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Friday, December 30, 2011

Simple Ways to Exemplify Good Character

Sometimes people fear technology because they say that we need more face-to-face time, more personal contact time, etc.   Kids need to learn how to interact with each other in both worlds.  Skills that you teach them, such as communication and collaboration, are equally important in the physical and the virtual classroom.  Creating a safe and caring environment through mutual respect is also the basis of any classroom.  But what does that look like?

The Caring Environment
Do you have to be a child psychologist and delve into their personal lives?   Do we need to take the time to teach character?   Do you have to share details of your personal life in order to prove yourself human?  The fact is that we are always teaching – as parents, as adults, as educators.  As Barry Schwartz points out in his TED talk on practical wisdom, “the camera is always on.”  We have to do more than recognize and address bullying; we have to embody good character.  What does that look like in the classroom?
I have had the opportunity to teach with all kinds of top-notch characters in my 33 years.  I love the diversity of style, personality, and instruction that each of us brings to the classroom.  When it comes to demonstrating and earning respect, one colleague stands out.  This person was passionate about American history.  She was tough and had very high standards. Many students were shocked to earn their first C ever in social studies.  There were never any discipline problems or behavior nonsense coming out of her class.  I remember there was always a line of concerned parents to see her at conference time.    What I also remember is that when there were former students in the building, they always wanted to go see her! 

What was her secret? 
Was she giving out candy?  How could she be so tough and yet command such high respect and admiration?  Why did they like her and her class so much?  Then I started to notice, she did the little things.  She greeted every one of her students by name at the door.  She knew their names on the second day of class.  She was passionate about her teaching.  She showed them that she cared:  she cared about them both as individuals and cared about their education. She made them feel that the 40 minutes she had with them was the most urgent 40 minutes of the day.  Her time and their time with her were very valuable.  Her enthusiasm and refusal to get sucked into nonsense that takes away from learning was catching.    Students rarely left her class, not because they were not allowed, but because she made them feel it was too important to miss.

What Can You Do?
I know that there was a lot more learning going on in that classroom than the objectives written on the board.   Could it be that simple?  Could these simple demonstrations of character, caring and a passion for what you are teaching make such a difference?  It sure seems like a good start.  What better way to begin a New Year?
cross posted on Technology Integration in Education


  1. Dear Sandra,

    Very nice post! I have the same feeling that we teach by what we are. Values, behaviors even the way we talk and dress teach something.

    I have a blog about these aspects. I also use lots of tecnology so my students feel good about that too.

    May I suggest something? Create a space among paragraphs, use list of topics to make more easy to read your post.

    I will be glad if you make any comments on my blog. Tom Daccord is a virtual friend that we may have in common.

    Happy New 2012.
    Vida em Sociedade

  2. I love your description of this teacher. Over the years, I've found that toughness combined with real caring is the best way to reach students and demonstrate that everyone and everything in the educational enterprise - the students, the teacher, the subject matter, the community - is important and deserves respect.

    1. Thanks for your comments, I agree that teachers have to strike a real balance of caring and high expectations. The teacher described has retired...a great loss to to our kids, but sharing her lessons keeps the learning going on to others!