creating schools and communities of character
                                                                                    March/April 2010
An electronic newsletter to help make sure character counts!

For Character Web Site

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

Parenting to Build Character

Bring Social and Emotional Learning to Life in Your Classroom

Information You Can Use

Bullying Behavior Declines

Lesson Plan

Webinar on School Climate

Commentary by Michael Josephson



Almost everyone has had a boss who was, shall we put it delicately, less than perfect. I came across a web site that shared stories written by employees who did not have anything good to say about their bosses. Who are these people? How do we recognize them? And, if we supervise staff, how do we avoid becoming one of them? Here are a few of the statements made by disgruntled employees when speaking about the individual who supervises them.

·        If my arms are full of papers, boxes, books, or supplies, don’t open the door for me. I need to learn how to function as a paraplegic and opening doors with no arms is good training in case I should ever be injured and lose all use of my limbs.

·        If you have special instructions for a job, don’t write them down. In fact, save them until the job is almost done. No use confusing me with useful information.

·        Wait until my yearly review and THEN tell me what my goals SHOULD have been. Give me a mediocre performance rating with a minimal raise or even freeze my salary.

·        If it’s really a rush job, run in and interrupt me every 10 minutes to inquire how it’s going. That helps. Or even better, hover behind me, advising me at every keystroke.

·        If you don’t like my work, tell everyone. I like my name to be popular in conversations. I was born to be whipped.


Why is it that most employees think their bosses are at least a little out of touch? Probably because they often are. Even those who worked their way to the top lose some credibility and effectiveness because they don't recognize how the “Six Pillars of Character” apply to the work they do. Michael Josephson has identified these "Truths About Being the Boss" that I’d like to share with you:

1.      Everyone rationalizes — including you.

2.      There’s lots of things you don’t know and lots of people who hope you don’t find out. (The most dangerous problems are the ones you don’t know about).

3.      Complacency and overconfidence about ethics is a major vulnerability. (Everyone says it can’t happen here until it does).

4.      The law of big numbers — in any organization of size there are bound to be some crooks and psychopaths. You’ve got to try to screen them out or weed them out.

5.      What you allow, you encourage.

6.      Doing nothing is doing something; the consequences of inaction are as real and potent as any action.

7.      Trust is like a tower built stone by stone, which will collapse when lies remove stones from the base.

8.      Nothing good may come of admitting wrongdoing, but it gets a lot worse when you don’t.

9.      We judge ourselves by our best intentions and most noble acts, but we’re judged by our last worst act.

10.  If you “fight fire with fire,” you’re likely to end up only with the ashes of your own integrity.

11.  Culture is stronger than codes of conduct. (Shape the culture so rightdoing is second nature).

12.  Recognizing a problem is not solving it; saying it is not doing it. (Many problems require sustained and systematic reforms)

13.  If you hire, retain or promote a person of doubtful character or shaky integrity, you’ll eventually pay the price. (Character is a vital competence; hire for character and train for skills).

14.   To those who want to please you, your whisper is a yell and your comments are commands. Be careful, people may do foolish things to please you.

15.   Few people think as highly of your ethics as you do.

16.   No matter what your job description says, what matters most is how you manage relationships and people.


A failure to uphold the pillars of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship were clearly evident in the negative statements made by employees to describe their bosses. On the other hand, do you see the “Pillars of Character” in the “Ten Truths for the Boss”? Think about it. The values we want to see in children also form the framework for our life even if we are the boss.
Gary Smit
No matter whether we work in schools or a community organization, we are living in challenging economic times. Professional development has taken a back seat to surviving with less money but still facing a need to do more. But there is still a need to help those who work with children and young people to develop strategies to intentionally teach character. Is your school or organization looking for an in-service presentation for the upcoming school year? Get in touch with me regarding available dates and specific area of emphasis.

CHARACTER COUNTS has created a Parent Tip Sheet. If you are interested in using this when working with parents, check it out at:  If you scroll down there’s a link to the sheet in Spanish too!


Teachers are always looking for ways to help students become more motivated, focused, and reflective about learning. Social and emotional learning can support this process, but with so much to teach and so little time, how is it practical?
Tools can help. The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has written a Checklist of Instructional Strategies to help teachers create a relationship-centered learning environment that reinforces SEL skills. The checklist provides easy reference to 28 strategies that help teachers establish a productive learning climate, model skills, and make SEL part of school life.


·        Strategy for Stress: Helping Parents Help Kids  
Amid evidence that parents often misread signs of stress in their children, the American Psychological Association has released two fact sheets: Identifying Signs of Stress in Your Children and Teens and Talking with Your Children about Stress.  
The APA's 2009 Stress in America report showed that children worry about school, the future, money, and other challenges far more than their parents believe. Chronic stress can lead to psychological and physical health problems that undermine school success. For example, 44 percent of children report sleeping difficulties, yet only 13 percent of parents think their kids have trouble sleeping. One-fifth of children say they worry a great deal or a lot, but only 3 percent of parents rate their children's stress as extreme.


·        Fifty Ways to Show Kids You Care
According to the Search Institute, only one in four 6th- to 12th-graders say their school offers a caring climate. This is stunning! How can we inspire students to show empathy if they fail to see it in us?
Often we actually care greatly, but in our focus on academic achievement we overlook the small things that demonstrate caring. Interestingly, the shortest path to many students' academic success is through their hearts. They don't care how much we know until they know how much we care. Here are some hints.

