Each year the elementary school asks the teachers at each grade level to comprise academic goals. Since the majority of our school day revolves around reading and math, our goals tend to focus on areas of improvement in reading fluency, comprehension and math application. These are very measurable goals that we can track throughout the year to follow the progress of our students. But each year we also form a committee to develop a school-wide goal in the area of character education. For the 2013-14 school year, this group decided that our character goal needed to revolve around the idea of improved social skills. The group developed the following goal for Central: Students will develop positive character traits and improve their social skills through weekly classroom meetings, guidance lessons and activities with positive peer and adult role modeling.
Each year we discuss the best method to accomplish this goal. We find activities that are appropriate for each grade level, making the content meaningful, and delivering information that the students might see or have to react to in real life situations. We accomplish many of these during our classroom meetings. Each week our classrooms meet and discuss the topics assigned to each month of the year. Each teacher adjusts the meeting topic to his/her grade level for the discussion. In the month of October, the students discussed our three guidelines for success that we stress at Central Elementary: Do Your Best, Be Safe and Be Respectful. We also tied Red Ribbon Week into our activities.
Red Ribbon Week is traditionally a week that schools use to discuss making positive choices about drugs and alcohol. In our case, we use it as a platform to discuss healthy and positive choices that make a difference in not only our lives, but also in the lives of our families, friends and community. During that week, we completed activities that promoted healthy choices and positive actions. Along with the class meetings, our students wore red to promote positive choices, the Nevada Park and Rec conducted activities during the recess hours to reinforce the idea of exercise and making healthy choices, the middle school student council handed out stickers reminding our students what a ‘kid of character’ looks like, and as a school, we held a food drive for the Nevada Community Cupboard. Many needed items were collected and will be distributed throughout the winter months. It was a wonderful way for our students to understand the impact they can make on their community.
Throughout the year we will turn our focus to the Six Pillars of Character. Each month will be dedicated to one of the pillars, with classroom discussions focused on a topic that is appropriate at their grade level. As the year progresses, take the time to talk to your children about the importance of being a kid of character. Talk about the importance of being respectful, playing fairly and being responsible for your actions. We have also implemented our Bigs and Littles program at Central. We have had a number of different high school and middle school classes come over and share their time and talents with our students. It is a great way for our ‘Littles" to learn from a group of students that they really look up to. It also allows the ‘Bigs’ from the high school to take on leadership roles and show the importance of being a good role model.
Even though there are no ‘tests’ at school on character, it is something that is being taught every day, and the lessons learned are ones that last a lifetime for your children.
(Joel T. Fey is assistant principal of Central Elementary.)