Category Archives: Character Education

BCS Named 2018 National School of Character #BCSLearns

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Character.org Designates 73 schools as 2018 National Schools of Character and 5 districts as 2018 National Districts of Character.  Program developed in 1998 has positively impacted the lives of close to 2 million students

Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2018)— Character.org, the nonprofit organization that validates character initiatives in schools and communities around the world, today designated 73 schools and 5 districts from 17 states as 2018 National Schools and Districts of Character.

Birmingham Covington School (MI) is one of the designated schools.  BCS offers a choice in educational structure and philosophy for BPS residents seeking a rigorous academic challenge. Its science and technology emphasis is based in Science for All Americans: Project 2061. In multi age classrooms (grades 3/4, 5/6 and 7/8) and in two-year academic cycles, students learn in an interactive atmosphere where they are challenged to apply and integrate their knowledge. Through interdisciplinary projects, students incorporate and demonstrate their understanding of skills and concepts where character is authentically integrated throughout lessons and activities.  Mark Morawski, principal, states: “This is a wonderful recognition indeed, and earning this honor through Character.org’s rigorous identification process including a site visit is something of which we are enormously proud.  We all celebrate indeed, students, parents, alumni and staff!  Though, we know that this is not the finish line; rather, it is another starting point as we work toward continuous improvement.  BCS is a great place to be!”

Since the inception of Character.org’s Schools of Character program in 1998, 547 schools and 35 districts have been designated as National Schools or Districts of Character, impacting more than 3 million people’s lives (A complete list of the 2018 National Schools and Districts of Character is included on the Character.org website).

Each year, Character.org and its state affiliates certify schools and districts that demonstrate a dedicated focus on character development with a positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior, school climate and their communities. Character.org evaluates schools and districts selected in January as State Schools of Character (along with those schools who reapplied within their 3-year designation) Character.org for consideration for national certification as National Schools of Character.

Through an in-depth and rigorous evaluation process, these schools were found to be exemplary models in character development. Of the schools named today, 17 schools are former National Schools of Character that have re-applied for the national designation. Criteria for selection are based on Character.org’s 11 Principles of Effective Character Education, a framework to assist schools in providing students with opportunities for moral action, fostering shared leadership and engaging families and communities as partners in the character-building effort.

“At Character.org, we are extremely proud of this year’s National Schools of Character as well as our district recipients. Their dedication to character development is reducing the skills gap by equipping the future workforce with transferable relationship skills needed to meet tomorrow’s challenges,” said Doug Karr, Character.org’s President & CEO. “Validating character initiatives is at the core of what we do, because they create fertile conditions for multi-generational character growth in communities of character. This year as we celebrate our Silver Anniversary, we are excited to also recognize 20 years of incredible National Schools of Character.”

Character.org will honor the designated schools and districts at its 25th National Forum on Character  to be held October 4-7, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Visit www.character.org to learn more about the National Forum, the Schools of Character Certification (State & National) and the 2018 national honorees.

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Stand Up and Upstand #BCSLearns

With May upon us, we focus at BCS on our next habit of empathy from Michelle Borba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Success in Our All-About-Me World.  This month’s focus is that empathetic people Stick their Necks Out.  In her book, Borba says that empathetic people have the “moral courage” to stick their necks out and become “active bystanders, better known as “upstanders”.  Bystanders stand by and passively observe or witness any acts of unkindness to others.  We need to teach our students, even ourselves, strategies to stand up actively.  In her book, Borba shares some strategies to positively S.T.A.N.D. U.P.:

  • S – seek support
  • T – tell a trusted adult
  • A – assist the victim
  • N – negate with positivity
  • D – detour
  • U – use a distraction
  • P – pause and rethink

In helping students nurture this habit of sticking their necks out, we need to explicitly teach what each of these strategies look like and sound like.  For many middle school and high school students telling an adult is taboo.  We have to help students realized they have a moral obligation to help create a safe environment for each of us who have the privilege to be part of the community in which we find ourselves.  Telling a trusted adult is not “ratting out” a classmate; rather, it is getting help to further support the safety and well-being of those in our community.  If a student just won’t report, there are still other strategies to demonstrate this moral courage.  A student can be an upstander with another strategy such as assisting the victim, detouring or simply using a distraction.  These do not require reporting; the taboo for many older students.

