The Implementation Framework
2. Ethical Learning Community Formation
It is vital that this initiative have a strong leadership team comprised of all school community stakeholders. This group will form the core decision making team and will be the on-going channel for input and feedback from all stakeholders. Initially they would analyze and provide feedback to all stakeholders regarding the climate survey. They would be empowered to make decisions regarding the direction of the initiative. It is recommended that outside coaching and facilitation are provided to increase objectivity, support, and to establish the systems necessary for sustainability. The FFCD can provide support and guidance in selecting a facilitator for this process. Every reform effort requires commitment, practice, patience, consistent implementation, on-going feedback and timely rewards to be sustained and properly evaluated. It is vital that this occurs or this initiative will fall onto the scrap heap of other well-intended, here today, gone tomorrow reform efforts.
3. School Policy and Core Virtue Ethos
An ethos that defines what each school stands for is vital. It guides the daily decisions about many aspects of school life, including parental involvement, after school programs and hiring of staff. It needs buy-in from all stakeholders and can be a key lever in transforming the culture. It should be written with clarity and all stakeholders must be committed to it. It is likely that the ethical learning community leadership team would develop the initial draft and seek approval from all stakeholders. It must be continuously visited and used to drive daily activities. It should include basic universally accepted virtues that provide the foundation for academic achievement (e.g. perseverance, self discipline, responsibility) and other virtues that prepare one to be responsible citizens (e.g. respect for others, honesty, empathy). Writing the school policy/core virtue ethos is the easy step. Promulgating deep in the hearts and minds of those involved with living it everyday is the challenge.
4. Personal & Professional Development
School leaders must be catalysts that engage stakeholders to think and act in more interdependent ways. All stakeholders should be empowered and feel ownership for the results they are achieving. When a principal leads from a framework of interdependence, they share power with the whole staff, facilitate collaboration when appropriate, and reinforce that each stakeholder provides unique talents and is part of the whole. The principal is not the only leader in the school or the only one whose job it is to promote more interdependent ways of thinking and acting. Ultimately, it should fall on all members of the school whose individual actions, taken together, shape the school culture. The school’s culture in turn shapes everyone in it. Effective leaders understand and leverage this dynamic. Most outstanding leaders are not born with this ability. It requires on-going training, support, mentoring and reinforcement.
The FFCD is working to integrate this component of leadership development into a statewide Principals Leadership Development Academy.
“Changing a toxic school culture into a healthy school culture that inspires lifelong learning among students and adults is the greatest challenge of instructional leadership.” -Roland Barth, Harvard School of Education.
5. Parental Involvement/Home Support
Parents are the most important partners with schools in reinforcing the importance of academics and positive character development in their own children. However, parenting in the 21st century has evolved. Today many children don’t have the benefit of two parent households and some students don’t have much meaningful interaction with a parent. Economic pressure and workplace demands have forced some parents to take two jobs or work long hours. When combined with the increased influence of a toxic media and poor role models in sports, politics, entertainment and business, it should be no surprise that some of our youth are confused and in some cases quite lonely and starved for positive influences in their lives. For some youth, peers are the only place to turn for moral guidance. This can be dangerous for some who choose the
wrong peer group. If the school culture doesn’t intentionally focus on providing at least some guidance it can leave a young person with a huge gap in their moral development. The school culture is sometimes the only place young people can find guidance. Therefore it is vital that it be a culture in which children feel safe and cared for.
The FFCD can provide resources and guidance in selecting the necessary facilitation to involve all stakeholders in the process.
6. Student Voice
The connectedness students have for learning and their school can be impacted in a positive manner by increasing the authentic student voice that they experience in that school. Student voice is defined as the manner in which adults nurture, encourage and engage students to participate in appropriate decision-making regarding the educational process in their own school.
Engaging students in decision-making in the classroom and in determining school policy promotes responsibility, leadership and critical thinking. It is vital that students are part of the Ethical Learning Community and have a voice in shaping the culture of their school. Service-learning projects in classrooms provide an excellent vehicle for increasing student voice and are also an opportunity to practice the virtues that have been chosen by the school community.
