Core ethical and performance values
guide every aspect of school life.
Making Values a Part of Everything a School Does
Empowering Students so that Values Become a Common Language
Helping Staff Teach, Model and Integrate the Core Values into School Life
Making Parents Partners from the Start in the Character Initiative
Keeping Character Building Alive through Orientation of New Hires and Continuing Training
Deciding on the core values of the school or district is a pivotal first step, but the real work occurs in actualizing these values so they become a part of everything a school does. Just as choosing the values requires the input of many, embedding them into a school’s culture involves an intentional and conscious effort to prepare all members of the school community to play an energetic role in making the values a way of life.
HOW do you get a school to use the values as a common language and practice them?
STUDENTS can serve as the champions who promote the school’s values and the primary players who put the values into action.
They become vital performers when they:
- Collectively create a school slogan that exemplifies the values.
- Design a touchstone — a visual embodiment of the core values — that is displayed throughout the school and highlights the core values.
- Unite to write a school song or pledge that is recited each day.
- Write behavioral definitions of the values by grade-level: “What do they look like in action?”
- Map character throughout the school day: behavioral expectations for the classroom, sports fields, hallways, and bathrooms.
- Give examples of the core values during specific times — when
transferring between classes, when leaving the school, when entering a class.
- Conduct morning announcements. Some schools begin each day with a student-produced, closed-circuit television show that emphasizes character.
- Plan and perform at monthly character assemblies.
- Participate in the core character team or in focus groups
to give input.
STAFF (including the support and custodial staff) teach, model, and integrate the values into all aspects of school life.
A school can help them in these multiple roles when it:
- Provides regular meetings and staff development opportunities that focus on instructional strategies to develop character in students.
- Offers accessible resources that give rich examples of teaching character through literature, social studies, science, and math.
- Gives released time for developing, exchanging ideas on character lessons.
- Allows Professional Learning Communities to explore character
instruction as a topic.
- Arranges for sharing strategies through classroom visitations or an online exchange.
- Gives training in helpful practices such as Morning Meetings and service learning.
- Trains all staff, including support and custodial, in ways of modeling the values.
- Provides orientation training for ALL new staff on the school’s character program.
PARENTS are partners in developing character.
Schools orient them to this role when they:
- Inform them through memos, letters, digital communication, and meetings of the school’s character mission and the role they can play in it.
- Make sure to have parent representation on core character
- Give parent “homework” that dovetails with the students’ character lessons.
- Request that they volunteer to tell their own “character” stories to the children.
- Provide translators at meetings for non-English-speaking parents.
- Plan activities to include all parents in multiple ways.
- Invite them to serve in service projects.
WHAT have National Schools of Character done to foster caring adult relationships?
Brooks Global Studies Elementary School
Students at Brooks Global Studies Elementary School in Greensboro, North Carolina show they have internalized the values. When asked in a writing prompt, “If you could give a gift to anyone, who would it be, what would it be, and why?” more than 75 percent of the respondents spoke of non-material gifts. Students wanted to “give to those less fortunate,” “provide jobs to the unemployed,” and “love to the family.”
G.W. Robinson Elementary School
In interviews at G.W. Robinson Elementary School in Seabrook, Texas, parents point out how everyone strives to model the values. Some teachers make home visits, and classes cheer home-bound students through a Skype visit. A parent observed, “From the moment you enter the front door, whether you’re a parent, child or grandparent, you feel welcome. That caring environment establishes the bond that has to happen between a school and home. The teachers are willing to go the extra mile for the kids, and the kids, in turn, respond.”
Bridgeport Elementary Schools
Bridgeport Elementary School in Bridgeport, New York never forgets that it owes its origin to a group of feisty mothers who formed a “Mothers Club” to fight for a new school. Today, it continues that tradition of listening to many voices and includes everyone from the custodian to the principal in its focus groups. The school’s custodian regularly facilitates a discussion group along with instructional aides, classroom teachers, and support staff.
WHY is it so important to bring new staff on board from the outset?
“We had character education, but then she retired,” is an observation heard too often in schools. National Schools of Character intentionally take steps to see that character education continues to thrive despite changes in staff and
ongoing challenges by:
- Interviewing all potential hires about their attitude to character education.
- Providing orientation in character education to all new staff members.
- Continuing to offer staff training in character-building strategies.
- Making character education a continuing topic at faculty meetings.
- Giving staff members ample time for serious reflection on their progress as
Sometimes, community members oppose character education because it is a ”frill” instead of “real” learning. What responses would you give to dispel this argument?
Why is it necessary to empower students if you want your character initiative to be successful?
Look critically at your own school or district. Which actions does it seem to have overlooked in its zeal to establish a character program quickly?
Check for Understanding
1. Despite your school having Respect as a core value, older students in the cafeteria do not follow the directions of the aides and are unnecessarily boisterous. As the principal of this school, which strategy do you think would be most effective?
2. You are interviewing a new teacher and want to find out her attitude to character education. Which do you think is an effective question?