So what happens when we become upstanders?  Here are the research-based outcomes.  Upstanding…

  • reduces the audience that a bully craves
  • mobilizes the compassion of witnesses to step in and stop the bullying
  • supports the victim and reduces the trauma
  • is a positive influence in curbing a bullying episode
  • encourages other students to support a school climate of caring
  • encourages reporting a bullying incident since 85 percent of time bullying occurs an adult is not present. Students are usually the witnesses.

In short, “When bystanders intervene correctly, studies find they can cut bullying more than half the time and within 10 seconds (Pepler and Craig, 2005).

If that is not enough to demonstrate the benefits. “Sticking your neck out and nurturing this habit, as Borba contends, helps our students find their “inner hero.”  What can we do to help nurture the inner hero of our children?

  • Expect social responsibility
  • Set the example: model it.
  • Offer Heros: Harrry Potter, Huck Finn, Nelson Mandella, Little Engine that could.
  • Stop Rescuing : We do not build confidence when we rescue.
  • Try small scale courage.

Above all, always encourage, and help children live the mantra of Muhatma Ghandi, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Be the Change – It is done everyday, let’s just make it larger scale!  Show this below video to your students and children to help them find their inner hero.  “Kindness begins with you!”

Walk the Path of Empathy by Thinking Us, not Them #BCSLearns

With April upon us, we focus at BCS on our next habit of empathy, Think Us, Not Them, from Michelle Borba’s book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Success in Our All-About-Me World.  In a Your Teen magazine interview, Borba shares, “The bottom line is empathy is lying dormant. Empathy can be cultivated, but we aren’t doing that intentionally enough as parents. Our definition of success has become IQ, grades, and SATs, with less focus on kindness. What we are doing is raising our kids to stay in the ‘me’ stage, and we need to start helping them think ‘we’ not ‘me.’” To do this, she suggests, we have to redirect kids away from all the negative media and Start showing them the good part of the world. They need to hear elevating experiences, like kids on the back page of a newspaper who are making a difference.”  We need to expose the world of kindness more broadly, intentially and intensely to our kids.

In an article from Medium entitled Think Us, not Them: A Useful Belief for First Time Managers, Narayan Kamath, this us vs. them mentality often times in naturally-formed in organizations.  Human beings naturally categorize, group, compare and separate.    Kamath writes, “Group identity is an innate part of being human and is indeed at the very foundation of people coming together as families, communities, societies and even nations. This shared sense of belonging is what makes organisations feasible and successful. However, group identity operates at several levels, and in organisations this can lead to several dysfunctional behaviours.”  These dysfunctions that move us away from thinking us, not them and my take on them include:

  • Blaming management – Other groups naturally will blame the management for the problems.  In a teacher’s case, students will blame the teacher for their problem be it a poor grade or missing work.  As leaders and teachers, we must ask for feedback and suggestions to those we serve so that we create an “us” mentality, we are in this together.  
  • Blaming other groups – like blaming management, naturally one group will blame another for the problems they are facing be it on an adult team or with a classroom. As leaders and teachers, we need to help students see their value as part of the community and empower them to be part of the solution influencing positive change.
  • Withholding information and resources – this creates a competitive culture rather than a collaborative one.  At BCS we ought to be enormously proud of the collaborative culture we have created where adults and students share information and resources for self improvement, team improvement and school improvement.

For Kamath, Think Us, Not Them is about “genuine collaboration across the organisation.” As one of our BCS belief statements reads, “people learn best in an atmosphere of curiosity, high expectations, collaboration and diversity.”  BCS is a great Place to Be!  

Finally, if you need more evidence on the importance of collaboration and thinking us , not them, check out the below video and remember these fiveLessons from Geese.” Check out how geese think us, not them / we, not me!

