Free "Star Student" Good Character Awards August 26 2009
Here's a free template for you to print out and use for "Star Student" Character Awards.
Good Character at the Heart of Every Lesson
When I taught 2nd grade, I spent time teaching my students about good character. Doing this helped with classroom management, but it also fulfilled deeper purposes. Children feel safe in an environment that encourages good character. In this environment they are better able to focus on their studies.
We are teaching children how to relate to the world. We want our children to remember what they were taught in school about academics, but we also want them to remember what's really important... How we treat other people and ourselves. What good is a scientist, doctor, mathematician or car mechanic who uses his knowledge to create pain or heartache? We want our children to use the knowledge we are giving them to make a positive difference in the world.
This needs to be at the heart of every, single lesson we deliver on a daily basis. We need to integrate this philosophy into the way we teach through the words we say and our body language every day.
Learning from What the Teacher Does
We, teachers, must be the leaders in this lesson. It's obvious that the world expects this of us and it's rightly so. Teachers are seen almost as saints and we have an extreme pressure to be almost perfect. At least when it comes to doing "the right thing". I mean really, haven't you walked down the street kissing your significant other while wondering whose little eyes were watching you? I think we've all felt this way at one time or another.
Being a teacher keeps us on our toes and might make us think twice before using certain types of language or acting in an inappropriate way that adults in other types of professions may find to be perfectly acceptable... as long as their child's teacher doesn't do it. As teachers, we can teach children that all people can have this high expectation for good character, not just people like teachers, nuns or saints.
Why We Need to Teach Good Character
Why is good character so important? Why even bother to teach it? After all, the students are there to learn about academics, right? We need to teach our children about good character and this is why...
Like I mentioned in the free "Star Students" Bulletin Board article,
Knowledge without good character can be dangerous.
Knowledge without healthy self-esteem can be wasted.
Wisdom evolves from healthy self-esteem, good character and knowledge.
In our classrooms, we can make a positive difference in the character and self-esteem development in our children. This in turn, will make a positive difference in the world. We can incorporate these valuable, life-long lessons into our classroom routine.
Every morning, during circle time, we must remember that we are looking into the eyes of the future. It's at this moment that we can talk about good character.
Here's a flexible schedule you can use to have a character trait of study each month.
August - Trustworthiness
September - Kindness & Fairness
October - Sharing
November - Citizenship
December - Respect & Gentleness
January - Responsibility & Self-Control
February - Loving & Caring
March - Loyalty
April - Honesty
May - Joyfulness & Peacefulness
June - Courage
On the first day of each month. you may choose to discuss the character trait during circle time. Every month, I gave out good character awards. I paid close attention throughout the month and made a note of the day and details of the situation.
For example, "On the first day of school I noticed that Kay found a dollar bill that did not belong to her under her desk. She brought the dollar bill to me and Crystal was so happy because that was her lunch money! This shows that Kay was being trustworthy."
Throughout the year, every student won a good character award. It did take time to take note of each student and the good character displayed, but it was worth it. Multiple awards can be given each month, when appropriate. For example, in May one student may earn a "Joyfullness" award and another may earn a "Peacefulness" award.
We want the children to learn to exhibit good character without being watched, or because they want a good character award. We want the children to really want to do the right thing, because it's the right thing to do. We need to help this internal compass work properly by giving them direction when it comes to good character. This will increase their self-esteem, because inside their hearts they will know that they showed good character.
Having good character isn't the only ingredient for healthy self-esteem, but it's in the mix. We also need to build up our childrens' self confidence in the words we say and in our body language. We need to defend children who are being mistreated by their peers by addressing the issue at hand, rather than glossing over it and going on to the academic matter of study.
So, when a child laughs when another child is having trouble reading a word, we need to look at the child laughing and say, "That is not okay. How would you like it if someone laughed at you?" Glossing it over and moving on to a transition does not create a classroom environment that feels safe for children. In turn, it's likely that students will have trouble focusing on studies and may even carry some of the hurt in the classroom into their adult lives.
Quotes About Character
In closing, here are a few quotes about character worth reading and reflecting on.
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." -Helen Keller, American Blind & Deaf Writer/Lecturer
"Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.:
"I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me." -Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States
"What a man's mind can create, man's character can control." -Thomas Edison, Inventor