Character Education in Action
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
A year ago, we launched our character education program at a Spring PTA meeting. We thought that this year's final PTA meeting would be a good opportunity to talk about the journey, what we have accomplished, and where we are headed.
You can learn more about the foundation of our character education program by reading our previous blog posts.
This school year, we put the character strengths defined last year at the center of all areas of teaching including language arts, social studies, art, co-teaching, and often a mix of the above. Character education was part of projects that took place in the classroom and as a whole school. One of the things that turned out to be fascinating for us when we reflected back on our first year of the program was to realize how many character education topics were interwoven among different subject and grades.
For example, the Petits and Moyens worked on the colors of emotions through a book study, role play, the use of puppets, and class discussion. The third graders worked on the exact same topic, using the movie Inside Out as a starting point. They debated, role played and presented their opinions. The two classes of course had different goals but worked on the same issue, putting names (and colors!) on their emotions.
Then, the Moyens class created a stop motion movie about embracing other people's differences (with an interesting geometry twist). Once again, this theme made its way through the grades, all the way to the fifth grade, whose class motto was about accepting differences.
Another example concerns the third and fifth graders who both completed a project on compliments. The concept is simple: each student sits with their back to the whiteboard while their peers write something about them on the board. They cannot see what's written and discover it at the very end when they turned around. The effect it had on the students was very powerful and a good reminder that a nice word can have a big impact.
The PTA meeting was a great opportunity for us as a staff to look back over all of the projects that have taken place since the launch of our character education program one year ago, assess our journey, and share these projects with the school community at large.
We would like to emphasize a few of the positive from this first year:
· Every concept can be (and is!) mentioned from the youngest grades up.
· The students are more reflective on their activities and can verbalize why they are doing what they are doing.
· Objectives are not fixed but settled according to each class's needs.
· There is a more positive class atmosphere through the lens of empathy.
· Students, teachers and families have a common vocabulary.
· We created common resources.
We also have plans for next year: we want to continue the evaluation of the projects, strengthening some and creating more. We plan to hold more workshops and training, have more dedicated time in staff meetings, and improve our communication within the school and with the community so we can all celebrate in each class's successes.
We know that this is not a magic wand. This is a process - it takes time, and it is far from being over. This is why we also have worked on some improvements, one of them being our House of Respect. It has become more of an igloo: it is rounder, warmer, and it is the ultimate sustainable shelter. And this is what we are trying to do: build sustainable success for our students.
- Yvan Tabellion, Fifth Grade French Teacher