creating schools and communities of character

                                                                                            May/June, 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

Information You Can Use


Character Education and Newspaper Activities

Lesson Plan

Commentary by Michael Josephson



An inspiring story of victory is the true-life adventure of Pete Goss, an expert yachtsman whose dream was to win a solo, non-stop, round-the-world yacht race. His extraordinary story of triumph over adversity is told in his book, Close to the Wind. Over a period of ten years, he made many personal sacrifices in order to achieve his dream, including selling his house and his car to help finance and build his boat, the Aqua Quorum. Finally, on November 3,1996, he set sail in the race of his life, the Vendee Globe.


He was doing well in the race, overcoming incredible challenges and dangers, and managing high winds with waves as high as six-story buildings. Then, a third of the way through the race, his radio picked up a message that 160 miles away, one of his competitors was in desperate trouble and needed help. At this point, Goss made the heroic decision to give up his chance of winning the race, "adjust his sails" and make a difference in an unexpected manner.


He turned his small craft into a deadly hurricane in an attempt to find and rescue this man he barely knew - a stranger lost on a life raft somewhere in the midst of a vast ocean. Somehow, unbelievably, he managed to rescue the man and was able to complete the race. When he finally reached the finish line, he was welcomed home by a crowd of 150,000 people who had gathered "to cheer not the race's winner but its hero!"  Pete Goss came in fifth, but he won the victory by making a difference.


Real victory is not about winning races or even how the world defines success. It's about living a life of significance. When faced with the choice of whether or not to give up his dream and attempt a dangerous life-threatening rescue, Pete Goss said, "I had to go, I knew that. It was that simple. When someone is in trouble you help." He was committed to making a difference in the life of someone else by doing something that was unexpected or demanded of him.


Gary Smit


There is planning for next school yearís professional development. I realize that financial challenges exist in almost all school districts. But, I donít think that helping teachers grow should be drastically cut from a schoolís budget. If your school is interested in having an in-service presentation on character and how it can be integrated into your school, please feel free to contact me.




CHARACTER COUNTS! is  initiating a major project with the Puerto Rico Department of Education to help students in public schools develop strong values.   I will be co-training with Michael Josephson in late May, up to 40 individuals in a specialized Character Development Seminar. A select number of participants in the training will be engaged as master trainers for the island of Puerto Rico.  Additional training and support will be provided them beginning in early June.  This follows the training that Michael and I did last week with 37 coaches in Puerto Rico as part of the Logrando la Victoria con Honor program. 



Dr. Sue LeBeau has included on her web site an excellent resource to be used when teaching character using the newspaper. She has identified a number of character traits and listed activities that can be done. Here is an excerpt from her web-based article based on the pillar of responsibility.



It is doing the things you say you will do.

It is accepting the results that come from your actions.

It is knowing the difference between right and wrong.

It is stepping up to do something when no one else will do it.

It is thinking things out and making informed decisions


Find a story of someone being responsible or taking responsibility. Write out what the person did and why it was responsible. Write a letter to the editor telling why taking responsibility was a good thing.


Look through the TV listings in the newspaper and find a show in which one main character is always responsible and one irresponsible. Write a sentence showing how each acts this way.


Look through the stories and ads in the paper for examples of new products. Pick three and pretend you are in charge of writing safety rules for it. What safety issues can you think of for each product?


Scan todayís sports section and find an athlete you would like as a role model. Write down one reason you would choose this person. Now plan to interview this person for your school newspaper. Write out five questions you would ask this person about being a role model. Trade questions with a friend and answer them as you think the athlete would.


The complete list of activities, can be found at:



Five Steps to Teaching Any Character Trait

The only chance many of today's students have to learn the traits of solid character is from a caring, committed teacher. But do you know how to teach them? For Michelle Borba, the five teaching steps are:

The five steps are discussed in depth in the article found in Education World.


Defining Character Traits - Activity "What Character Traits Mean to Me"

Readiness for Activity

  1. Class divided into cooperative groups for the purpose of defining trait

  2. Chart paper and markers for each group

  3. Reference materials for defining traits

Activity - Each cooperative group will be assigned a character trait as follows:

Trustworthiness Ė Honesty, Integrity, Promise-Keeping, Loyalty
Responsibility Ė Duty, Accountability, Pursuit of Excellence, Self-Control


Caring Ė Love, Kindness, Charity, Concern for others, Mercy, Forgiveness

Citizenship Ė Civic Duties, Doing oneís share


Each group shares its work with the class.

Post the chart paper around the room as references that may be used throughout the unit.

Encourage the class to add to the definitions as they become more familiar with the traits.



1) Name an individual who exhibits each trait and give an example of how he/she demonstrates it.

2) Why is it important to know about character traits?

3) What trait do you think you represent the best and why?

4) How is our community better when all members exhibit positive character traits?


Additional Activities

1) Write a paragraph naming the trait that you feel is most important and why you believe this.

2) Review childrenís literature to find characters that model each trait.

3) Have students find quotations that speak to each of the traits

4) As a twist on the traditional ďcurrent eventsĒ assignment, have students select a quote that relates to the news story and explain why it is relevant to that current event.

5) Assign a group of three or four students a trait and have them prepare a one- to two-minute skit to illustrate the essential message of the trait..



Are You Wiser Today Than Yesterday?

Do you think youíre any wiser today than you were five years ago? Do you think youíll be wiser still in another five years? I hope the answer to both questions is an emphatic yes. One of the benefits of growing older is getting better. And we get better by learning.


Iím not just talking about new facts like how a volcanic eruption in Iceland can prevent airline traffic in most of Europe. Iím talking about learning basic nuggets of wisdom that can change our lives.


For starters, Iíve learned that as long as Iím willing to learn, I can learn and the fact that Iím wiser today doesnít mean I was foolish or incompetent before. You donít have to be sick to get better.

Iíve learned that no matter how old I am, my life and character are works in process and that there will always be a gap between who I am and who I want to be.


Iíve learned that itís easy to mask moral compromises with rationalizations and that my character is revealed not by my words or intentions but by my willingness to do the right thing even when it costs more than I want to pay.


Iíve learned that my character is more important than my competence and that being significant is more important than being successful.


Iíve learned that I often judge myself by my good intentions but that Iíll be judged by my last worst act.


Iíve learned that the surest road to happiness is good relationships and that striving to be a good person is the surest road to good relationships.


Finally, Iíve learned that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional and that itís not what happens to me that matters most but what happens in me.


This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.