Which is best? Or does it matter? In our preK-3 character building, the character lessons serve as something tangible for our young students to connect with and hold on to as they learn all about the pillars of character. Because of their developmental age, trustworthiness, for example, is kind of an abstract concept, but when we pitch a quarter – which represents a lie – in to a bucket of water and then give the students an “honest abe” penny to pitch in to show that it’s impossible to cover up a lie, now we’ve done some science with the water displacement and given students a concrete visual of the ripple effects that lying and then trying to cover it up can have.
When teachers seize teachable moments in their classrooms to build character, they’re doing much of the same but seemingly a bit more authentically since the integration isn’t in the shape of a formal lesson. Morning Meetings or Sensitivity Circles help to accomplish the same integration goal by creating a safe place to share and modeling listening and empathy to connect a classroom community.
This year our high school PALs formed Integrity Teams and taught character lessons; there was a great deal of engagement in the lessons delivered by their teenage role models! But were those lessons more powerful than when those same teens modeled good character by performing their traditional German Dances for us or leading us in a Red Ribbon pep rally? It probably depends upon the learner.
Just as there are many different learning styles, so we have many, many ways to integrate character into our curriculum, all equally ‘value-able’ methods if they can empower our students with character strength.