Student voice work is premised on the following convictions:
·Young people have unique perspectives on learning, teaching, and schooling;
·Their insights warrant not only the attention but also the responses of adults;
·They should be afforded opportunities to actively shape their education.
“No curricular overhaul, no instructional innovation, no change in school organization, no toughening of standards, no rethinking of teacher training or compensation will succeed if students do not come to school interested in, and committed to learning.” Laurence Steinberg, Author
7. School-Wide Integration Plan
The question often arises: How do you teach character? The answer is you don’t teach character. Instead you provide opportunities within the existing curriculum and throughout the school day for students to reflect on the virtues each school community has chosen to focus on. The FFCD can provide effective examples as to how teachers might integrate reflection with core virtues in all subjects. However, modeling good character throughout the school day is more about a way of being. For a teacher it can be something simple such as welcoming each student by their first name at the door of the classroom every day. All educators and school staff who interact with students should simply “strive” to model the virtues reflected in the school mission statement and that have been chosen by the school community. It is a journey, and no adult should feel they need to be a perfect role model. Only that they readily admit that they are also on this journey to be the best they can be every day. This kind of honesty can have a transforming impact on the student-teacher relationship. It can impact all youth-adult relationships when comprehensively reinforced at home and throughout the community.
8. Coaching/On-Going Support
Someone once said that the only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper. Change requires commitment, encouragement, coaching, and practice. A change initiative requires that several individuals take on the role of coach to support and sustain this initiative. The Principal must make sure the school mission is the focus at all times. The Principal and Professional Ethical Learning Community must provide constant encouragement, reminders and sharing of ideas as to what’s working.
The FFCD can provide resources to connect the school leaders and staff with effective and professional development opportunities to support the initiative.
9. Assessment & Improvement plan
It is important for each school to determine how success will be measured. It helps when school staff holds each other accountable and that the measures are meaningful and important to all stakeholders. Periodic measurement on progress with feedback on all results is essential in sustaining this initiative. Opportunities for celebration of successes along with sharing of ideas as to how approaches can be improved upon should be built into the plan. The FFCD can provide resources for facilitating effective evaluation and development for a sustainable improvement plan.
The FFCD has found that successful character education initiatives require: careful planning, strong stakeholder partnership, a collaborative team effort and sustained resources (financial and volunteer time).
It is expected that this initiative will need the commitment by all involved over a 3-4 year period before significant outcomes are achieved. Therefore it requires leadership, patience and commitment from all stakeholders. We are committed to providing the best coaching and facilitation of this process to ensure success.
The Foundation for Character Development
Inspiring Academic Achievement and Responsible Citizenship
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Successful character education initiatives are based on a strong implementation framework. However, there is much room for customization in how the initiative will look in each school. It is best for each school to reach a consensus as to what virtues to emphasis and how those virtues will be integrated into each classroom and throughout the school.
The key elements of a framework that have been most often associated with successful character education initiatives are:
1. Climate Assessment Survey & Climate Analysis
Studies have shown that when a school is viewed as a caring and trusting community more learning takes place. In “Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement”, Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider (2002) make the case, empirically, that the top academically performing schools also score high on a measure they call relational trust. This concept relates to how well each key stakeholder in a school community (students, parents, teachers, school staff and administration) believes that members of the other groups are fulfilling their role obligations. Therefore it is vital to assess at what level trust exists between various stakeholders in the school community.
Analysis of that assessment survey can provide a snapshot as to what is healthy and less healthy regarding the daily interactions, rituals and practices that impact school culture. It can also illuminate the level of shared vision, and relational trust that exists throughout the school community. The analysis of the climate assessment is enhanced if the survey is given simultaneously to various stakeholders. The FFCD has compiled many excellent climate assessment instruments that can be tailored to fit each schools needs.
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