Just as all children do not come to school with the same background knowledge and foundations for reading, children do not come to school with the same upbringing and values. As educators, we must provide foundations in all content areas, as well as character education. We must decide what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in our classrooms and expect students to follow it.
Character Education in the Classroom
Asking students to be respectful and responsible can be the desirable behavior you want but without modeling and sharing with students what that means, they may not know. Just as you would explicitly teach a lesson in writing, you need to explicitly teach the behaviors you desire.
At the beginning of the school year, allow your students to help set the rules, or as I like to call them, the RESPONSIBILITIES. Model, demonstrate, and practice what those responsibilities look like and do not look like. Show students what respect looks like and sounds like by being respectful to your students. Address students in a respectful manner. At our school we eat breakfast in the classroom. Instead of asking who is or isn’t eating, I address each individual student by stating, “Good morning, _________.” The student responds, “Good morning Mrs. Remick, yes I am (or no I am not) eating. Each student is acknowledged and mutual respect is demonstrated.
Just as a greeter greets you when you walk into Wal-Mart, you can greet your students as they come into the classroom. Not only is it a sign of respect but it also builds relationships with your students.
Teamwork, trustworthiness, fairness, and citizenship cannot be expected if your students do not know what they mean. Allow opportunities for students to work as a team. Use Kagan strategies that promote teamwork and cooperation. There are many great activities that encourage students to demonstrate trust and fairness. Remember that if you want students to demonstrate these qualities then you MUST model it yourself. Those rules/responsibilities that you set at the beginning of the year must be enforced for ALL students for them to trust you and see you as being fair. You can encourage students to be good citizens by first letting them know what it means to be good citizens. Give examples of how a student can be a good citizen. Share with students what you do to be a good citizen in the school and in the community. Try to find a project that is appropriate that you and your students can participate in together to build citizenship and that promotes community service.
Children are not born with manners just as they are not born knowing what is right or wrong. It is the responsibility of influential people in their lives to teach them how to be respectful and responsible citizens that are can work with others, be trusted, are fair and are kind. Teach students the Golden Rule and treat others the way you want to be treated!
About the Author
Diana Remick is a mother of three and 2nd grade teacher to many. She resides in La Junta, Colorado. Both her and her husband teach at La Junta Primary School. Mrs. Remick has been an elementary educator for 18 years. She earned both her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and her Master’s degree in Reading and Linguistically Diverse Education from Adams State College.