creating schools and communities of character
                                                                                                                        July/August, 2009
An electronic newsletter to help make sure character counts!

CHARACTER COUNTS! and the Six Pillars of Character are service marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.  For more information about training opportunities and resources available to assist schools and communities in the integration of a character education initiative, check out their web site at: or call them at 1-800-711-2670.


Take a Minute For Character

Information You Can Use

Evolving an Understanding of Bullying

National Schools of Character Awards

Youth Ethic Survey Results

Lesson Corner

Commentary by Michael Josephson



As you begin a new school year, allow me to share six practical strategies that teachers can use to create a classroom of character.
  1. Create awareness of the pillars using visual displays and integration of the common language. Consider utilizing quotations with practical questions that can be asked of students that relate to character. You can also have students journal on a particular pillar, what it means to them and how it applies to their life as a student.  Consider developing a class motto or slogan that clearly indicates how you will conduct your class this year. Consider beginning  the school year by creating a shared vision and culture that involves your students in defining the agreements and expectations they will abide by that fosters their commitment to creating a safe, trusting, and respectful learning community.
  2. Build bonds and model character.  Teach as if relationships matter and get to know students as individuals. Children need to form caring attachments to adults. These caring relationships will foster both the desire to learn and the desire to be a good person. Values are best transmitted through these caring relationships. Kids care about our values because they know we care about them.  If children do not experience an adult as someone who respects and cares about them, they are not likely to be open to anything the adult wishes to teach them about values. Remember to keep in mind the power of example. Children and young people "learn what they live" so it is important that all adults who interact with children demonstrate positive character traits at home, school and in the community.
  3. Teach academics and character at the same time by using the ethically rich content of academic subjects as vehicles for values teaching.  Michael Romanowski has said that, “Character education cannot be reduced to a lesson, a course or a slogan posted on school walls. Instead, it must become an integral part of school life.” Are you interested in teaching for character, or are you committed to it? Teachers need to honor their commitment by moving from incidental to intentional methods of teaching character. If teaching sound character is left to incidental or opportunistic instruction, then we can be confident that students’ application of sound character will be similarly sporadic and occasional. Mining the academic curriculum for its character-building potential requires you to look at your grade-level subject matter and ask, "What are the natural intersections between the curriculum I have to cover and the values I wish to foster?"  When you create those character connections, you enhance the relevance of subject matter to students’ natural interest and questions, and in the process, increase student engagement and achievement.
  4. Practice character-based discipline. Successful character education cannot be separated from the system of discipline and student recognition employed within your class. Consider having your classroom’s code of student conduct based upon the Six Pillars. 
  5. Communicate with parents about character on a regular basis.  Classroom newsletters and conferences are easy ways to share information about students' character development. An excellent guide to what parents can do at home regarding the pillars can be found on the For Character web site.
  6. Engage your colleagues in character development.  Colleagues who share the same goals and challenges are potential allies.  Ask your principal for 15 minutes at a staff meeting to share your character development experiences. Even brief hallway chats help build awareness, and can be reinforced by sharing information practical strategies that illustrate what educators can accomplish.
May each of you this year have success in helping students do their best work academically but also be their best self as demonstrated in living by the Six Pillars of Character.

Gary Smit


A new report from the Association of Childhood Education International has practical steps that teachers can follow to implement anti-bullying programs and stem "the tide of the international plague known as bullying." Bullying should not be considered a normal stage of child development, but a precursor for more serious violent behaviors that need immediate and appropriate intervention by a caring adult. Children who bully are four times more likely than non-bullies to be convicted of a serious crime by age 24. The first step is to recognize characteristics of bullies, who may be physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive. Once teachers and other administrators understand some of the complex causes of bullying and learn to identify bullying characteristics, they can move forward. The next step is training, after which point teachers can establish anti-bullying methods in the classroom. Teachers must establish clear rules on behaviors and consequences, and work with bullying victims to prevent the cycle from repeating. Read more:


The National Schools of Character Awards identify exemplary schools and districts to serve as models for others, and helps schools and districts improve their efforts in effective character education. Maximum award: $2,000. Eligibility: To be eligible, a school must have been engaged in character education for a minimum of three full years, starting no later than December 2006 for the 2010 awards. Districts need to have been engaged in character education for a minimum of four full years, starting no later than December 2005. Smaller administrative units that maintain a separate identity within a large district may apply in the district category, e.g., a school pyramid or cluster. Deadline: December 1, 2009.



