Character-Building in Catholic Schools: What Works



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Character-Building in Catholic Schools: What Works

  • Dr. Thomas Lickona
  • Center for the 4th & 5th Rs
  • www.cortland.edu/character

GOALS OF THE WORKSHOP

  • Have fun.
  • Learn the 12-point comprehensive approach to character-building—and practical strategies you can use.
  • Be an ethical learning community.

What is character education?

  • The deliberate effort
  • to develop moral and performance virtues
  • through every phase of school and classroom life.

Every moment is a character moment.

Component #2

  • An ethical learning community

Class Handshake

  • Shake hands with (hug if you prefer)—and warmly greet—6 people.

Hand signal for quiet

  • Hand signal for quiet

THE DAILY FOUR

  • Share good news (with a partner; 1 min each).
  • Tell about someone or something you’re grateful for (new partner; 1 min. each).
  • Affirm someone in the class.
  • Make us laugh. (Joke must be clean.)
  • —Hal Urban, Lessons from the Classroom: 20 Things Good Teachers Do (www.halurban.com)

“Just Do It!” Action Ideas List

Component #1

  • The teacher as:
  • caregiver (building bonds)
  • model
  • mentor (moral and spiritual guide/coach)

CLASS INTERVIEW (Day 1) (Kim McConnell, 6th-grade teacher)

  • “You may ask me questions about my life as a teacher or my life outside of school.
  • 2. “Please take notes on my answers.”
  • 3. “Your first homework assignment is to write a one-page Biography of Mrs. McConnell.”
  • 4. “Read it to an adult in your family and turn it in tomorrow.”
  • 2nd assignment: Interview another adult in the school.

What is good character?

BIG IDEA Students need PERFORMANCE VIRTUES to become smart and do their best work. They need MORAL VIRTUES to become good and behave ethically.

  • Performance Virtues
  • Best effort
  • Commitment to improvement
  • Work ethic
  • Determination
  • Confidence
  • Initiative
  • Creativity
  • Moral/Ethical Virtues
  • Respect
  • Honesty
  • Love
  • Justice
  • Self-control
  • Humility
  • Moral courage

Smart & Good High Schools

  • The concept of the 2 sides of character—performance character and moral character—emerged from our 2-year study of award-winning high schools:
  • Smart & Good High Schools
  • www.cortland.edu/character
  • The big ideas and strategies of the report have since been adapted K-12.

What are virtues?

  • Objectively good human qualities:
  • Good for the individual person—necessary for human happiness
  • Good for the whole society—necessary for people to live and work together.

Virtues are not mere thoughts but habits we develop by performing virtuous actions.

  • Virtues are not mere thoughts but habits we develop by performing virtuous actions.
  • —Aristotle

The Necessity of Practice

  • We becoming virtuous by repeatedly acting in good ways until it becomes natural and even easy to do so—and unnatural to do the opposite.

Children develop character by what they see, what they hear, and what they are repeatedly led to do.

  • Children develop character by what they see, what they hear, and what they are repeatedly led to do.
  • Directed practice is the most important part.
  • —James Stenson, Compass: A Handbook of Parent Leadership

Repetition Matters

  • Coach Phil Caruso, to his championship team: “What I’m most proud of was that we went the entire season without a thrown bat, a thrown helmet, or a profanity outside the dugout.”
  • __________
  • “That didn’t happen because I said once at the start of the season, “No thrown bats, no thrown helmets . . . ” I said it before every game. I congratulated them at the end of every game.
  • “If you want something to be important to kids, you need to repeat it over and over.”

What influences character?

  • Family
  • School
  • Church
  • Community/Society/Media
  • Personal choices made by young people themselves.

Where Does the Faith Come in?

The 3 Goals of Life

  • salvation—our own and others’
  • service—using our God-given talents to build God’s kingdom on earth
  • sanctity—growing in holiness.
  • Jesus: “Be thou made perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
  • St. Gregory: “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.”

A Christian view: The human person is weakened by original sin and personal sin. Therefore leading a life of virtue is a struggle. But because we are redeemed by Christ, grace (God’s life in us) is available to help us.

  • A Christian view: The human person is weakened by original sin and personal sin. Therefore leading a life of virtue is a struggle. But because we are redeemed by Christ, grace (God’s life in us) is available to help us.
  • The journey of a Christian is one of being gradually “transformed in Christ” (von Hildebrand 1948). St. Gregory (335-395 AD):“The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.” Jesus: “Be thou made perfect.”
  • This process of transformation begins in Baptism through the Holy Spirit. It is meant to continue throughout our lives. As we die to self and become transformed in Christ, we become increasingly capable of self-giving and sacrificial love—Christ-like love.


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