  • Lesson 1 – The Importance of Achieving Goals
    • As each goose flaps its wings it creates an UPLIFT for the birds that follow. By flying in a ‘V’ formation the whole flock adds 71 percent extra to the flying range. 
    • Outcome:  When we have a sense of community and focus, we create trust and can help each other to achieve our goals. 
  • Lesson 2 – The Importance of Team Work 
    • When a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds in front.
    • Outcome:  If we had as much sense as geese we would stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others. 
  • Lesson 3 – The Importance of Sharing
    • When a goose tires of flying up front it drops back into formation and another goose flies to the point position. 
    • Outcome:  It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks. We should respect and protect each other’s unique arrangement of skills, capabilities, talents and resources. 
  • Lesson 4 – The Importance of Empathy and Understanding 
    • When a goose gets sick, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to the ground to help and protect it. 
    • Outcome:  If we have as much sense as geese we will stand by each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong. 
  • Lesson 5 – The Importance of Encouragement
    • Geese flying in formation ‘HONK’ to encourage those up front to keep up with their speed.
    • Outcome:  We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups and teams where there is encouragement, production is much greater. ‘Individual empowerment results from quality honking’

Practice Kindness Relentlessly #BCSLearns

This year at BCS we have focused on our theme were lean in and lead with EMPATHY always embracing our BCS Moral Compass.  Each month we have embraced a different habit of empathy, and with March roaring in like a lion, we embrace another habit of empathy – the notion that empathetic people practice kindness.  In her book Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, author Michelle Borba proves from her research that “developing and exercising kindness and prosocial behaviors increases children’s concern about the welfare and feelings of others and enhances the likelihood that they will step in to help, support or comfort others.”  Borba purposefully names the habit as “practicing” kindness due to the fact that we, adults and children need to constantly work on this habit and “practice” our kindness.  Kindness is a habit and therefore can be strengthened like a muscle.  In fact, let’s view kindness, not as a noun, but as a verb.  It is an action, something we do and something upon which we act.  Additionally, let’s be sure we not only specifically praise our children and our students about their academics, but also for their acts of kindness as human beings.  Kindness is the way to Be!  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently states, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” 

At the end of this post, I include a video called “27 Easy Ways To Practice Kindness” from Mind Movies.  As the video states,  “If we all choose to see the abundance that surrounds us and we all put a little bit of effort into making the world a better place, we could actually live much happier lives and be surrounded by much friendlier people. The good news is that kindness is an attribute that can be learned, and by practicing it [relentlessly] you’ll not only be improving your own life, but you’ll also be making a contribution to your community and to the world around you.”  Convincing enough! Let’s take care of each other and relentlessly practice kindness.  Take look at these 27 ways to practice kindness and give them a try.  Above all else, keep that POSITIVE ATTITUDE and spread it near and far!

Nurturing this Empathetic Habit – Take it from a Navy Seal #BCSLearns

This year at BCS we have focused on our theme were lean in and lead with EMPATHY always embracing our BCS Moral Compass.  Each month we have embraced a different habit of empathy, and with February upon us and a new habit, we embrace the the notion that empathetic people can keep their cool.  Helping children and ourselves learn ways to manage strong emotions, self regulate, and reduce personal distress to keep their empathy open, avoids what Michele Borba calls the “Empathy Gap” and allows them more likely to empathize and help others.  Below, I offer some strategies and a video for our young children from Borba and some strategies and a video from leadership coach John Baldoni for our older students and us adults.

In the below video (2:57), Borba suggests that we help children employ the strategies of a Navy Seal!

  1. Deep breaths as a relaxation response
  2. Mental rehearsals in advance of a potential stressful situation
  3. Chunk it – take it in small parts
  4. Positive self-talk – “I can do this!”

Not only will these four strategies reduce stress in our children, according to Borba, they will also keep their “empathy open.”

In the next video (2:36), John Baldoni “offers some techniques for leaders who want to keep their cool when the heat’s on.”  We need to maintain composure.  How?  Similar to Borba’s Navy Seal strategies, he suggests we invoke the strategies of battalion commanders.

  1. Breathe deeply
  2. Relax your facial muscles
  3. Keep your voice low
  4. Try a mindfulness exercise

https://youtu.be/_sIGIkktn3A

In the final video (11:19), Katie Couric interviews Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger about his recollection of the final moments before he dramatically landed his U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in N.Y.’s Hudson River.  Notice how “Sully” stayed calm and maintained composure.  Notice the rehearsal, his breathing , keeping his voice low, the positive self-talk.  What else do you notice as he recounts the near tragedy?

