CHARACTER EDUCATION ACROSS THE CURRICULUM
what the teacher should know...
WHAT PERSONAL QUALITIES ARE IMPORTANT IN A TEACHER?
Interestingly, a teacher's age, sex, appearance, dress, and professional background do not affect acceptance by the great majority of students. Young people seem to respond best to persons who are open, understand, and willing to listen. Tehy want to feel that what they have to say is important.
Students were amazingly consistent in describing the qualities they liked in the teaching staff of a program similar to Character Education.
Some of their comments follow:
The teacher's role as the group facilitator/participant is very important. You set the stage for the honesty, openness, caring, and sharing that needs to be a part of the class environment. A major part of the process is listening. Again, you model a good listener by being one. You should be listening for what they say and also listening for feelings; listening for things they are not saying. Regardless of the content or subject, your attitude toward them should, as much as possible, be one of acceptance. You need to develop the ability to accept every contribution a member makes without judging, without looking shocked, without looking overly pleased. Your acceptance conveys that they are O.K., that you like them as they are, even though their behavior needs correction.
At first, you may be too strict to too permissive, missing that the right balance of openness, acceptance, and strictness that will lead to meanignful discussions. But as you gain experience with this type of communication, and as you open yourself up for feedback and interaction, you will evolve into an effective group leader.
We can indicate at least five generalizations from what research is telling us about how perceptive teachers can be characterized.
Based on what research has told us about perceptive teachers, we can indicate tat least five general characteristics:
Remember that every time a student says something in your group, he/she is taking a risk. They risk that they will be accepted and not be laughed at or that what they hgave to say is, in fact, an important contribution.
The growth of each student and the group as a whole will come as they discover thy are able to risk safely.
before you begin...
Development of self-esteem, critical thinking skills, and consideration of life choices or values have all become high-priority educational issues in the minds of today's parents. This is nothing less than a reaffirmation of the American dream--real self-determination. Even the California Constitution reads: "All persons are by nature free and independent."
Historically, however, the American dream has often been materialistically defined in terms of "having" and "doing". But in a truer and more complete sense, autonomy or self-esteem is a way of "being"--being fully possessed of one's total self--the intellect, the emotions, and the body. This "wholistic" awareness and acceptance, coupled with thinking, valuing, and choosing skills and the tools that will enable the students in our schools to sort through the complexities of life, weather the storms of inconsistency and conflict, and to approach the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness with resiliency, flexibility, and conviction.
These concepts are fundamental in that the original intent and purpose of education was to prepare children for life--to ready them for responsible, productive, and fulfilling adulthood.
We can make it happen. We believe that already or we would have dropped out of the educational system by now. Very simply, these lessons are a prescription for a kind of interaction between teachers and their students that emphasizes sharing, acceptance, responsibility, and interdependence. The idea of affective education is that social and emotional growth don't "just happen". They are learned, and these lessons are a tool to encourage and support the learning.
The alternative, if we elect not to address ourselves to this issue, is not pretty. Lawrence S. Kubie states, "Therefore, that will-known average man who lacks self-knowledge in depth looks out upon the world through glasses which are discolored by the quality of his own unconscious self-image. Without self-knowledge in depth, we can have dreams, but no art. We can have the neurotic raw materials of literature, but no mature literature. We can have no adults, but only aging children who are armed with words and paint and clay and atomic weapons, none of which they understand."
The challenge lies before us. And if we are willing to risk, to be honest, to be open, to continue to care, we are equal to it.
how does affective education happen?
Affective education is a way of learning which differs in both methodology and content from traditional classroom techniques. In this approach, students are not passive recipients of information from a teacher or a programmed learning unit or test. The core is group interaction--discussions in which students share ideas, feelings and experiences. The teacher/facilitator/participants creates and maintains a safe atmosphere which allows for honest and open expression by all group members. Instead of supplying answers, the teacher is more likely to ask questions aimed at initiating introspection , response, and interaction among students.
This process requires that students adjust to new roles. They are asked to operate as a group, share and interact to a greater degree than they may do in a regular class. The aim is for increased ease in communication with others and a respect for the feelings of others. Because the group is often the vehicle for learning, students have much more control over their own education along with more responsibility for its success. Not only are students asked to take on different learning roles, but they also must become accustomed to a new subject matter--themselves. To a great extent, students, their perceptions, attitudes and experiences, are the content of affective education.
Affective education is not, by the way, playing psychologist... an invasion of privacy... tricking kids into being good... permissiveness in action... sensitivity training... this year's fad. Affective education, according to Canfield, is "people figuring out together what it means to be a human being and how to be a better one..."
HOW DO I BEGIN?
Discuss with the students that the time spent in the Character Education activities may often be different from a regular class. There are a few important rules to emphasize to your students.
Start with activities you feel comfortable with, and modify or adapt the activity to your class, content, or time needs. Make sure you are a participant as well as a leader. Usually the Instructions section of the Character Education lessons gives hints or ideas to the teacher, and the Lesson Capsule tells what instructions to give the students.
HOW WILL I KNOW HOW I'M DOING?
There are many ways to evaluate what is happening in your Character Education sessions. Even informal evaluation is important, and you will want to know how the sessions are going. Do your students enjoy them, and do they think they are learning from them?
You can conduct an evaluation session by discussing an evaluation topic, such as, "the best and worst thing about Character Education lessons," "something I learned from a session," or "what are Character Education lessons really all about."
Do an evaluation "whip" by throwing out a sentence stub like, "I liked the session when..." or "Discussions bob out when..."
Have students rank three or four activities from their favorite to their least favorite, and explain their choices. Every week or month, have them write an awareness statement about the activities, either privately or for sharing.
After a particular activity, ask several questions students can respond to by thumbs up or down. For example, "How many of you think you are more tolerant than you were two weeks ago?" "How many understand this activity?" How may thought you were good listeners during this activity?" "How many thought your small group members really listened to you?" "How many actually said stuff you really felt?"
Consider being a session by asking for volunteers to remember what they have done during the last several activities. After a general review, ask students to recall one thing another person said during previous sessions. Encourage them to say why they remember that particular thing.
When everybody has remembered something, ask for discussion on such questions as: "What do you like best and least about these activities? "What would you like to do more of?" "Why do you think we have these sessions?"
Finish by having students draw a "here-and-now face" about the process. A "here-and-now face" is simply a round face on a piece of scratch paper--add a smile, frown, or neutral mouth. Have students write one sentence explaining why they drew the face that way--they should be anonymous. Collect and evaluate.
Ask yourself the questions: "Do they seem to know why they do the activities? Do they take the activities seriously? Do they se you as being nonjudgmental?"
Most importantly, talk with your students about how things are going, and how you could make them go better.