creating schools and communities of character
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: www.charactercounts.org
or call them at 1-800-711-2670.
IN THIS ISSUE…
School Social Workers - A Lifeline for Troubled Students
Information You Can Use
The Importance of Role Modeling
TAKE A MINUTE FOR CHARACTER
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.
20 HEALTHY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR KIDS
- I will clean up my toys.
- I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to
the bathroom and before eating.
- I won't tease dogs - even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten
by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
Kids, 5- to 12-years-old
- I will drink milk and water, and limit soda and fruit drinks.
- I will apply sunscreen before I go outdoors. I will try to stay in
the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially
when I'm playing sports.
- I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an
activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike)
that I like and do it at least three times a week!
- I will always wear a helmet when bicycling.
- I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I'll sit in the
back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a
lap/shoulder seat belt.
- I'll be nice to other kids. I'll be friendly to kids who need
friends - like someone who is shy, or is new to my school
- I'll never give out personal information such as my name, home
address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I'll
never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer
without my parent's permission.
Kids, 13-years-old and up
- I will eat at least one fruit and one vegetable every day, and I
will limit the amount of soda I drink.
- I will take care of my body through physical activity and nutrition.
- I will choose non-violent television shows and video games, and I
will spend only one to two hours each day - at the most - on these
- I will help out in my community - through volunteering, working with
community groups or by joining a group that helps people in need.
- I will wipe negative "self talk" (i.e. "I can't do it" or "I'm so
dumb") out of my vocabulary.
- When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find
constructive ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading,
writing in a journal or discussing my problem with a parent or friend.
- When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk with an adult
about my choices.
- I will be careful about whom I choose to date, and always treat the
other person with respect and without coercion or violence.
- I will resist peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol.
Have a great New Year!
SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKERS: A LIFELINE FOR TROUBLED STUDENTS
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.
INFORMATION YOU CAN USE
- IN PRAISE OF CHILD LABOR: WHY CHORES ARE GOOD FOR YOU - If you're
like Patrick Boyle, you had a lot of family responsibilities when you
grew up: from setting the table and washing dishes to raking leaves,
shoveling snow and cleaning bathrooms. Maybe you cared for younger
siblings or painted the house. We all learned several important lessons
from such experiences. First, befriend people who own chainsaws. Second,
our ridiculous parents were right: Having chores is good for a young
person. It builds good work habits. Builds discipline. Builds character.
A common observation among professionals who work with youth is that
they respond well to having real responsibilities that matter. That
means duties they own that bring natural consequences if they slip. They
don't have clean clothes, the dog doesn't eat or the house looks too
embarrassing to invite anyone over. That’s more powerful than getting
scolded by dad, although let’s not throw out scolding. In many
communities, middle class kids have been liberated from meaningful
family responsibilities. Adults frequently say that one benefit to being
more affluent than their parents is that they can provide a better life
for their children than they had themselves. If that better life renders
a child incapable of cleaning his socks, then maybe we need pay cuts.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ROLE MODELING
- RESILIENCY: WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED - Ten years ago, resiliency theory
was relatively new to the fields of prevention and education. Today, it
is at the heart of hundreds of school and community programs that
recognize in all young people the capacity to lead healthy, successful
lives. The key, as Bonnie Benard reports in this synthesis of a decade
and more of resiliency research, is the role that families, schools, and
communities play in supporting, and not undermining, this biological
drive for normal human development. Of special interest is the evidence
that resiliency prevails in many extreme cases. In most studies, the
figure seems to average 70 to 75 percent and includes children who were
placed in foster care, were members of gangs, were born to teen mothers,
were sexually abused, had substance-abusing or mentally ill families,
and grew up in poverty. In absolute worst case scenarios, when children
experience multiple and persistent risks, still half of them overcome
adversity and achieve good developmental outcomes. An understanding of
this developmental wisdom and the supporting research, Benard argues,
must be integrated into adults’ vision for the youth they work with and
communicated to young people themselves.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.