Character Counts

Character Counts

The importance of creating a character curriculum

By Kelly McGowan

As adults, when is the last time you thought about your second-grade math lessons or your fourth-grade grammar test? (And yes, I realize my boss is reading this) As technology becomes increasingly more pervasive in our world, so does the embarrassing fact that most people do not know the difference between their, there, and they’re. I have read so many Facebook status’ that make me cringe when I realize that someone used the wrong version of a homophone. Come on people! And honestly, when looking for a spouse, I really don’t think the majority of people have ‘good speller’ at the top of their checklist (except me, maybe that is why I am still single).

Thomas Hoerr in The Formative Five writes when commenting on how schools should measure their success, “…you should be asking yourselves whether your students are going to be productive and happy citizens at age 25,45, and 65. What kind of adults will they be? Will they be good spouses, good friends, and good parents? Will they be respectful and honest, and will they work to make the world a better place?”

In no way am I saying that academics are not important; I am a teacher after all. However, maybe it is time for schools, teachers, and parents to stop and think for a minute about if their kids are good students AND good people. “Who you are is more important than what you know” (Hoerr, pg. 5). We have all had the argument with someone who HAD to be right. We have all been made to feel ignorant when we were wrong about something. What happened to the ‘Golden Rule’, treat others the way you want to be treated. As our world gets more and more iPad and iPhone focused, I worry that we as people get less and less empathetic as well as less and less able to have successful relationships.

So, what do we do about it? Well, just as we must be explicit in our teaching of mathematics, reading, and writing, why wouldn’t we do the same for positive character? If these methods are proven to work in helping students master content then they should be used with everything we want students to know. There is a plethora of character curriculums available to schools and I wouldn’t necessarily say that one is better than the other but I would say that every school needs one. Research showsthat character curriculums have positive impacts on schools and their performance. According to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, a school in the UK had disruptive incidences in class drop from 17.83 to 2.17 after implementing a character curriculum. University of Minnesota did a study comparing a school with a character education to one without a character education program. It was found that the school with the program found less disruptions, and less verbal and physical aggression.

These two simple examples prove that beyond a character curriculum benefiting our students as people, it will also benefit their learning environment, which will in turn have a positive effect on their academic achievement. Creating a positive culture at school helps to relieve anxiety for students and in turn, increases their ability to function positively and learn successfully.

The following list of character traits have been chosen as a focus at Monarch Christian School:

1. Empathy
Being able to view a situation from another’s perspective could radically change how you treat someone. It is important for students to understand how their actions affect other people.

2. Self-control
Here is something that as adults helps us (most of the time) to not just say what we are thinking. There will always be things better left unsaid and undone, self-control helps us to control ourselves in order to save relationships (and waist lines).

3. Integrity
Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Take responsibility for your actions. We all make mistakes, owning them speaks volumes about your character.

4. Embracing Diversity
This is a tough one. Our world wants us to let everyone be exactly who they want to be no matter what. From a Biblical Worldview, there is a fine line to walk between accepting everyone and loving everyone. You do not have to agree with someone in order to show them love and respect. God made all of us and therefore everyone deserves love.

5. Grit
I find this trait to be one of the most important. We have so much instant gratification these days and things come on demand. Having to work hard for something is not all that common anymore. When a student does not understand something right away they are often immediately discouraged and stop trying. What happened to having to think and work problems out? Our students are getting lazy and entitled. It is time we teach them what it is like to have to put in effort to accomplish something.

Looking at the state that our world is in and knowing that our children are the future I want to make sure that the generation being poured into now becomes one that is thoughtful, kind, and hard working. As educators and as parents we have the opportunity to help shape these kiddos into prideful monsters or humble servants. Let’s work together and make the wiser choice.

About the Author
Growing up as a performer, Kelly has always enjoyed being in front of an audience. Teaching elementary school has become one of her favorite stages in front of some of her favorite spectators. Kelly is in her fifth year of teaching at Monarch Christian School and feels so privileged to be part of such an excellent staff. As a graduate student in Educational Leadership at CLU, Kelly is excited to be learning and growing in her profession as an educator. Being a lifelong learner herself contributes to the excitement and enthusiasm she brings to her students everyday.

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