The principles that are taught are often uncontroversial to avoid issues within the school community. For example, honesty, helpfulness, generosity, perseverance, and examples of how to behave in these ways are provided. Albert Einstein once said, “Try not to be a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Some individuals advise that character education is the responsibility of the parent or guardian and is poor use of school time, stating that Character Education takes away from academic time. Those who debate against Character Education often state that it is the parent’s responsibility to support and promote the growth of character and values in their children. In reality, students spend a great portion of their day in school. I argue that the development of character is a shared responsibility.
In my opinion, anyone can lend a hand in facilitating character. Character education facilitates responsibility and good decision-making skills, better preparing them for life and in being a successful within their communities. Character education ought to be infused into the exchanges among student and adult. I do not feel that it should not be taught as any one specific subject. I do feel, however, that Character should be modeled by adults should be discussed as part of subject matter. Character can be easily weaved into lessons and curriculum.
Teachers can deliver messages and foster discussions about good behavior, making good decisions, responsibility, and other moral and ethical behaviors. Character education provides valuable skills for our students to develop and practice during experiencing aversive influences and experiences. Each day, our students are given opportunities to learn how to appropriately resolve conflicts. Our classrooms provide opportunities to practice conflict resolution skills and in turn, help students to mature in character.
Another aspect of character education is that it nurtures the growth of responsible individuals. By teaching character, we are nurturing the significance of caring for one another, the importance of honesty, and the value of responsibility. In fostering a community of these traits, we develop a learning environment for students to mature academically as well as in their character. Teachers not only teach for success in academics, but also for success in interactions with communities in which their students live. Through teaching character, teachers foster the growth of their students to be valuable members to those communities. It has been my experience to teach within our Pacific Northwest schools the value of citizenship, power, ownership and responsibility, self-control, fairness and trust.
As an educator, I have a responsibility to teach decision-making skills and to act on those decisions. There are many cultural perspectives within our communities. Different cultures value different character traits. To be culturally responsive offers a level of understanding about students and their family cultures.
Character education should be culturally appropriate, giving consideration to all students. I think character education is an important piece to our communities. I believe schools have a responsibility to nurture the growth of students in becoming socially skilled in the classroom, lives, and their communities. When students are given the opportunities to make cultural connections to character education, character education may hold greater meaning and value.
My own identity impacts the classroom. As the teacher, I help cultivate the culture and feeling of community within my classroom. My attitude and values have an effect on every part of my life, including teaching. My personal principles differ from my professional principles, however, they also closely relate.
I was raised Christian and continue to practice Christianity today. As a Christian, I aim to glorify God. This includes honesty, seeking to follow His plans for me, and being a servant to others. Every aspect of who I am and the way I live my life is affected by my values, beliefs, and character. The six pillars of character outlined by Michael Josephson (Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship) align with my own personal beliefs and values.
In my personal life, I attribute these characteristics and values as Godly. The Bible gives many examples throughout and defines these characteristics in terms of moral duties and virtues. In my professional life, I attribute these characteristics and values as good citizenship, frequently accepted and expected by society and communities. One of my favorite movie quotes is from Remember the Titans.
The team captain is angry with his team for not having heart and having poor attitudes. Another team member responds with, “Attitude reflects leadership, captain.” This is a powerful statement. My students follow my lead. The classroom culture and feeling of community is my responsibility and should be formed with intentionality. In conclusion, I want for my children (as a parent) to grow up into individuals having strong morals, and character, and to respect others.
Furthermore, I aspire for my children to learn and utilize the skills necessary to make well-balanced choices, to have a responsibility, and be socially competent. I strongly feel that character education is an essential support to developing their success. In my opinion, Character Education is a shared responsibility. Anyone who interacts with children can and should help to facilitate their growth in moral reasoning and responsibility.