. Team members shared responsibility for student progress.

Another discovery (at least for me) was that effective principals encourage collaboration “paying special attention to how school time is allocated.” Another study reported that, coupled with collaboration, “principals who rated highly for the strength of their actions (commitment) to improve instruction were also more apt to encourage the staff to work collaboratively.” Note this important finding, “When principals and teachers share leadership, teachers’ working relationships with one another are stronger and student achievement is higher.”

Now, all of this information is what I call “in-house stuff.” My point—the public knows little about these significant findings.

Thus, it is left to journalists and the media to bring this important information to the public, especially parents, board members, and community leaders. David Brooks did this in his column, “Good Leaders Make Good Schools” (NYT, 3-12, 2018).

In brief, here is what he wrote.

     If you want to learn how to improve city schools, look how Washington D.C.,

     New Orleans, and Chicago are already doing it.

     Restructuring schools and increasing teacher quality don’t get you very far without a strong principal.

How do they do this he asks? His answer, “They build a culture…set by their behavior (character).”  

He also notes that “it takes five to seven years for a principal to have full impact on a school….When you learn about successful principals, you keep coming back to character traits they embody and spread: energy, trustworthiness, honesty, optimism, determination, and promotes a collaborative power structure.”

In bold type he writes a key finding from researchers who studied principals in 180 schools across nine states and concluded, “We have not found a single case of a school improving its student achievement record in absence of talented leadership.”

Brooks concludes, “We went through a period when we believed you could change institutions without first changing the character of the people in them. But we were wrong. Social transformation follows personal transformation.”

The question for current school principals posed by Baruti K. Kafele, an award-winning former urban principal in New Jersey: “Is my school a better school because I lead it?”

His answer:

“It’s my strong belief that to lead your school forward, you must consider this question daily. To answer this question affirmatively, you must be absolutely clear about who you are as the school leader, what your mission is, what purpose drives your work, and how you envision the future of your leadership and school. These characteristics determine who you are, what you’re about, why you’re about it, and where you are going. They serve as a mirror for why you do this work in the first place. You must lead your school with the confidence to say, ‘Yes, my school is, in fact, a better school because I lead it.’ And when you do, students win.”

https://www.sandiego.edu/soles/character-education-resource-center/

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.

Character Education Resource Center, Director

deroche@sandiego.edu

University of San Diego

5998 Alcala Park

San Diego, CA 92110

30

Nov

Ajudando os Alunos a Identificar os seus Valores (Spanish)

This Article is the translation, with the kind permission of the author, Maurice J. Eliasof the post Helping your Students Identify Their Values that has been published in Edutopia, the third July 2017.

Este artigo é a tradução, amavelmente autorizada pelo autor, Maurice J. Eliasdo artigo publicado em Edutopia a 3 de Julho de 2017. Devido à sua extensão, será publicado em 3 partes.

Convide os seus alunos a escrever sobre os princípios orientadores segundo os quais eles querem viver, usando estes tópicos motivadores para os ajudar a começar.

By Maurice J. Elias

     O início do ano escolar é uma ocasião propícia para pedir aos alunos que reflitam sobre aquilo que traz um sentido orientador às suas vidas. E colocar por escrito os seus princípios orientadores de vida é uma tarefa perfeita para esta reflexão.

Os professores de alunos a partir do 5º ano podem pedir-lhes que descrevam os princípios segundo os quais desejam viver as suas vidas. Para os ajudar a sintonizar a ideia, podem conversar sobre biografias que eles tenham lido ou visto em filmes (Também podem ver juntos extratos de vídeos ou lerem juntos excertos de livros); depois organizem um diálogo ou enumerem um resumo das regras pelas quais essas pessoas parecem ter pautado as suas vidas. Também podem colocar aos alunos a mesma questão sobre personagens de romances, adultos presentes nas suas vidas ou figuras históricas.

Para Começar:

Algumas questões motivadoras podem ajudar os alunos a começar a pensar mais profundamente sobre os seus próprios valores ou princípios.

  1. Quem admiras? Enumera três qualidades admiráveis dessa pessoa.
  2. Descreve um incidente ou um evento em que tenhas aprendido uma lição da forma mais dura.
  3. O que poderias mudar em ti próprio para te tornares uma pessoa melhor?
  4. Quais são as três qualidades que valorizas num amigo? Num Professor? No Pai ou na Mãe?
  5. Quem foi mais importante na tua vida em ajudar-te a estabelecer os teus valores? Por favor explica.
  6. Quais são os três valores mais importantes que pensas serem essenciais para encorajar os teus próprios filhos, um dia mais tarde?
  7. Qual é a regra única que tu crês ser a essencial para orientar a tua vida?
  8. Se nós vivêssemos num mundo perfeito, como é que as pessoas poderiam proceder de forma diferente do que fazem agora?

 

Para Desenvolver:

Pode achar útil pedir a cada aluno que escreva as suas próprias respostas a algumas das questões motivadoras, em primeiro lugar; em seguida, pode pedir aos alunos para partilharem essas respostas a pares, depois com uma parte da turma ou mesmo em grupo-turma.  

Os professores devem acompanhar a partilha dos alunos com perguntas para ajudá-los a pensar mais profundamente sobre as suas respostas. Por exemplo,

  1. O que torna estas qualidades merecedoras de admiração e de seguimento?
  2. Como é que escolheste este ou aquele incidente, exemplo ou pessoa?
  3. Por que motivo estas qualidades ou valores são tão importantes para ti?

