In this blog, elementary school teacher and 1st year MA Character Education student, Rebecca Daniels, reflects on her experiences of character education and explains how she hopes her studies will help to benefit students, the school and the wider community. Rebecca has taught for 8 years at a small, pre-K through 12th grade school in Illinois.
What was your experience of character education prior to the MA Character Education?
I was introduced to the world of character education by a colleague who was an outside consultant for my school district during our summer school programs. Through these programs, we integrated remedial academic learning with social-emotional learning activities, focusing on students with behavior management issues. After this first introduction to character education, I eventually became involved in a pilot of a larger-scale program funded by the Kern Family Foundation called the Character Formation Project.
Our school was an ideal candidate for the pilot because we did not have an existing character program. Within the pilot, teachers at our school tested out a character education curriculum that was eventually developed and primarily implemented in parochial schools in Minnesota. The basis of this project is to use children’s literature to teach students about virtues and virtuous individuals in American history. Each lesson introduces classes to a single virtue, the teacher reads aloud the corresponding book, and the students discuss how the character in the book demonstrated the virtue and how this historic example relates to their own lives.
Why do you think that character education is important for your students, school and community?
The school I work in is situated in a poor, close-knit community and is responsible for meeting a wide range of needs for its students and their families. On top of academic learning, my school provides food, safety, culture, recreation, and enrichment for students. In such a significant role, my school should also be the pillar of virtue and I think that one way to achieve this is through teaching students about the virtues. In this way, students’ lives are improved, family life is improved, and the entire community benefits. I feel that now more than ever children need guidance on how to develop virtues that will enable them to adapt and thrive in these uncertain times.
Why did you apply to study on the MA Character Education?
With my experiences during the Character Formation Project pilot, I recognized the need to bring character education into my school and knew that I would most likely be the person to accomplish this. I also wanted to take my career in a new direction. Earlier in my career, I had no experience with character education and I received no training on it when I was an undergrad. I will admit that up until now, my pedagogy focused primarily on academics. I would say that an area of development that I still have is in dealing with social and emotional dilemmas that my students encounter. I am looking forward to the next modules in this MA, particularly Module 4 ‘Character Education Interventions in Schools and Organizations’. Through my continued participation in this program, I hope that I will learn practical ways to teach character in my classroom. I also want to become better at helping my students navigate conflict resolution, both with each other and within themselves.