A belief is the strongest foundational element anyone can ever have. If the caring adults in a child’s life believe in him/her, there is no ceiling, no ultimatum and no limitation on how far that young person can go. The Character Education curriculum taught by hundreds of schools in the Phoenix metropolitan area shows a commitment to kids and to our future citizenry. Reading, writing and arithmetic are crucial. Yet, beyond those 3 R’s lies a core of character development that begs attention and artful creation.
What is a Character Education curriculum and why do we need it, anyway? Shouldn’t parents be building the blocks of character development in their children by having a vision of who the child will become, set goals, teach by example and specific steps? The short answer form is a definitive and affirmative YES – we need it in our schools and parents should be the first teachers of their children and build that foundation.
In most instances, parents are doing a good job of building character in their children. However, it takes that entire village to raise a succesful and well adjusted kid into adulthood. We are all on board for the task and all have a responsibility for the future – at home and on the planet. Our task over the next few weeks is to talk about each of those character traits. You will see how Character Education builds strong kids into adults that are capable of making sure their efforts are duplicated. Because character building reflects a belief in kids. Having faith in the future means believing in what you and I can do in the present.
What do you think are some important character traits that kids should have? Have you taught any character traits to your children or seen your child’s school teach those special elements of belief?
This decades old song from the WWII era was a popular response to the struggles and sorrows of the early to middle 1940’s and a time of war. Families were separated and loved ones were called upon to defend freedom. Loneliness and painful losses prevailed. But Mr. Johnny Mercer, singer and song writer, wanted to offer strength and take away fear and crippling weakness. Mercer’s words encouraged folks to look to the bright side, build on your strengths, and “latch on to the affirmative.”
Sixty years later, research shares the same message about raising strong resilient kids growing up in the 21st C. If we give greater attention to a child’s weaknesses and flaws, we teach them to ignore their strengths. Being so preoccupied with what is wrong rather than what is right, will eventually bury and overpower the strengths. The child sees himself as a failure, someone who has many flaws and negative attributes. At that point, neither the significant adults surrounding a child nor the child himself knows what those golden goodies, morsels of success-in-the-making are.
Help your child to discover where her/his strengths lie. Look for them. Are they especially caring, are they organized, are they good at drawing or singing or sports? Everyone has strengths, and the most critical time of a child’s life is during those early years when they are gaining in self-confidence and searching for their own personal daily gold nuggets. If you notice your child being especially effective at some task or endeavor, let her/him know. In your sincerest explanation tell them what you observed and why you think they were very good at the response/action/task. Another aspect of this gold panning is to provide them with activities that will help them discover exactly what they are good at doing and what they enjoy. When we offer opportunities for dance, learning an instrument, being a member of a scout troop, team sports, performing arts, and drawing to mention of few choices, we help them to find out who they are and what their strengths are. By taking these steps, your kiddo will be well along the path to becoming a happy and productive adult.
How did you find out what your strengths were? Who helped you and how did that person(s) help? How have you helped a young person discover his/her strengths?
How many times have you driven down a street or highway and seen a bumper sticker with this phrase? Likely most everyone has seen it at one time or another. It is also true that many children learn to read from parents and family members as well. In fact, lately we have seen a great deal of negative press about public education and teachers. It is distressing for everyone. No matter what side of the argument makes the most sense to you, however, everyone can think of at least one teacher they want to thank today for making a difference their life. Take a moment to conjure up the name, place and year of a teacher that was special for you. . . .
I can think of several teachers who have made a significant impact on my life. School was a positive experience for me, my friends and my own children. From Mrs. Moore in fourth grade to Mrs. Winter in high school journalism, I had many encouraging professional role models. However, the one teacher who challenged my thinking the most was Mr. Lux, my eleventh grade accelerated English teacher. He was at least 6’5” and weighed over 300 lbs. His hands covered an entire sheet of loose leaf paper, and he wore large horn-rimmed glasses and a suit and tie every day. In those days, all men teachers wore suits and ties to school – – pretty impressive role models, don’t you think? Mr. Lux was firm, articulate and no-nonsense – – unless you listened carefully and caught a tongue-in-cheek comment every now and then. He was also a scholar and he taught the brightest, highest SAT-scoring students in the school. I felt honored to be selected to be in this special English class.