 

Elaboração de um Texto Reflexivo

Depois de os alunos terem tido uma oportunidade de pensar sobre e de discutir as respostas às questões, estarão prontos para começar a escrever. Um texto reflexivo deste género pode estar relacionado, no seu formato, com os critérios e objetivos adequados ao ano de escolaridade dos alunos. Eles devem receber instrução para refletir sobre o ano letivo transacto, tanto dentro como fora da escola, e escrever sobre o que eles consideram serem os valores ou princípios pelos quais querem pautar as suas vidas e porquê.

No meu trabalho com professores que orientaram alunos ao longo desta tarefa, os textos resultantes foram comovedores, reveladores e inspiradores. Muitas vezes, os alunos contaram histórias sobre membros da sua família e acontecimentos que foram importantes nas suas vidas. Trataran temas como o amor, responsabilidade, respeito, relacão humana, perseverança, auto-disciplina, coragem, honestidade e gentileza – muitas vezes combinados entre si.

Um aluno, ao escrever sobre como ele e os seus irmãos estavam em vias de ser retirados de casa pelos serviços de proteção á infância após a sua mãe ter sido presa, descreveu como um amigo da mãe, que eles nunca tinham chegado a conhecer, lutou por conseguir a sua custódia, quando nenhum membro da família apareceu. A sua regra de vida tornou-se a importância de dar amor mesmo a pessoas que não conhece.

Outro aluno escreveu, “penso que amar os outros é o mais importante. Uma pessoa precisa de ter amor na sua vida. O Amor faz com que a pessoa sinta que tem importância.”

Eis um excerto de uma reflexão de um aluno do oitavo ano sobre a perseverança:

A chave do sucesso na minha vida é a perseverança. O meu fim último é continuar a alcançar os meus objetivos, apesar das dificuldades que possa ter de enfrentar. A minha bisavó foi uma pessoa que lutou para garantir que a sua família fosse bem sucedida. Nascida em 1902, era uma empregada de limpezas que trabalhou arduamente só para conseguir sobreviver. Andava quilómetros a pé para chegar ao trabalho, porque não tinha dinheiro para os transportes. Depois de trabalhar na cozinha de alguém o dia inteiro, voltava a casa e ainda lavava roupa para fora. O seu desejo orientador de tornar sempre melhor a vida dos seus filhos e netos motivou-a a perseverar numa época em que ser negro significava ser considerado menos do que nada. (Extraído de Urban Dreams: Stories of Hope, Resilience, and Character.)

 

Da Reflexão à Aplicação

Peçam aos alunos, na abertura do ano letivo, para se comprometerem a viver segundo os seus princípios ou regras desde o início. Ao longo do ano, podem convidá-los a refletir sobre o que escreveram e a que se comprometeram, a verificar com os colegas como é que eles estão a consegui-lo e a rever as suas próprias leis, se necessário.

 

Acerca do AUTOR

http://cadescrita.edublogs.org/tag/edutopia/

 

13

Oct

Developing Professional Relationships That Work

Summary:  This article shares reflections on the importance of developing positive professional relationships with colleagues and supervisors, offering some “guiding principles” on developing a positive climate.

Source:  Carl Draeger, Education Week, September 27, 2017

Categories:  Positive Relationships, School Culture/Climate, Teacher Collaboration, Emotional Intelligence

11

Oct

New Poll: Safe and Positive School Environment More Important Than Higher Test Scores

Summary:  This article reports on a poll of registered voters in California concerning school performance.  The article breaks down the results of the poll and reports that creating a safe and positive school environment was one of the top priorities that should be addressed.

Source: Louis Freedberg, John Fensterwald, and Theresa Harrington, EdSource, October 4, 2017

Categories:  School Culture/Climate, School Health, School Safety

11

Oct

Positive Words Go a Long Way

Summary:  This article talks about the long lasting effects of positive language and support for student effort.  The author suggests five ways that positive language can be used to empower students.

Source:  Alissa Nucaro, Edutopia, October 2, 2017

Categories:  Classroom Practice, Positive Relationships, School Culture/Climate

11

Oct

Social-Emotional Learning Can Begin on the Bus Ride

Summary: This article reports on a project at Butler University where bus drivers were trained on how to form positive relationships with students during their rides to and from school and how to teach them ways to cope with stressful situations at home or during the school day.

Source:  Amelia Harper, Education DIVE, October 10, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, Emotional Intelligence, School Culture/Climate, Positive Relationships

22

Sep

Friends Elem School

The School Climate Problem (and What We Can Do About It)

Summary: This article makes the point about a positive school climate being about every student.  The author stresses the point that “All means all” saying that every student must feel connected to the school regardless of background, needs to be acted upon in practice in the school.  It needs to more than just a saying.

Source:  Peter DeWitt, Education Week Commentary, September 21, 2017

Categories: School Culture/Climate, Educational Equity, Student Engagement, Empathy

22

Sep

What’s the Best Way to Prepare for an Emergency — and How Can SEL Help?

Summary: This article touches on how schools prepare for crisis situations and how to build resilience to deal with trauma before, during, and after an emergency incident occurs.  The author contends that SEL and building relationships is an important step in the process.

Source:  Amelia Harper, Education Dive, September 18, 2017

Categories:  School Safety, School Culture/Climate, School Health, Mental Health, SEL Basics, Positive Relationships

15

Sep

Scientists to Schools: Social, Emotional Development Crucial for Learning

Summary:  This article reports on a research brief – the product of a year of work by 28 academic researchers who study issues like student motivation, school climate, and social-emotional learning. The panel, known as the council of distinguished scientists, was organized by the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, which has set out to bring together educators, scientists, policy makers, and philanthropists to clarify a vision for social-emotional learning in schools.-

Source: Evie Blad, Education Week, September 13, 2017

Categories:  SEL Basics, SEL Research, School Culture/Climate, Core Values, Performance Values