Sunday, February 24, 2013

Food For Thought on Character Education

I've been enjoying our mid-winter break from classes, and attempting to clean through old files in our spare bedroom to make way for the new baby.  My husband stumbled across some old family paperwork, including a report card from 1961.  It is pretty interesting how "Character Traits" take up almost a third of the report!  The middle school report cards of 2013 have some obvious similarities, but aside from teacher comments, there is little or no focus on character traits.

So... I got to thinking about the middle school child and all that they endure during these transitional years.  If you work in middle school you know first hand the immense change that occurs from 6th-8th grade.  These kiddos go through a huge academic, social and emotional transformation during the tween years.  While perusing a handful of old report cards, the questions started flowing! (My poor husband will now be forced to engage in conversation on this topic over dinner.)  We know that holding our students to high academic standards is a necessity, but are we holding them to high moral standards?  Do we focus so much on the test, the content, the core, that we forget to recognize, teach and assess how our students are growing into respectable young adults?  (We all have our own way of bringing character development into our classrooms.  Some use literature, prizes/rewards or just verbal praise, but is it enough?)  Food for thought: Is the age of academic accountability overshadowing character education?

Happy Teaching...


  1. Well, part of the problem is that we are not ALLOWED to say much about character on a report card. Heaven forbid that we report anything that we cannot back up with empirical data. We have been told that report cards have to report facts. Is the child reading on grade level? Is the child doing the classwork? The only character items we are allowed to report in my district are: "Takes responsibility for own learning" and "Respects school property and property of others". I got called out by my admin for writing "Susie should raise her hand when she wishes to speak instead of blurting out answers." I was told that "blurting" is too harsh!

  2. ... and heaven forbid we actually have to tell a parent that the child did something WRONG, disrespectful, or rude. It comes right back on us teachers as being our fault, somehow. We don't know or understand the child. > We took it the wrong way. We don't understand child development even though we have been teaching over a decade and have umpteen classes, degrees, and certifications, and experiences with all kinds of children out the wazoo.

    As a teacher, I WILL correct your child for the behaviors and I WILL expect your child to learn from the experience, progress forward, and make better choices. I WILL expect everyone in my classroom to be respectful. We are not all friends, but we will all be nice to each other while inside the walls of my classroom so as to get to the heart of why we are here - TO LEARN. It's a shame that we have to spend so much time on what is termed as "character ed" these days. It gives us less time to delve into our subject matter in meaningful ways.

    Some parents expect the schools to teach morals and values, but those things should be taught at home and REINFORCED at school. (Part of the problem is the varying ideas of what morals and values are... but being nice is being nice. I would think that one is universal). Other parents don't want the schools to teach any kind of morals or values because they fear that the schools are indoctrinating their children with ideas... so... how does one bring those two kinds of parents together?

  3. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You raise some excellent points about the fine line that teachers walk when giving students feedback. It sounds like you hold kids to high academic and behavioral standards. We will never please every administrator and certainly not every parent, so I guess we just need to do what we think is best for each individual child. No doubt...times have certainly changed since this report was written!

  4. Thanks a lot for sharing. You have done a brilliant job, and I am really happy I discovered your website.
    Child Centered Education



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