Helping kids — and adults — take responsibility for their own characterTHOMAS LICKONA
To ensure continual growth in the moral life, we must first know ourselves. We gain this self-knowledge by regularly examining our behavior and reflecting on the kind of person we are and would like to be.
Here are four
ways we can challenge students — and ourselves — to strengthen our character.
Goal-setting and self-assessment are a necessary part of self-improvement. At Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter School (Franklin, Massachusetts), every student keeps a Character Record Book. At the end of the day, students take out these books and write responses to three questions regarding that week's virtue. If the virtue of the week were courtesy, the questions would be:
"Goal strips" can help us set specific goals we want to accomplish within a specific period of time. Michele Borba, author of Building Moral Intelligence, explains:
Cut a 3" x 12" colored paper strip for each goal. Fold the strip into three even sections. On the first section, boldly print the words I will. In the middle section print what you will do, and in the final section print when you will do it. Now set a goal using this will + what + when formula. For example: "I will clean my room in 45 minutes."Other examples: "I will get my homework done every night next week." "I will do my chores without being asked for three days in a row."
A San Diego teacher gives this assignment: "Find
newspaper or magazine articles about individuals who set and pursued a goal."
Students briefly share their articles with the whole class and then post them
on the bulletin board. "This activity," the teacher says, "convinces students
that goal-setting helps people succeed in life." During the following week, he
teaches students how to set their own goals — for his class, other subjects,
extracurricular activities, and life outside school.
History teacher Hal Urban, author of Life's Greatest Lessons, gave his high school students an assignment he called "100 Goals":
If we want to nurture young people's growth in character, we must also see ourselves as engaged in the same humble process of trying to become a better person. New research on adult development indicates that adults' character qualities are not static. Some adults become wiser, more patient, more giving over time; others become more selfish. The challenge for all of us, at every stage of life, is to stay on the moral journey, keeping in mind the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: "Character-building begins in infancy and continues until death."
Thomas Lickona. "Helping kids — and adults — take responsibility for their own character." from Character Matters: How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgment, Integrity, and Other Essential Virtues (Touchstone, 2004).
Reprinted with permission of Thomas Lickona.
Thomas Lickona is a developmental psychologist and professor of education at the State University of New York at Cortland. He is the author of Character Matters: How to Help Our Children Develop Good Judgment, Integrity, and Other Essential Virtues (Touchstone, 2004) and the Christopher Award-winning book Educating for Character (Bantam Books, 1992). He has also written Raising Good Children (Bantam Doubleday 1994) and co-authored Sex, Love and You (Ave Maria Press, March 2003). Thomas Lickona was instrumental in development of the Center for the Fourth and Fifth Rs. He is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.
Copyright © 2004 Thomas Lickona
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