The Science of Character
Character education is just as important to education as reading, math and science.”
– Maria Montessori
Most educators entered the profession with the belief that the development of the whole child is an essential obligation of schools. But, we are living in an era of standardized testing where ‘core content’ is king and holistic approaches to education take a back seat to academic performance. This singular focus on testing adds to increased levels of anxiety, stress, and disengagement. It is time to stop ignoring the affective and social needs of the children we serve .
Character development can be easily incorporated into your curriculum with the following mini-lessons designed to spark thoughtful reflection and discussion. Use these as class openers to inspire confidence, increase academic achievement, and help students understand that problems and challenges are part of the learning process. Persisting through challenges and becoming “growth oriented” are skills that need to be developed along with understanding and respecting the needs of others.
The mini-lessons that follow are designed to fit within CASEL’s Five Competence Domains:
- Self-Awareness involves understanding one’s emotions, personal goals, and values. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations, having positive mindsets, and possessing a well-grounded sense of self-efficacy and optimism. High levels of self-awareness require the ability to recognize how thoughts, feelings, and actions are interconnected.
- Self-Management requires skills and attitudes that facilitate the ability to regulate emotions and behaviors. This includes the ability to delay gratification, manage stress, control impulses, and persevere through challenges in order to achieve personal and educational goals.
- Social-Awareness involves the ability to take the perspective of those with different backgrounds or cultures and to empathize and feel compassion. It also involves understanding social norms for behavior and recognizing family, school, and community resources and supports.
- Relationship Skills provide children with the tools they need to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships, and to act in accordance with social norms. Competence in this domain involves communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking help when needed.
- Responsible Decision Making is a competency domain that requires the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse settings. Competence in this domain requires the ability to consider ethical standards, safety concerns, accurate behavioral norms for risky behaviors, to make realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and to take the health and well-being of self and others into consideration.