Teachers, stop wishing your character education lesson plans were powerfully effective, and actually make them powerfully effective!
Character education entered your curriculum without YOUR vote! Right?
YOU consider character education a boring add-on to the curriculum!
Don’t worry. Many teachers view character education as just one more new task. Character education isn’t new, of course. It’s nearly “as old as dirt!” Aristotle and Plato taught, 2400 years ago, that the main purpose of education was to produce citizens who would consistently exercise high moral values.
The Main Purpose of Education:
They were right! Character education is the main purpose of all that you do as a teacher. Fail in that, and you are a liability to society, not an asset.
- If, for example, you subtract character education from Mathematics class, you may produce mathematical experts, but they may use their skills to commit financial fraud. You will have failed in your main purpose – producing good citizens.
- Remove character education from Science class, and you may produce crack scientists, but they may willfully bend scientific evidence for personal gain. You will have failed in your main purpose – producing good citizens.
Character education is the main purpose of education. Your character education lesson plans and character education activities are vital elements in character education. You know that, but you wish you could make them more powerful. You wish you could make them more effective.
Powerful Character Education Secrets
How do you stop wishing your character education lesson plans were powerfully effective, and actually make them powerfully effective?
Let me share three secrets I learned during more than 40 years as a teacher and principal. Your character education lesson plans will bring astounding results if you apply all three.
1. Absolute Values, Absolute Results.
Why did we place those words in the header of our website? We wanted a reminder that we must base all character education on absolute values. We must root all character traits that we teach in absolute, not relative values. What does that mean?
Imagine that you are shopping for a new home. The realtor shows you a large, newly built house. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she asks. “So modern; so open! Look at the granite and stainless steel in the kitchen! Can’t you just see yourself entertaining here? It’s a bargain at the price they’re asking!”
Your mind responds silently: “Isn’t it ugly? So pretentious; so snobbish; so sterile! The granite and stainless steel make the kitchen look commercial. I can’t imagine entertaining in such an unfriendly environment. The price they’re asking is highway robbery!”
Houses have relative value. Because we differ in our opinions on what makes a house a home, the house’s value changes from one person to the next. If a house’s value were absolute, it would never change. It would be the same for everyone.
Character traits are absolutes. They do not change from one person to the next. The quality of honesty is the same for Sean as it is for Celine. Responsibility means the same for me as it does for you.
Character education lesson plans and character education activities must maintain absolute values throughout. Only then will they be powerfully effective.
2. Character Education Stories for Every Age.
It’s probably safe to say that, at some point in your personal education, you learned the value of stories. You probably read some of the stories that ancient Greek philosophers and other great teachers used to convey knowledge. Most, if not all, of the world’s great teachers taught with stories. It doesn’t matter whether listeners are children, teenagers, or adults. Stories are the most prized teaching tool we have!
Character education teachers need to make full use of stories to teach character traits. If your character education lesson plan focuses on responsibility, tie it to a story. Use Cubby Bear’s Big Responsibility for 3-8-year-olds; Lost on Superstition Mountain for 9-11-year-olds; and Date with Responsibility for teenagers.
Stories get us emotionally involved with what we’re learning, and emotional involvement helps us remember. That’s why public speakers so often weave stories into their lectures!
When character education lesson plans rest on intriguing stories, they capture the attention, drive the lesson home, and file it in the memory for years.
You must base character education on purpose-written stories if your effort is to be powerfully effective.
3. Character Education Activities for Total Immersion.
When I went to teach in Japan, I studied the Japanese language in a traditional language school. It was a plodding approach to language study, and I longed to study in a total immersion program.
What was that? A total immersion program was a study method that linked Japanese speaker and student for 80% of every day. The Japanese speaker didn’t speak the student’s language, but they did everything together. Japanese filled the student’s ears. Japanese surrounded the student. The native speaker totally immersed the student in Japanese, forcing him or her to learn it as a child learns the mother tongue.
That’s what your character education activities should do for students. They should immerse students in the character traits they are studying. Your character education activities should dip students into responsibility, plunge them down into responsibility, and submerge them in responsibility. Students should meet responsibility in every class, every day. Character education activities should surround them, in every class, with responsibility – or with other character traits you are studying.
Character education activities for teenagers, too? Certainly! Character education activities that are age-appropriate help teenagers continue to focus on character traits after the lesson ends. They reinforce learning that took place and encourage further learning. Use character education activities that challenge students, not simply keep them busy. Involving teenagers in yet another round of role-playing is apt to be counter-productive if that is the only activity you ever use. Get creative. My high school students themselves created some of the best activities we used. Given free reign, they cooperated to produce, for example, a beautiful, detailed classroom door that illustrated citizenship perfectly.
You must totally immerse students in strong character education activities if your teaching is to become powerfully effective.
Want to stop wishing your character education lesson plans were powerfully effective, and actually make them powerfully effective? Apply the three secrets above and you will do just that.