Learn their names.
Remember their birthdays.
Ask them about themselves
Look in their eyes when you talk to them.
Laugh together.
Say yes a lot.
Be yourself.
Notice when they're acting differently.
Share their excitement.
Send them a letter or postcard.
Notice when they're absent.
Call them to say hello.
Discuss their dreams and nightmares.
Learn what they have to teach.
Make yourself available.
Show up at their concerts, games, and events.
Find a common interest.
Apologize when you've done something wrong.
Listen to their favorite music with them.
Wave and smile when you part.
Thank them.
Point out what you like about them.
Clip magazine pictures or articles that interest them.
Catch them doing something right and compliment them for it.
Give them your undivided attention.
Ask for their opinion.
Introduce them to your friends and family.
Tell them how much you like being with them.
Meet their friends and parents.
Help them become an expert at something.
Be excited when you see them.
Tell them about yourself.
Praise more; criticize less.
Ask them to help you.
Believe in them.
Delight in their uniqueness.
Let them make mistakes.
Include them in conversations.
Respect them.
Be understanding when they have a difficult day.
Appreciate their personality, accepting them as they are.
Encourage them to help others.
Do what they like to do.
Encourage them to think big.
Celebrate their firsts and lasts, such as the first day of school.
Welcome their suggestions.
Call them when they're sick.
Introduce them to people of excellence.
Give them your phone number.
Love them, no matter what.
Adapted for teachers from "150 Ways to Show Kids You Care," by By Jolene L. Roehlkepartain.


·        Cyberbullying - As the scope of bullying expands beyond the playground to the Internet, school leaders are using new tactics to protect students – and their districts. Cyberbullying can have serious ramifications for school districts, and schools must to be proactive in addressing this issue. Some school districts have been sued regarding their students’ webpages. Others have preempted student cyberbullying by suspending those who cyberbully. <>



There's been a sharp drop in the percentage of America's children being bullied or beaten up by their peers, according to a new national survey by experts who believe anti-bullying programs are having an impact. The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, found that the percentage of children who reported being physically bullied over the past year had declined from nearly 22 percent in 2003 to under 15 percent in 2008. The percentage reporting they'd been assaulted by other youths, including their siblings, dropped from 45 percent to 38.4 percent.
The lead author of the study, Professor David Finkelhor, said he was "very encouraged."  "Bullying is the foundation on which a lot of subsequent aggressive behavior gets built," said Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center. "If it's going down, we will reap benefits in the future in the form of lower rates of violent crime and spousal assault."
Marlene Snyder, of Clemson University's Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, said the survey was heartening to those in the anti-bullying field but not cause for complacency. "The decline is not happening everywhere," she said. "It's in schools where adults really understand how detrimental this conduct can be and have made a conscious effort to bring these numbers down." Read more.


Video Resources
Using media clips is an excellent way to teach character. For those who have been part of an in-service program that I have done, you know that I will use video clips as a way to present a character trait. The clips that I use can be found on the web site at:

A Monument to Value - This lesson plan: Trustworthiness for ages 9-11 yrs
Overview  - Students discuss traits related to trustworthiness and suggest images that represent this value. They build a monument to trustworthiness to reinforce the lesson.
Photo of at least one famous monument
Paper and pencils or pens
Drawing paper, markers, crayons
Building materials: scissors, glue, clay, straws, Popsicle sticks, etc. (optional)
Present a picture of a famous monument (e.g., Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial). Discuss what it represents. Offer information and explain the history of the monument. Discuss why it was built and why monuments are constructed.
Discuss trustworthiness and these four components: honesty, promise-keeping, integrity, and loyalty. List them on the board. Ask: What kind of people, animals, or images could represent trustworthiness? Why? List their ideas on the board.
Divide students into groups. Say: Now that we've discussed trustworthiness, you're going to build a monument to celebrate and honor it. Encourage them to be creative. Remind them of the four components. Suggest that the monument could be an animal, person, or object.
Distribute building materials (or drawing paper and crayons). Tell them to design and construct (or draw) an image that represents trustworthiness. Tell them they will present their monument of trustworthiness to the class and explain what aspect of the value their image represents.
Cost: $49.99 Date: March 30, 2010 Time: 1:30 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time) Duration: 1 hour
At the foundation of a healthy school climate are values — core beliefs and attitudes that shape relationships and define the character, competence, and commitment of faculty and staff.


This webinar, conducted by CHARACTER COUNTS! founder Michael Josephson will introduce you to the key components of school climate, the basic research demonstrating its significance, and ways of promoting the core values that create it. For more information -
Trust Is More Important Than Truth
A study titled “Parenting by Lying” reveals that most parents lie to their children, even though they tell their kids lying is wrong. The parents surveyed said they didn’t feel guilty because their lies were intended to accomplish legitimate parental goals such as getting a child to stop crying or protecting a child from feeling bad or sad. Reviewing the wide range of casual or careless lies told by parents to change behavior or manipulate emotions supports the observation that “the road to Hell is often paved with good intentions.”
Although honesty is an important virtue, I’m not a truth-telling fanatic. Truth can sometimes be sacrificed for another ethical value, and it’s sometimes okay to praise a present you dislike or choose kindness over candor.
My bedrock premise is that trust is more important than truth.
Playing with the truth is like playing with fire. It’s sometimes justified, but it’s unfailingly precarious. Lies are almost always bad because they almost always destroy trust.
Thus, before you decide that your noble intentions justify a lie, ask yourself: “If the person I lie to finds out the truth, will he or she thank me for caring or feel betrayed?” In other words, is the lie likely to damage trust?
Here are some other guidelines:

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts!