creating schools and communities of character
                                                                                                January/February, 2009
An electronic newsletter to help make sure character counts!
                                                                                                                                    Gary Smit

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.


School Social Workers - A Lifeline for Troubled Students
Information You Can Use
The Importance of Role Modeling
Lesson Corner


The New Year provides opportunity for us to begin anew. The changing of the calendar page from December to January often accompanies the desire to resolve to alter our attitudes, actions or behaviors.  Resolutions need not just be for us as adults. The New Year can also be a time for a commitment to change on the part of children or young adults.  In this issue of the Newsletter, I thought that I would share New Year's tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  It is interesting to note how many of the resolutions encourage children and young people to be more respectful, responsible, caring or a a good citizen.

  Kids, 5- to 12-years-old
  Kids, 13-years-old and up
  Have a great New Year!

Gary Smit


What do school social workers do? And how are they different from school counselors? Susan Miller points out that, "some school social work duties overlap with the duties of school counselors." But, she says, "unlike school counselors, school social workers generally do not deal with career and academic advising. They use their expertise in psychosocial systems to make sure that a student’s support system is functioning well." In this article, Susan Black outlines how effective school social workers deal with a wide range of social, emotional, and academic issues. In one focus group, many school social workers faulted school leaders for demanding high test scores but ignoring realities that interfere with kids’ learning. "My school defeats its own purpose," one said, referring to her principal’s single-minded emphasis on state tests. "He doesn't understand that reaching out and rescuing kids in crisis would help raise our school’s overall achievement." A new model of school social work places new demands upon social workers to work side-by-side with school leaders to: (1) Improve their school’s culture and climate; (2) Establish and communicate standards for acceptable school behavior; (3) Design and promote classroom programs that blend academic and social learning; (4)
Eliminate school barriers to learning, such as tracking and ability grouping; and (5) Abolish zero tolerance and other policies that contribute to high dropout rates.  However, a study shows that most school social workers don't want to change. They would rather spend more time on individual and group counseling and less time on consultation with teachers, administrators, and community agencies.



The importance of role modeling cannot be overstated. It doesn't mean we have to be perfect, writes Leslie Matula. We're not and never will be. But it does mean that as adults who have influence over the lives of children, we must strive to model all that we want to teach. When we fall short of that mark, which we will do often, then we have a great opportunity to model appropriate responses to poor choices, such as humility and regret. We can do what we can to make amends and then get back to the business of being a good role model. Anyone who spends time in or around children is a character educator. It comes with the territory. Children are indeed the "ever-attentive witness" to all that they hear us say and all that they see us do. The question is what values, principles, and qualities are they learning from us? In our homes, schools, businesses, and sports events, we need always to be aware that children are looking to us for guidance. They expect us to help them navigate life’s complex journey. It simply isn't reasonable to expect them to be respectful to others when they witness us being disrespectful. We cannot expect them to be honest when they hear us laugh about cheating on our income taxes. We cannot expect them to be fair and just when they witness our unfair, unjust actions. The most fundamental truths are more often the most simple. Sometimes they are the hardest to hear. This may be one of those truths. We are always and forever teaching values to the young people around us whether we do it with conscious intent or not. We can't complain about disrespectful, selfless, angry, and irresponsible kids unless we as adults are willing to take a long look in the mirror and begin to own up to our own angry, untrustworthy, and uncaring behaviors.


Respect Activity – Ages 11-13
Overview: Students learn that conflict is inevitable, but that it can be more easily and effectively resolved if the conflicting parties show respect for one another. A nursery rhyme and other hypothetical scenarios are read and discussed to teach this lesson.
Preparation / Materials: none
Setting: classroom or other quiet location

Introduce the word "conflict." Make sure everyone understands what it means before proceeding. Remind children that people often overlook things they have in common and usually don't listen well when they disagree on something. Say: Sometimes those who are in conflict try to win the conflict by fighting. But fighting is for animals - humans are supposed to be smart enough to work out a disagreement with words. When we show respect for other people's ideas and remember that we don't always have to make everyone else think like us, working things out is a lot easier. Think about this when I read this nursery rhyme:

There once were two cats from Kilkenny.
Each thought there was one cat too many.
So they fought and they fit,
And they scratched and they bit,
Until, except for their nails
And the tips of their tails,
Instead of two cats, there weren't any.

Ask the following questions to make sure everyone understands the story:
1. What did the cats disagree about? (Each wanted to be the only cat in Kilkenny.)
2. What did they do about their disagreement? (Fought each other.)
3. Then were they happy? (No, they both ended up in terrible shape.)
4. Did this kind of action solve their problem? (No, it made their problem worse.)

Then lead a discussion about two people who have a disagreement. Suggest that they, like the cats, could try to solve the problem by fighting. Ask the children if they think this is a good idea. Guide the discussion to include the following points:
1. Usually when the fight is over the problem still isn't solved.
2. If one person wins the fight, he/she may feel the problem is solved, but the other person will probably be even more upset and new problems may have been created. (One or both people may be injured, clothing stained or torn, objects broken, etc.)
3. Does this make sense? Usually the bigger, stronger person will win the fight, but the smaller person may be just as "right."

Ask the youngsters how each disagreement below might be easier to resolve if the conflicting parties showed respect toward each other. Some sample situations are listed below. Read each one to the group and allow them to discuss ways to solve the problem described. In each case, ask the students what they think would happen if the participants were to have a fight about the problem.
1. Phyllis and Greg are brother and sister. They both like to have a snack after school. One day there was one piece of chocolate cake in the cupboard. Both of them wanted the piece of cake. What could they do to show respect for the other?
2. Eric is in Ms. Gomez's second grade class. Reggie is in Ms. Smith's second grade class. One day during recess, both boys ran to the soccer field at the same time. Eric said, "Our class is going to play soccer this recess. We need the playing field." Reggie said, "But our class is going to play soccer. We need the field." What could they do to show respect for each other?
3. The school principal came to the classroom with a box of stuff from the Lost and Found. In the box was a really nice black jacket. Juanita and Chris both said it belonged to them. What could they do to solve this problem and show respect?
4. Mr. Larson's class was studying animals. He told the students they would take a trip to see some animals. The class could choose whether to visit the community zoo or Mr. MacGregor's farm. Some of the children really wanted to go to the zoo. Some of them really wanted to go the farm. What could both sides do to show respect for each other?

Allow discussion, then add, What would you suggest if you knew that ten children wanted to go to the zoo, and eight children wanted to go to the farm? Allow responses, then add, And what if you knew that all of the children in the class had been to the zoo at least once before, but most of the children who wanted to go to the farm had never been to a farm before?

You might also try having the children role-play these and/or other conflict situations they might come up with.
Reprinted from “Good Ideas to Help Young People Develop Good Character.” ©1995-1998 Josephson Institute. This selection was adapted from "Life / Liberty / Law," by Carol Roach (Center for Educational Research and Service, Emporia State University, Emporia, KS). Used with permission.