Guess What Drives Creativity? #BCSLearns

Have your own kids ever said they’re bored? Has a parent ever told you as a teacher that their child is bored in your class? How have you responded to these questions in the past? I’m guessing you didn’t say, “you’re so lucky that you’re bored”? Or, “I’m just trying to nurture your child’s creativity.” Well, if you did, you’d be on the right track.

In the book Bored and Brilliant, author Manoush Zomorodi “shows the fascinating side of boredom. She investigates cutting-edge research as well as compelling real-life examples to demonstrate that boredom is actually a crucial tool for making our lives happier, more productive, and more creative. What’s more, the book is crammed with practical exercises for anyone who wants to reclaim the power of spacing out – deleting the Two Dots app, for instance, or having a photo-free day, or taking a ‘fakecation'” (Gretchen Rubin, author of #1 NYT Bestseller The Happiness Project).  Zomorodi explains how boredom and original thinking are intricately connect and she exploring how we can harness the power of boredom to become more productive and creative individuals. While the book is grounded in neuroscience and cognitive psychology Zomorodi also shared practical strategies each of us can take to slow down our busyness and enhance our ability to dream and wonder in both our work life and personal life.

Check out my previous blog posts on creativity:

In the end, Zomorodi shines a light on how boredom can lead to the most brilliant ideas.  Take a listen to her 16-minute TedTalk where she describes how “sometimes [you] have your most creative ideas while folding laundry, washing dishes or doing nothing in particular…because when your body goes on autopilot, your brain gets busy forming new neural connections that connect ideas and solve problems. Learn to love being bored as Manoush Zomorodi explains the connection between spacing out and creativity.” 

Equip yourself with a practical and research-based response to the age old comment from kids, “I’m bored,” and help them understand how lucky they should feel to have that moment of boredom, as well as the greatness they can achieve from it.

Imagine Your Best Self #BCSLearns

This week’s post, “Imagine Your Best Self”, believe it or not, speaks to our theme of empathy and the empathetic habits, particularly our focus habit for this month.  Our BCS Moral Compass is our touchstone and always our main focus as a way of being within our community, and Empathy is our annual theme this year at BCS as we focus on a different empathetic habits each month.  This month we will focus on the fact that empathetic people have a moral imagination.

Moral Imagination defined in the below video as “creatively imagining the full range of options while making moral decisions.” Check out this 90-second video that gives a great summary of what moral imagination is including some questions to ponder (on your own or with your students) and a real life example with Nestle.

For a complete text excerpt from the video check out this Ethics Unwrapped link.  As the video closes, “Indeed, moral imagination, combined with creativity and moral courage, enables both individuals and businesses to act more ethically in society.”

With the issues of valuing diversity with which our country is grappling today, give the article Bring Moral Imagination Back in Style a read, written by OP-ED writer Jennifer Finney Boylan published in the New York Times (01/22/2016).  Her editorial, as a transgender woman, is on point.  The two most poignant messages from the editorial, resonating with me, are Boylan’s take on moral imagination and Edmund Burke’s definition of it that she references in the article.  Boylan reflects that “It wasn’t that I didn’t understand that she suffered, back when she was old and death and I was young and not. It’s that whatever she suffered from was something I didn’t need to be concerned with. It didn’t occur to me that imagining the humanity of people other than myself was my responsibility. And yet the root cause of so much grief is our failure to do just that.”  She goes on to share that “Edmund Burke [calls] moral imagination, the idea that our ethics should transcend our own personal experience and embrace the dignity of the human race.”  Let us at BCS “embrace the dignity of the human race” and support the students we serve in doing the same by nurturing the habit of moral imagination within them.

And finally, below is a Ted Talk by Penn State sociology professor Sam Richards which is a bit of “an exercise in moral imagination.”  View the video and then reflect upon how you react to the claims made and evidence and reasoning shared (a bit of a CERS exercise from our Communicate Like a Cobra Rubric).  Thank you in advance for making moral imagination for your students this month!