The  "Report Card" on the values and conduct of high school students that is conducted every two years by the Josephson Institute reveals by interesting and yet discouraging data.

STEALING. In bad news for business, more than one in three boys (35 percent) and one-fourth of the girls (26 percent) — a total of 30 percent overall — admitted stealing from a store within the past year.  In 2006 the overall theft rate was 28 percent (32 percent males, 23 percent females).

LYING. More than two of five (42 percent) said that they sometimes lie to save money. Again, the male-female difference was significant: 49 percent of the males, 36 percent of the females. In 2006, 39 percent said they lied to save money (47 percent males, 31 percent females).

CHEATING. Cheating in school continues to be rampant and it’s getting worse. A substantial majority (64 percent) cheated on a test during the past year (38 percent did so two or more times), up from 60 percent and 35 percent, respectively, in 2006. There were no gender differences on the issue of cheating on exams.

See survey results »


Dishonesty: Clues and Consequences
Students discuss the kinds of dishonest behavior that their peers might display outside of school and then create hypothetical "whodunit" crime scenes of dishonesty. After the mysteries are solved, the students discuss the consequences of the crimes for all stakeholders (persons who were affected).
Paper, pencils, or pens

  1. Ask the students to list types of crimes that occur in their community. Share answers. Ask them to list types of crimes that young people often commit. Share answers.
  2. Explain that another, less newsworthy, infraction also occurs regularly: dishonesty. Ask the students to share examples of dishonest behavior. Discuss what makes one act of dishonesty worse than another. Discuss the effects and consequences of lies on the liar and on those being deceived.
  3. Divide the students into groups of three. Tell them to write a "whodunit" involving dishonesty. Have them leave clues throughout their story that will help identify the dishonest character. Remind them of the examples of dishonest actions you discussed earlier. 
  4. On a separate sheet of paper, have them list who the liar is, how he or she was dishonest, why he or she acted that way, and ways the dishonest behavior could have been avoided. Everyone in the group must contribute.
  5. Collect the stories and redistribute them to different groups. Have each group do the following: Solve the caper and identify the dishonest culprit.  Explain how they arrived at their conclusion. List how events might have unfolded if the liar had been honest.  
  6. Offer ways that characters in the story could have helped the liar be honest. After collecting and reviewing the stories and responses, have each group share their crime and its solution.
  7. (Optional) Invite a law-enforcement official speak to the class about the consequences of certain dishonest actions. Have the speaker discuss methods that help keep individuals from repeating such offense

Free Lesson Plan Bank:
Search this collection by subject, age group, and by the Six Pillars of Character.
The Foundations for Life essay program offers character-building materials that develop writing and critical-thinking skills. Be sure to check out the weekly writing prompt and monthly lesson plan.


During a dinner party, a self-important business executive said, “The problem with our education system starts with teachers. What can our kids learn from people who decided their best option in life was to become a teacher? Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

A guest protested, “I’ve been a teacher for 20 years, and that’s simplistic and unfair.”
“Really?” the executive said. “Then be honest, what do you make?”
“I suppose you’re thinking of money,” the teacher replied. “I earn enough, but let me tell you what I make.

I make other people’s children read, think, write, wonder, and talk about important things such as the world and their role in it.

I make them appreciate the value of education, not simply as a way to make a living, but as a way to make a life.

I make them work harder than they want to and accomplish more than they thought possible.

I encourage them to be skeptical without being cynical and optimistic without being naïve.

I make them understand that the quality of their life will be determined by their choices, and I make them take responsibility for their actions.

I make them feel proud, capable, and worthy when they try hard.
I make them appreciate the importance of integrity and honor in a world that too often shows little regard for either.

I make them respect themselves and treat others with respect.

“I make them feel proud and grateful to live in America where people are entitled to be treated fairly and with respect and judged by their accomplishments and character, not by their color, creed, or size of their bank account.

Most of all, I make a difference.

“So now,” the teacher said to the executive,” tell us what you make?”