The day he recognized my oral defense of an essay assigned as homework, provided impetus for me, a 1960’s woman, to believe in myself. He called on me often after that, scored my writing highly and made me feel very talented. I was a sparkling gem in English class in room 212 at Edwin Denby High School – – Motor City, USA – – and I will always remember Mr. Lux for empowering my thinking and recognizing what I could do well. I majored in English and Journalism in college, largely due to him, and have loved writing and speaking all of my life.
We want our children to see their strengths and talents. Our job, as teachers and caring adults, is to encourage and nurture those gifts. No need to give false praise and rewards. Self-esteem is built upon the reality of achievement and success. Our job is to actuate the potential in our kids. Let it shine and sparkle.
Who is a teacher that made a difference in your life? Write them a brief letter in the comment section. The teacher, or a relative, or fellow-classmate might even see it! I waited too long to write my letter to Mr. Lux. Sad, perhaps. Yet, I will always know that I put my pen to paper and told him how much his talent meant to me. Enjoy the experience and thank you, Mr. Lux, wherever you are.
Have you ever seen a kid wearing a t-shirt with this title? Or maybe you’ve been browsing through the kids’ department at a retail store and saw something similar on a clothing rack. We might even see people grin or chuckle at such phrases, suggesting that there is something cute about the phrase. It is like the jokes we have heard about inebriated adults, stumbling, slurring their speech, or taking senseless chances. But it is not funny. The next time you see such a sign or phase on the clothing or belongings of young people, think about what the sign is really saying. Such verbage begets the law of self-fulfilling prophecy making a statement that is not a positive one.
What message do we as adults deliver when we reflect this attitude or expectation about a child? We are labeling them as a troublemaker. From the child’s view, if the expectation of significant adults surrounding her/him think they attract trouble or are the cause of problems, then the child learns to live up to what the adult perceives.
We know that children who succeed have significant adults in their lives who believe they can be successful and build relationships of caring and high expectations for the future. We can make a difference by setting that example and showing them what good citizenship means. It reflects learning, good health habits, caring about family, friends and the community and about having interests and hobbies.
Remember every kid is at-risk. Unless provided with the belief that they can be successful through proper role models, high expectations and steps to make a strong future a reality, kids are at-risk and our future and culture are as well.
How have you built a positive self-fulfilling prophecy for the important kid(s) in your life?
Since you have created a VISION for areas of development for your child’s future (see my first post in January 2011), you have clarified and articulated specifics about her/his adult life. Earlier you also wrote a S.M.A.R.T. goal that was Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. You are now ready to create and ACTION PLAN to drive you toward goal success and building strong, capable young people.
Writing an ACTION PLAN is as easy as eating a bowl full of berries, once you have the template. Divide your paper/EXCEL sheet/or WORD document into the following columns:
GOAL : My Two yr. old grandson will learn to love books.
ACTION: I will take him to story hour at the library. We will talk about the story read.
DATE: We will attend the story hour sessions once a week.
EVIDENCE OF ACHIEVEMENT:
By June 2011, he will choose two books to take home. We will have a special place for his books at home.
A goal does not need to be complex – the example is a short, simple ACTION PLAN. However, you can see the elements of the S.M.A.R.T. format: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. When you develop an ACTION PLAN for building the character and future of that special child(ren) in your life, you are on the path to helping a kid achieve success. You are also creating a better future for all. With your ACTION PLAN you now know where you want to go and how you will arrive. You can model and teach with ease. It can be as easy a bowl full of berries, once you have the steps!
How can ACTION PLANNING help you with your children, children you know, even your own personal daily living? Have you ever followed a similar plan in the past? What worked especially well? Did you find you needed to change your plan?