Commitment to Character and Ethics

Students understand the personal and social importance and the basic terminology and concepts of character and ethics.

Key Beliefs:

I will be a better student if I act on the following beliefs:

  • My character affects all parts of my life.
  • I am responsible for making the right choices and being a person of character.
  • The formation of my character lies in my own hands and affects all parts of my life.
  • My values shape my choices, which shape my behaviors.
  • I believe that I can change behaviors and choices and ultimately values.
  • Incorporate character-building into everyday lessons and activities, rather than as a stand-alone experience.
  • Reflect on responsible and authentic social media interactions.
  • Explain and illustrate character traits in connection with an academic lesson.
  • During one of your lessons, make time to illustrate the positive examples of ethical values in action. Or, highlight when a poor choice has been made and then identify what would have been a decision that could have produced the best possible result.
  • Journal about character, the specific traits you are studying, and when you may see these attributes in action.
  • Create a video on an everyday hero or mentor sharing why and how this person has impacted you.
  • Read and discuss biographies of accomplished individuals. Be discerning, seeing that an individual may have flaws but still be capable of much admirable action.
  • “Of all the properties which belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character.” – Henry Clay
  • “Character is what you are in the dark.” – Unknown
  • “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” – Theodore Roosevelt
  • “Our lives teach us who we are.” – Salman Rushdie
  • “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln
  • “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “Character is an essential tendency. It can be covered up, it can be messed with, it can be screwed around with, but it can’t be ultimately changed. It’s the structure of our bones, the blood that runs through our veins.” – Sam Shepard
  • “Character is much easier kept than recovered.” – Thomas Paine
  • “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • “Happiness is not the end of life: character is.” – Henry Ward Beecher
  • “Character is power.” – Booker T. Washington

More Of/Less Of

Learning objectives: Participants will identify specific behaviors they want to see more of and less of from students, staff, and parents.

Overview: Divide the class into six groups. Assign each group one Pillar and tell them to list specific behaviors related to that one Pillar that they want to see more of and less of from students at their school.

Allow the groups to work for 15 minutes. Then have each group report out for 2-3 minutes each.

What Do You Think?

Learning Objective: To provide an opportunity for students to express where they see character.

Three-Step Interview
Each table group gets a different character question. Examples of character questions include:

  • What does it mean to be a responsible person?
  • How do you make a decision when confronted with an ethical dilemma?
  • How can you explain the poor and ineffective choices some students make when faced with a challenging situation?
  • What would our school be like if everyone was honest in how they dealt with others?
  • How do you feel when someone treats you disrespectfully?
  • What role does character play in the workplace?
  • Why is it important to be honest?
  • What are examples of how students at our school put into action various traits of good character?
  • Can values be taught to students today?
  • What does integrity mean to you?

After a question is read to a table group, students pair up.

  • One person interviews the other about the question.
  • Switch roles with the interviewer becoming the interviewee.
  • Pairs come together and each individual presents to the others at the table what their partner shared.

Moral Courage Treasure Hunt

Learning Objective: To realize that character is reflected in what it is we do

Give each student a copy of the Moral Courage Treasure Hunt. Instruct them that they are to:

  • Find one of the statements they can respond to that explains what it is they do or have done.
  • Students need to move around with their Treasure Hunt and interact with other class members.
  • They have to ask other students to initial or sign a box that they can honestly say they do. Each person may only sign one box.
  • The goal is to have as many of the boxes signed or initialed within the allotted time.

Download PDF of the treasure hunt.

Process and Reflection:

  • Were any boxes hard to find someone to sign? Which words made the exercise difficult?
  • Would the responses be different if you completed this activity anonymously as part of a student survey? Why or why not?
  • How did it feel to be looking for squares to sign if your ‘favorite’ ones were already taken?
  • What does this activity have to say about your own character?
  • Why do you think it is highly unlikely to have all of the squares signed by someone else?
  • What would be other statements that could be included in the Moral Courage Treasure Hunt that would relate to the students in our school?
  • “I’m not so bad; other students are worse than me.” Give your reaction to this statement and describe what it has to say about character.



The Seven C’s of Character by Michael Josephson
As you consider your goals for the New Year, I hope you’ll think about working on your character. No, you’re not too old and I don’t mean to imply you’re a bad person. As I’ve said often, “You don’t have to be sick to get better.” In fact, it’s a lot easier to make a good person better than a bad person good. The struggle to be better takes place during our daily choices. People of exceptional character stand out from the crowd because they develop the wisdom and strength to know and do the right thing in the face of pressures and temptations to do otherwise.

There are seven core qualities I call the Seven Cs of character: conscience, compassion, consideration, confidence, control, courage, and competence.

  1. Your conscience is your moral compass. Take care of it. Use it. Trust it.
  2. Nurture, express, and demonstrate compassion by caring about, giving to, and helping whomever you can, whenever you can in all ways that you can.
  3. Be considerate. Always be aware of how your words and actions affect others so you can do more good and less harm.
  4. Approach every opportunity and challenge with the confidence that you are worthy enough and able enough to succeed. Never doubt your inner strength to overcome temptations, difficulties, and misfortunes with honor and dignity.
  5. Protect who you are and what you believe with courage. Master your fears and preserve your integrity by doing what you know is right even if costs more than you want to pay.
  6. Control the emotions, urges, and appetites that demean you, damage your name, or diminish your future.
  7. Continually build your competence, knowledge, skill, and ability to ethically and effectively solve problems.

Obedience Respected
More than a century ago the nobility of England, in their colorful finery, were on a foxhunt. They came to an area with a closed gate where a ragged youngster sat nearby.

“Open the gate, Lad,” said the leader of the hunt.

“No, this property belongs to my father, and he desires it left shut,” answered the boy.“Open the gate, lad. Do you know who I am?”

“No, sir.”

“I am the Duke of Wellington.”

“The Duke of Wellington, this nation’s hero, would not ask me to disobey my father.”

The riders of the hunt silently rode on.