Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Building Character

Both readings caused me to reflect on the importance of character education in the 21st Century – something I'm pleased we'll be doing more of at the Lower School this year.  Howard Gardner's quote in the opening pages of Educating for Global Competence stood out as particularly noteworthy: "What is needed more than ever is a laser-like focus on the kinds of human beings that we are raising and the kinds of societies – indeed, in a global era, the kind of world society – that we are fashioning.  [We] … have been studying what makes good persons, good workers, and good citizens, and … in recent years we have sought to go beyond study and nurture these positive qualities in young people."  Reimers also addresses the importance of developing the "attitudinal and ethical dispositions that make it possible to interact peacefully, respectfully, and productively with fellow human beings from diverse geographies." 

An awareness of others – and the ability to collaborate effectively with people from different backgrounds and perspectives – will indeed be a vital skill for the leaders of the future.  In order to educate for global competence, we must equip students with the capacity for positive and productive social interaction.  I agree with the idea that there will be profound "ripple effects" as educators become increasingly mindful of forming these global citizens – individuals who show respect, compassion, and care for all people. 

My third grade students did several collaborative group projects this year in a variety of content areas.  Prior to each project, I asked students to complete a short survey and to indicate (privately) with whom they would like to work.  While reviewing the surveys in order to assign groups, I noticed a trend.  The children who emerged as the most "in-demand" partners were not those who demonstrated the strongest traditional academic competencies; rather, they were the children who consistently demonstrated kindness, who willingly made compromises, and who approached problem solving with creativity, enthusiasm, and resilience.  As we work to help all students develop these skills – so as to become "in-demand" partners and team members in their future careers – we must consider the ways in which we embed character education into content instruction.

In his commencement speech at Dartmouth College (my alma mater), Conan O'Brien shared what has since become my favorite quotation: "If you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen."  I firmly believe that, as we instill strong core values in our students – staying true to our school mission statement – amazing things will happen on a global scale through the efforts of BB&N graduates.

Maura Pritchard, Lower School

1 comment:

  1. Maura, I have to say your post was very intriguing and inspiring to read. I am interested in the short surveys you ask your students to complete and how you can incorporate the survey results to promote collaboration skills in your classroom (without putting students on the spot).

    I find myself talking about collaboration all the time, but I would really like the collaboration learning to come from the students and their experiences with one another.


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