Here is a list of some key values that should be taught for a Sound Character Education:
– Perseverance / Being willing to work hard
Since it can be overwhelming to attempt to teach all these values at once, a teacher should start by focusing on a single value for a month for a for a Sound Character Education.
Besides setting a good personal example of putting the value in question into practice, there are many teaching tools that teachers can and should use in order to help children better understand the value in question. Values for a Sound Character Education can be taught via:
– Short, clear explanations
– Reading relevant books
– PowerPoint presentations brought down to a child’s level
– Question and answer sessions
– Discussion time
All children enjoy stories. Stories can be imparted via book or video and they can and should be used to help children learn the importance of any given moral value. Stories are not just entertaining; they give children a role model to look up to and follow. A teacher who wants children to learn the value of perseverance, for instance, may want to teach children about Thomas Edison, who tried over 2,000 ways in which to make a light bulb before finally succeeding. Learning about the life of Florence Nightingale or Mother Theresa can help children learn compassion and tolerance. Fiction story book characters can also make good role models, especially for younger children.
Younger children are sure to enjoy coloring and activity pages that relate to the value in question. Older children can be asked to write an essay on the topic in question. Better yet, have children read a book in which the main character exhibits the value in question and then ask the child to explain why he or she thought this value was important, how it affected the outcome of the story, etc. Discussing such points in class is also a good idea.
Younger children will usually accept what a teacher has to say at face value. However, older children are likely to contradict the values that a teacher may be trying to impart. Be prepared for this and do not be surprised when a child asks why any given value is even worthwhile. Most importantly, do not get upset at the youngster who is asking the question. While a teacher does have the authority to silence a child, it is important for a child who is questioning basic moral values to get his or her questions out in the open and receive answered. Otherwise, a child will not truly accept what the teacher has to say and is certain to make negative comments behind the teacher’s back. The goal of a moral values course, after all, is to make children want to exhibit the values in question, not just to repeat what the teacher wants to hear.
It is also important to help older children understand that the rewards for having a sound moral character cannot only be measured in dollars and cents. Unfortunately, in today’s world, many people successfully amass fortune and power through less than ethical means while those who have a strong moral character may not be as successful or wealthy as they would like. When confronted with situations such as these, it helps to explain to children the long term consequences of their behavior. Instant gratification can be gratifying indeed, but it does have serious and highly unpleasant consequences. For instance, a child who bullies other children will temporarily feels a sense of power over others but is unlikely to make real friends and will end up sad and alone. Those who steal will get caught sooner or later and end up in jail. Children who cheat on an exam or are dishonest about their homework are only hurting themselves, as they will not learn what they need to learn to be successful in life.
Finding the Resources for a Sound Character Education
Finding the resources to teach moral values to children can be difficult, especially if a school is not willing to purchase the needed materials. Thankfully, there are some free resources available online. Public libraries have excellent books that teachers can read to the class and there are a numerous good videos and even movies available on YouTube and similar sites.
Aesop’s Fables are timeless classics that teach children many important moral values. Read a fable to the class and ask them to explain what the moral of the story is and how the story might apply to their day to day life. In fact, the more discussion there is about the story, the better. You can then give out a coloring page, ask the children to write something about the story or give some other similar work for children to do. Try to also find games that can go along with the story whenever possible. An alternative to reading the story would be to show a video clip of the fable in question; there are many such clips freely available online and help to bring the story to life.
This site has some great short stories that help to impart moral values. Read through the stories beforehand and choose the ones that you feel would be best for your class. This site has some short yet catchy presentations about various moral values listed above that help children better understand any given virtue and there are also some relevant stories on various values provided on the site as well, along with coloring pages that can be used for younger children. While some of this material is Christian, it can easily be adapted for a public school setting.
A Sound Character Education
The best advice for teachers who want to impart moral values to children is to be a sample of what they teach. Richard Weissbourd, the director of the Human Development and Psychology Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of The Parents We Mean to Be: How Well-Intention ed Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development (Houghton Mifflin, 2009), recently noted:
“How do schools cultivate a moral identity in children? At the heart of the matter is closing the rhetoric/reality gap. …Children have a razor-sharp alertness to hypocrisy, and trumpeting values can backfire when children are regularly confronted with gaps between these values and the realities of their school lives. …not uncommonly adults in hallways ignore children repeatedly saying “that’s so gay” and “no homo,” boys make lewd comments to girls, or some students are openly ostracized. Researchers’ videotapes even show some teachers ignoring serious forms of bullying.”
With Character Education, Teachers who set a good moral example for their students are off to an excellent start, as students will then respect what teachers have to say in the classroom. Teachers can then start to impart moral values of a Sound Character Education to the students using the tips outlined above.
There are sure to be ups and downs as a teacher starts teaching children values such as respect, the value of hard work and consideration for others. In fact, there may even be times when a teacher may say or do something that is contrary to what is being taught; when this happens, a teacher will need to apologize to the class and once again reiterate the right form of behaviour. However, a teacher who makes the effort to impart moral values to his or her class will see a positive change in the classroom. Gradually, children will learn not only to behave properly but also learn why good behaviour is so important. Better yet, the children will gain a desire to do the right thing even when a teacher or parent is not around. This is in fact the end goal of any moral values course and what makes a teacher’s hard work and effort worthwhile.
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