creating schools and communities of character
                                                                                                                        September/October, 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

Constitution Day

Information You Can Use


Lesson/Activity Corner

Commentary by Michael Josephson


Whenever I do a CHARACTER COUNTS! training, there is an activity that is usually done on the very first day. I ask the participants to describe an everyday hero. They are to think of people in their life who have impacted them for good and the way this has happened sticks with them for years, shaping who they are. As they tell others who their everyday hero is, common themes emerge. The individuals they name have demonstrated in their lives the importance of being an honest, respectful, responsible, caring person. We learn that by what other have said and done and, most importantly, who they are does make a difference and that compassion and courage, tenderness and tenacity, honesty and integrity are the stuff of true heroes.


I came across an article from teaching moments that connects well with the importance placed on thinking about heroes. 


Often when we think of heroes, we imagine showy acts of bravery or daring, but quiet heroes are just as important. Quiet heroes do something special during the normal course of their day. They do it without fanfare, parades or dinners to honor their accomplishments.  Their actions help people and set a positive example for others to follow.


Dave Knell says, “A hero is a person who does the right thing when the right thing is the hardest thing to do.” 


Dave overcame spinal cord surgery and then won two medals at the Senior Olympics.  He swam to celebrate his journey through extreme back pain, surgery and recovery.  He set an example for the people around him.  He showed people that they could do virtually anything if they set a goal and pursued it with determination and enthusiasm.  He is a hero.


A few other examples of quiet heroes include a nurse who comforts a dying patient’s family, a teacher who stays late to tutor one student, a truck driver who stops to help a motorist, and a student who helps a friend who is being bullied.  A quiet hero can be the school janitor or your mother who works two jobs so she can put food on the table. It can be someone who volunteers at church or the local Ronald McDonald House or who is a PTA committee member.


Quiet heroes are all around us.  They give us a smile when we need it, a hug at just the right time or some stern advice when that is appropriate.  Through their unselfish efforts they make our day better.


Suggestions for implementation:

  1. List five people from your family, neighborhood, church or school who you think are quiet heroes.
  2. Give a short description of the special thing each person does. 

Questions for discussion:

  1. Why did you choose these five people?
  2. What lessons can you learn from them?
  3. How can you show your quiet heroes that you appreciate their efforts?
  4. How can you be a quiet hero to someone? 



Gary Smit



 September 17 has been designated as Constitution Day. To help schools comply with the federal requirement to offer an educational program on Constitution Day, Annenberg Classroom, in cooperation with a prestigious group of educators and media organizations offers a variety of educational resources.  There are a number of activities that can be done by teachers at all grade levels to draw recognition of the Constitution and its benefits to us as a democratic nation.  The web site is access videos, activities, lesson plans and instructional resources is:






If you're a parent, educator, coach or youth leader, you probably know all about our biggest event of the year, the  annual CC! Week celebration (October 18-24). But even if you're not directly involved with kids or education, you can still take part in building a community around enduring common values such as the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.

CC! has developed a range of free downloadable resources and ideas to help you celebrate this year's extravaganza in your area. For example, community leaders could arrange a ceremony and issue a CC! Week proclamation. Business leaders could donate a percentage of the proceeds from goods and services purchased during the week to a local school or youth organization. Parents could focus on one of the Six Pillars and reward their children for modeling the character trait with a CC! sticker, wristband, or dog tag. No matter what you decide to do, the important thing is to get involved!

The free materials are now available to help you plan your activities. To access them, go to the CC! Week website or call (800) 711-2670.

The Lesson/Activity Corner

The Best in Critical-Thinking Instruction Just Got Better

The free Foundations for Life teacher's kit has just improved dramatically with updated versions of its two popular writing-skill booklets: Teacher's Resource (Elementary Edition) and Teacher's Resource (Middle and High School Edition). The manuals, which can be ordered separately or as part of the overall kit, now include these additional features:

Incorporating maxims into your instruction is an effective way to encourage active reading across all content areas. To give you a sample, the following is adapted from one of the Step Up to Writing lesson plans:

Quotation and Response

Fold a piece of paper in half. Find a quotation and write it on the left half and your response on the right half. Your response is not a right or wrong answer. Just write what you feel, like, dislike or agree with. If the maxim poses a problem, offer a solution. Select a quote that:

Makes you mad
Surprises you
You disagree with
You agree with
You feel is incorrect
Is expressed in an unusual, catchy way
Is important for other people to know
You would like to talk about
Reminds you of a similar situation

To order your free kit (or just the two updated editions), click here


Back to School Should Mean Back to Character

It's back to school time and time to think about what America's children will and will not be learning this year. We know schools will concentrate on reading math, history, literature and lots of other things to help kids be smart. But what will they teach to help kids become good?

Theodore Roosevelt said, "To educate a person in the mind but not the morals is to educate a menace to society." What better proof of this do we need than the current Wall Street scandals?

Although more schools are taking character-building responsibilities seriously, most only give character development lip service. As a result, cheating and disrespect flourishes in classrooms and on sports fields, and young people are unintentionally nudged toward moral agnosticism - a belief that there really is no right and wrong.

Building character isn't easy. It starts with attentiveness, but it's not just a matter of hanging posters or lists of virtues. It requires serious and sustained efforts to enhance the ethical consciousness, commitment and competence of youngsters through pervasive, continual and creative lessons and activities. It requires a clear vision of the desired outcomes in terms of explicitly identified ethical values and a coherent implementation strategy.

The real issue is not whether schools should teach values; they can't avoid it. The entire school experience is laden with value messages that influence the character of children, too often for the worse. The issue is whether they are willing to do so intentionally and with proficiency.

There are so many resources available now that there's no excuse.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.