From Dr. Gary Smit, CHARACTER COUNTS! national trainer

I can’t recall when it happened. But, somewhere along the way, someone must have started dosing me with the character education Kool-Aid, because I have come to realize that character is present in all that I do when teaching students or leading a school. Check it out. You’ll come to see that character is more than preaching values and hoping kids make good choices to put values into action.

My character lessons

  • I’m a work in progress and there will always be a gap between who I am and who I want to be.
  • I don’t have to be sick to get better and that every day brings opportunities to improve my life and my character.
  • Be mindful of core values even when my mind is full.
  • The school’s culture is shaped and developed over time by the actions and values of the principal, teachers and support staff in the school.
  • Professional Development should not be about a workshop, class, or conference. It’s a mindset.
  • Character is more important than competence.
  • People will evaluate my words by my deeds.
  • Character is the product of our values and choices, not only defining who we are, but will be a factor in determining our future.
  • It takes years to build up trust and only seconds to destroy it.
  • I often judge myself by my best intentions and most noble acts, but I’ll be judged by my worst act.
  • I can’t control what will happen to me but that I have a lot to say about what happens in me.
  • Your title, degree or background makes little difference unless students know that you care, respect them and believe in them.
  • Example has more followers than reason.
  • Attitudes, both good and bad, are contagious.
  • Educators are not only in the ‘TEACHING’ profession but in the ‘LIFE-CHANGING’ profession. Always remember that in all of your interactions.
  • The value of a leader is directly proportionate to a leader’s values.
  • It takes a conscientious effort to be kind, but that kindness changes lives.
  • The easiest way to eat crow is while it’s still warm. The colder it gets, the harder it is to swallow.
  • If you want milk, you have to do more than sit on a stool and hope a cow will walk up to you.
  • I know my goals and I intend to hold myself more accountable than anyone else.
  • The life you live is the life you teach.
  • Successfully teaching character does not come from what teachers do occasionally, but what they do consistently.
  • If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Even a dead fish swims downstream.
  • A great leader’s legacy is not in what they do, but what the people they serve do. 
  • Great teachers will teach more by who they are than by the academic content they teach. 
  • A successful class is not about having the right rules but about building right relationships.
  • What you allow, you encourage; what you permit, you promote.
  • Character is easier to keep than it is to recover.
  • The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority. 
  • Recognizing a problem is not solving it; saying it is not doing it.
  • Real success is being significant.


  • CHARACTER COUNTS! is so much more than just the Six Pillars of Character. What do you think this means? 
  • The lessons on character came from personal experiences that Dr. Smit has had working in schools or supporting teachers and principals in the implementation of CHARACTER COUNTS! Write 3 slogans or maxims of lessons that you have learned as a teacher related to character and values.
  • How can we put into practice these desired lessons of character in action at our school?
  • What would be a story of character at our school or one that you have observed that speaks to our school’s effort to intentionally and explicitly teach CHARACTER COUNTS!
  • Who has been your role model or mentor? In what way have they impacted you as a teacher?


Hear more from Gary on Twitter –  @GSmit4Character