Service Learning for Character and Academic Lessons

“Your [service learning] program has allowed me to reach students that I thought were unreachable. Their entire outlook on school and on life has changed drastically; I truly cannot thank you enough.” – 6th Grade Teacher

Letting Life Get Messy: Lessons from Kindergarten

A year ago, an eighth grade student came into my counseling office looking stricken. Over the weekend, Lara’s parents had told her they were moving from Maryland to a country in South America. Her father’s global job had taken her to far-flung places before, but she hadn’t seen this move coming. “I thought I’d be … Continue reading “Letting Life Get Messy: Lessons from Kindergarten”

3 Ways to Improve Learning, Social Relationships and Character with Music

When we think of music, often what comes to mind is song. We may think of Broadway musicals, Bach or Justin Timberlake. In our minds we might imagine orchestras or pianists. Music has been central to civilization for thousands of years. In fact, before we had language we used musical tones and sounds to communicate. … Continue reading “3 Ways to Improve Learning, Social Relationships and Character with Music”

Farewell–The Case for Character goes on

As I contemplate my retirement at the end of this month, I have been reflecting a lot about and the state of character today. As an organization, we have much to celebrate. Some notable numbers: Largest group of National Schools of Character in our 2016 class Significant growth in applicants for 2017 from 28 … Continue reading “Farewell–The Case for Character goes on”

10 Best Blogs of 2016: Edition


Every Day is Character Day

Last week we celebrated Character Day along with 90,000 organizations in 124 countries around the world. It has been exciting to watch the exponential growth of Character Day in just three years. Clearly there is interest in the idea of character and momentum is building. In Tiffany Schlain’s Character Day movie “The Science of Character,” … Continue reading “Every Day is Character Day”

Encouraging Good Character on the First Day: 3 MORE ways to prepare your classroom for excellence

Last week, I shared 3 great ways to prepare your classroom for excellence as you head back to school. This week, here are three more ways to improve your room!Tip 4: Developing “eyes in the back of your head” Tip 4: Developing “eyes in the back of your head” Have you ever had one of those … Continue reading “Encouraging Good Character on the First Day: 3 MORE ways to prepare your classroom for excellence”

Character and Academics–How to Integrate

I’ve been thinking a lot about our focus this month on integrating academics and character education in the classroom. We truly believe they should be intertwined, but sometimes when I go to a school for a site visit evaluation, I observe lessons that seem like were planned just for my visit, as if someone had … Continue reading “Character and Academics–How to Integrate”

The Power of Reading

by Dave Keller As a parent, some of my fondest memories revolve around countless evenings reading with my children. Most families have their own personalized rituals — my family is no different. For us, reading was more of an event, rather than a mere activity. We read together as a group, often using silly accents … Continue reading “The Power of Reading”

Introducing our Champions of Character

  We’d like you to meet a newly assembled team of loyal supporters, our Champions of Character. Champions of Character are membership ambassadors for They help us stay in tune with the needs and interests of our members as well as being character education experts in their own right. These individuals understand the … Continue reading “Introducing our Champions of Character”

Coaching for Character: Tips from Dale Murphy’s Writing

For most American sports fans, this is an incredibly exciting week. It marks the beginning of the men’s and women’s NCAA College Basketball tournaments (a.k.a. “March Madness”). Each year, these tournaments bring a unique blend of drama, heartwarming human-interest stories, intriguing match-ups, and — each year without fail — upsets by underdog teams. For some, … Continue reading “Coaching for Character: Tips from Dale Murphy’s Writing”

Placemats for Kindness

After seeing so many schools enthusiastically participating in Random Acts of Kindness week, I continue to think about the important role that kindness plays in any school environment. National School of Character, John Poole Middle School (Poolesville, Maryland) is dedicated to encouraging kindness and the community has found creative and engaging ways to integrate this … Continue reading “Placemats for Kindness”

What is your school doing for others? Reflecting on Service Learning

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Martin Luther King, Jr. Though a simple question, it is one we can never ask our students enough. The Corporation for National and Community Service urges us to consider the Martin Luther King Day, “a day on not a day off” … Continue reading “What is your school doing for others? Reflecting on Service Learning”

Ferguson—How do you teach when hearts are hurting?

While the world is watching Ferguson, disturbed by the violence, disturbed by the grand jury’s ruling, disturbed by the very disparate responses that all seem to be colored by race, I was brought back to my teaching roots and empathized with all of the classroom teachers struggling with how to deal with this issue.

Integrating Character Across Subjects

“Beyond Accountability, Inspiring Greatness,” the theme of the CEP’s 2014 National Forum on Character Education. As human beings, we all have sufferings: some of them are physical; some emotional; some are moral issues; and some are health problems. But no matter what our circumstances are, we can bring out our character and be as great of … Continue reading “Integrating Character Across Subjects”

Performance Character and How to Foster It

“It takes real character to keep working as hard or even harder once you’re there. When you read about an athlete or team that wins over and over and over, remind yourself, ‘More than ability, they have character.’ ” ― John Wooden, quoted in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol S. Dweck What is performance … Continue reading “Performance Character and How to Foster It”

Can Educators Actually Assess a Student’s Character?

  From my work as a superintendent, a headmaster and as the the U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Education, I found that assessing our students’ character was overlooked much of the time. Yet, there are such strong reasons to assess students’ character in a more formal way, such as establishing consistent standards, students having knowledge of … Continue reading “Can Educators Actually Assess a Student’s Character?”

Why Character Matters

“Nearly every parent on earth operates on the assumption that character matters a lot to the life outcomes of their children. Nearly every government antipoverty program operates on the assumption that it doesn’t.” – David Brooks, New York Times columnist and 2013 CEP Forum keynote speaker. David Brooks wrote a recent column about the importance of character … Continue reading “Why Character Matters”

The Character of George Bailey

Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” is often dismissed as just another sentimental, feel-good Christmas classic. But, in my opinion, it contains one of the most gripping and compelling dramatic scenes ever captured on film. As Christmas Eve revelers drink and laugh in a crowded tavern filled with festive music, the camera slowly zooms in … Continue reading “The Character of George Bailey”

We Truly Are All in this Character Effort Together

Earlier this month, I was honored to speak, facilitate, and moderate several sessions at the Global Peace Foundation’s third annual International Summit on Character & Creativity in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There, I shared an abbreviated version of our 11 Principles training, put in the context of transforming school social climate and culture, adapted to fit … Continue reading “We Truly Are All in this Character Effort Together”


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