I’ve been on the road for CEP lately, exhibiting at a few conferences. So I’ve had the opportunity to talk to quite a few teachers, and many are feeling burned out. They’re tired of being the media scapegoats for all that is wrong with education.

There’s even a Facebook page where teachers are posting Letters to Obama where they share their frustrations and concerns about education and hope to influence the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I’ve been dismayed by much of the rhetoric, and wondered how CEP can help.

At the BOOST conference in Palm Springs, California, I met two elementary school teachers who told me they were just biding their time until they could retire because they were so disenchanted. In response I started telling them about one of CEP’s recently named National School of Character.  I told them about Sullivan Primary School, a PreK-1st grade school in southern Missouri. What struck me about the school is that these 4, 5, and 6 year old students were leaders. Every student I spoke to knew that if there’s a conflict, they “talk it out, work it out or walk it out [on the “peace path” drawn on the school playground.

But equally impressive to me was their involvement in service learning. These students were doing amazing things. They made pottery bowls with character words (such as “sharing”) on them for a Bowls for Hunger soup night for the homeless. They made quilts for a homeless shelter. Each child brought in a favorite piece of clothing they could no longer wear to be cut up for the quilt squares. Students sewed the squares together and wrote stories about their pieces of clothing. These stories were compiled into a book that was given with the quilt.

As I was describing the school, the two teachers started to get energized and one said, “I wish our school could do things like that.” The other said they were getting a new principal and maybe they could get her to attend CEP’s upcoming Forum. One of the strengths of the Forum is that our exemplar schools all present breakout sessions, so conference participants can see what effective character education looks like.

Coming to the conference really does inspire and energize teachers. At the end of one conference, a participant placed the following note on our message board: “This week makes me wish I had a do over for my whole teaching career.”

I know the old song goes “I left my heart in San Francisco,” but I think teachers will “find their heart” in San Francisco.  Whether you’re new to character education or just want to network and share, the 17th National Forum on Character Education, Oct. 27-30, in San Francisco will ignite your passion for teaching. Teachers, administrators, counselors and community leaders will find myriad ideas to take back to their schools.

So for the next few months, this blog will focus on conference highlights and fun things to do in San Francisco. I invite those of you who’ve been to the Forum before to share what you’ve liked. What are you hoping to see and learn this year? Why should educators attend?