I hear from teachers and administrators that they feel like Sisyphus. He’s the guy in Greek mythology who pushes the ball up to the top of the hill only to watch it fall down again. Because we are in the business of changing lives, we feel the weight of overwhelming responsibilities every day with lessons that need to be taught, standards to implement, content to be covered all while dealing with children of varying abilities and interests.

The mandated curriculum is already overburdened with content, which makes it much harder for students to acquire (and teachers to teach) character attributes. I cannot do much about mandates, standards, & curriculum requirements but I would like to share with you some practical strategies that may be of help in balancing the demands you face everyday:

  1. Understand that there are some things you can’t control, others that you can have control over and maybe still a few things in the day that you can influence by your choice. As you approach the day,. You are in charge of your attitude and mindset. When something goes wrong, ask yourself if you will still be affected by it in a year, in a few months, or even in a week. Try to focus on the big picture instead of allowing nagging small issues to rob you of your peace of mind.
  2. Use the ethically rich content of academic subjects as vehicles for teaching character. Any good story, historical study, science activity, will have a moral dilemma or question lurking in its context.
  3. Use teaching methods and activities to involve students in reflecting about character issues. The Way To Go activity books is an excellent tool where students respond to higher-level questions.
  4. Allow yourself time to make effective transitions from one class to another. Consider having an opening routine that your students can do independently. This will free you to make the mental, emotional, and physical switch from one group of students or from one content area to another.
  5. Learn to pace your instruction to allow for some less intense teaching periods. You should not be “on” day after day. Instead, allow your students time for independent work, small-group work, or even such activities as viewing video clips related to the subject under study.
  6. Reflect on the positive things that happen at school.. Focusing on your strengths and your successes is just as important as improving weaknesses and correcting mistakes.
  7. Start to put together a network of supportive and positive people who can help you. Being connected to others is an important way to avoid the stress that can make every day miserable. Supportive colleagues can help you figure out the solutions you need.

Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the teaching of character is not part of the role of the teacher or that if you do intentionally teach character, someone will criticize that this is not what you are suppose to do in the classroom. Teaching character education in schools is actually unavoidable. Everything the school chooses to do or not do in terms of curriculum, influences the culture of a school and the character of its students,

Opportunity was provided for the champions on the call to respond to the following questions:

  1. What do you find to be challenges your teachers are finding in helping and supporting students in academics and character?
  2. What has your school done to effectively integrate CHARACTER COUNTS! so it is not seen as one more thing for a teacher to do?
  3. Did you know that the average teacher has over one thousand interpersonal interactions a day? No meaningful learning will occur without relationships that are meaningful. Share what your school is doing with CHARACTER COUNTS! to build relationships with all kids.

Thanks to our school champions who took time to contribute by participating in our October conference call.

Gary Smit, CHARACTER COUNTS! Master Trainer, Suzanne Bracci, Lead Mentor/Coach of Western New York, Melissa Frawley and Jennifer Pincoski, Mentor/Coach of Western New York