Teach Respect: Thats My Kid! (The 3 Rs of Parenting)
When I visited her classroom, a list of classroom rules written in large letters was posted in the front. Encouraging Moral Reflection. This strategy focuses on developing the several qualities that make up the cognitive side of character: being morally aware, understanding objectively worthwhile moral values, being able to take the perspective of others, being able to reason morally, and being able to make thoughtful moral self-knowledge, including the capacity for self-criticism.
Bringing this knowing side of character to maturity is one of the most difficult challenges of character education. It requires clear ethical thinking by the teacher as well as a sophisticated set of teaching skills.
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- Teaching respect and responsibility.
Teachers can foster moral reflection through reading, research, essay writing, journal keeping, discussion, and debate. Both teams use background information supplied by the teacher. In the course of the week, each team must do a position switch and argue for the position it originally opposed.
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Finally, the four group members synthesize what they see as the best information and reasoning from both sides into a consensus solution and write and submit a group report. Following that, each student takes an individual test that holds everyone accountable for learning the information and arguments on both sides of the issue. Ten years of research on the academic controversy process finds that students gain in their perspective-taking abilities and demonstrate greater mastery of the subject matter than is true with either debate or individualistic learning formats.
Teaching Conflict Resolution.
Teaching students how to resolve conflicts without force or intimidation is a vitally important part of character education for two reasons: Conflicts not settled fairly will prevent or erode a moral community in the classroom; and without conflict resolution skills, students will be morally handicapped in their interpersonal relationships now and later in life, and they may end up contributing to violence in school and society There are a great many ways to teach conflict resolution skills in the classroom.
When two children have a conflict, she stops the action and uses it as a teachable moment. She invites two other children not the ones involved in the dispute to come to the front of the class to role play a positive solution to the conflict.
She then asks the whole class for their suggestions. Finally, the two children who were involved in the conflict are invited to act out a positive solution that draws on what they have just seen and heard. When one child has hurt another, Skinner teaches a reconciliation ritual. These behavior patterns have the best chance of becoming part of a child's character when they are learned early and practiced often. Effective training is still possible at the adolescent level, where the stakes are even higher because conflicts more easily explode into deadly violence.
Example: Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Smith, a Harvard professor and physician, has developed a week mini-course that teaches teenagers what causes violent conflict and how to avoid it. Schoolwide Strategies for Character Education The preceding examples demonstrate that it is clearly possible for the individual teacher acting within the classroom to foster good character.
But teachers feel more secure, and their efforts are greatly enhanced, if the whole school — and ideally the community as well — is working to promulgate, model, teach, celebrate, and enforce high standards of respect and responsibility. A comprehensive approach therefore calls upon schools to implement three schoolwide strategies.
Creating a positive moral culture in the school. This involves developing a total moral environment or schoolwide ethos through the leadership of the principal, schoolwide discipline, a schoolwide sense of community, meaningful student government, a respectful and cooperative moral community among adults, and the use of time at all levels to discuss moral concerns that supports the values taught in classrooms. Fostering caring beyond the classroom.
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This means using positive role models to inspire altruistic behavior and providing opportunities at every grade level to perform acts of school and community service. Recruiting parents and the community as partners in character education. School staff need to let parents know that the school considers them their child's first and most important moral teachers.
The staff should give parents specific ways they can support the values the school is trying to teach and should seek the help of the community including churches, businesses, local government, and the media in promoting respect and responsibility. Let me offer four examples of character education success stories that illustrate these schoolwide strategies. Several years ago, Winkelman Elementary School, which serves a diverse community north of Chicago some children are from welfare families, others come to school in limousines , found itself increasingly unhappy with student attitudes and behavior.
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Fights and put-downs among children were common. To address this problem effectively, Winkelman's principal and faculty decided they needed a schoolwide approach. The moral environment at Winkelman steadily improved. When I visited the school, parents said fights are now very rare; children said that if you forgot your lunch, you could always count on somebody to give you some of theirs; and a veteran teacher who had taught in several other schools said that Winkelman was recognized in a Chicago-area competition for excellence in both academic achievement and character development.
A Middle-School Success Story. She commented: Ninety percent of our students come from single-parent homes.
When I arrived as principal, parents and the community felt they were losing the children. We met — administration, faculty, and parents — for a full year to prioritize our goals.
Teaching respect and responsibility
We decided we needed a long-range plan. Each year would have a special theme. Year 1 of the new effort focused on planning the objectives and strategies of the new character education program. Year 3 focused on conflict-resolution training. Year 4's theme was community service. We also set high expectations for our parents. Our parents must come to school for Back to School Night and for teacher-parent conferences during the year. Jefferson Junior High School now has a waiting list of to students.
It has won two U. Department of Education awards. In the city of Washington, it has been recognized for having the highest student academic achievement, the greatest academic improvement, and the highest attendance rate its attendance rate used to be one of the worst. There have been no student pregnancies during the past 5 years. The No Put-downs Project. The No Put-downs Project, based in Syracuse, New York, is a response to rising school violence and racial and ethnic intolerance.
It has three goals:. To create a school and home environment that recognizes the destructive effects of put-downs;. This 5-week curriculum developed by classroom teachers uses videos, posters, contests, role playing, and other activities to achieve these goals. The curriculum is reinforced throughout the school year.
Twenty-five elementary and middle schools in central New York are now implementing the No Put-downs Project. Several have already reported that discipline referrals and student fights are down for the first time in many years. Participatory School Democracy. Another schoolwide character development strategy, greatly underused, challenges students to help govern the life of their school. One of my favorite examples of this strategy comes from a school action project carried out by teacher Mary Ann Taylor when she took my graduate course, Teaching Moral Values.
With some trepidation, she tackled the problem of her school cafeteria. Taylor set up a Cafeteria Council with elected student delegates from each classroom. At every grade level, classes held discussions: What are the characteristics of an ideal cafeteria? What should these rules be for cafeteria manners? Delegates carried their classrooms' views into the Cafeteria Council's weekly meetings, where they discussed these ideas with Taylor and the school's principal and shaped them into action proposals.
The Council also conducted a survey of all students, staff, and parents on how to improve the cafeteria. There were many positive outcomes: Student cafeteria behavior improved greatly; students were enthusiastic about improvements in the cafeteria; parent feedback was positive; a recycling project was begun; and, most important, the school decided to keep its new delegate system of democratic student government as a way to deal with other problems in the school environment.
Similar student government efforts have been carried out at the high school level to bring students into a larger role of responsibility for solving school problems. In the process, students are provided with the kind of opportunities for real-life moral action that develop the action side of character.