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Defining Character Education at FISW

We knew that character education had great positive effects but we didn't want to use a pre-made curriculum or a one-size-fits-all approach to the question. We now needed, as a staff, to examine what character education is and, even more importantly, if it would fit our students' needs or how we could tailor it accordingly.

Our challenge was to make sure that all of us at school had the same definition of character education. After reading (a lot), discussing (thoroughly) and debating (respectfully) we came up with what character education really means to us as a staff. We define it as the "intentional effort by the entire community to help students from all cultures develop important human qualities and understand why it is important to live by them."

We would like to point out the two main points of our definition: the "entire community" and "understand why it is important." For us, it was critical to make sure that the entire community not only knew about the project but was part of it. Very early in the process, we presented at a PTA meeting to include FISW families. We answered questions, made some clarifications, and sent everybody home with some documents. The day after, we gave a similar presentation to our students. It facilitated the dialog between parents, students and staff. It is very important to share the same vocabulary, use the same words, and have the same expectations.

Equally important for us was the idea that character education should be a real tool for our students. Our goal is not only to develop character strengths that are important in a student's life, but also to make sure that our students understand why these values are important. To use a big pedagogical word, we want them to develop their metacognition: the students' ability to know and understand how they learn what they learn. The added bonus is the possibility to teach them social-emotional tools.

In our next post, we will explain how we went from theory to practice - how all of this relates to our daily life and routine at school and in the classrooms.

- Yvan Tabellion, Fifth Grade Teacher

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