Character Education in Public Schools: A Guide to Strengthening Core Values

A few days ago, when I collected my 7-year-old from her after-school program, many young people gathered on the playground to admire the magical rainbow that arched in the sky. After a while, the rainbow gradually disappeared. The children and the after-school teachers turned back to regular activities.

In a similar way, many educators and parents come together to appreciate the beauty of school values. Then, after a while, the beauty of this moment gradually disappeared, all of which returned to the constant demands of school life.

How to make value last? How to bring the beauty of the goal of laudable values ​​such as compassion, persistence and responsibility beyond the framework of the school age to a phenomenon in which to thrive?

There is no simple answer, only the tapestry that individual schools have experienced. For more than five years, I have been the Chairman of the Core Values ​​Committee at Newton Cabot Elementary School in Massachusetts. Our committee is made up of our school's principal, Marilynne Quarcoo, teachers and parents. When I came to the committee, parents and teachers had identified three: becoming lifelong learners, respecting themselves and others, and their commitment to the school and the community. From the outset, our challenge was how to incorporate these core concepts into the structure of school life. “The core values ​​allow the school community to focus on important things,” says Quarcoo. “They provide a mirror for our decisions and provide guidance and justification for our actions and behavior.”

Here are some of the methods that apply to us that may be useful to you.

[1] Define your core value – it creates a "default location"

Almost a decade ago, the principals, teachers and parents of Cabot School went through a wide process [or I heard that it happened before I entered the school system] to define this concept. At the same time, all public schools in Massachusetts in 1991 were mandated to develop core value strategies.

Since then, we have discovered some unexpected benefits of expressing these ideas. Our school's kindergarten teacher, Jodi Escalante, was the first to compare the phrase “default position” with the benefits of classroom core values. “As a teacher, I am often asked to make decisions, resolve conflicts, solve dilemmas or otherwise solve problems,” Escalante said. “Having a core value gives me a consistent direction. It removes the “my opinion” from the equation, replacing the default position, the authority that was previously agreed.” She added: “If a solution can improve Core value, then this is acceptable." As a parent, I quickly discovered that the default location can be used as easily as a home tool.

Soon after a frenetic morning, my 7-year-old child shouted, "Why should I comb my hair? Why is it important?" Although I tried in vain to find a plausible answer, I struggled in my mind. A concern: "You know that her hair will only be clarified in one day…" I almost never thought that I caught the explanation: "Because brushing your hair means respecting yourself, "respecting yourself and others" It is one of the core values ​​of Cabot School! "Fortunately, this sentence has come to mind, just because I remember it. Therefore, in the moment of the short-lived, these ideal ideals provide me with a safe landing point.

Therefore, the two-dimensional core values ​​we draw on the posters in the main hall become active in the subconscious of teachers and parents walking in our school.

[2] Each year, focusing on different core values ​​or focusing on school life

In fact, transforming schools to interpret a range of core values ​​is a daunting task! It's best to break down the task into smaller, more manageable parts. At Cabot Elementary School, we first decided to focus on one value every year. Although we are still aware of all of this, the core values ​​of rotation are given special attention. At the nearby Angier Elementary School, parents and teachers identified five, and they also reversed.

H ave Courage




a chive




Take responsibility


[This is their slogan:] "In the heart of Angel"

Another way is to focus on one stage of school life every year. The challenge here is to brainstorm how to improve dynamics in the field to reflect core values. The arena can be physical places such as bathrooms, cafeterias, corridors, classrooms or playgrounds. Or, you may be more willing to focus on the field of the program, such as course routines, conflict resolution, courses, student reward systems or traditions and rituals. However, at Cabot Elementary School, we found that one year was not enough to achieve a given core value; there is no doubt that we have extended the first year for a given core value to the second year. Through two years of commitment to our three core values, a particular student is immersed in core values ​​activities in the elementary school experience from kindergarten to fifth grade.

[3] Display students' interpretation of the core values ​​of other students

It is not possible to underestimate the impact on students that is publicly published by other students. With any opportunity, you must demonstrate writing tasks, art projects, and holiday work related to the school's core values ​​[such as Martin Luther King Day]. This is an example: at Cabot Elementary School, the fifth grade every year will give gifts to the school as a departure gesture. A few years ago, we provided a banner for fifth-grade students to showcase the three core values ​​of our school and asked each student to write their interpretation of the additional fabric triangles, which were later attached to the bottom of the banner. The banner is now permanently displayed in our main lobby. The following is a sample of the student's comments:

listen to your heart.


When someone is in trouble, please don't give up on them.


If you want friends, be yourself.


Do not smoke.


Remember, everyone has different talents


Never stop learning.




Make every effort at school.




If you have to walk in the game, go ahead and never give up.


Don't exclude others just because you are not their good friend.


Be kind.


Life is short and time is running.

For a while, a floor-standing paper machine was installed on the wall of our main hall. Once, when we highlighted the core value of “being a lifelong learner,” we asked each student to use the red cut of Apple to write down the single goal of what he or she wanted to learn at the beginning of the school year. In the spring, we asked each student to determine an established learning goal on the white incision of the apple flower. The beauty of this approach is that when students look for their own apples or flowering cuts on the tree, they inevitably read the goals of other students. Therefore, they can’t help but be shocked by the collective nature of this effort.

Making values ​​lasting is a challenging goal to achieve moving goals. Each year, a grade graduate and a new kindergarten and their parents enter. You can plan for this by sharing the core values ​​of the school with new entrants. During the spring school year, distribute leaflets explaining the core values ​​of the school to the parents of the kindergarten who will be in the kindergarten. Discuss the history and goals of the school's core values ​​at the previous parent-teacher conferences in the fall. Ensuring that new employees, including restaurant monitors, librarians, cleaners, school nurses, and teaching staff, are familiar with the core values ​​of your school.

At the same time, new entrants have gained new energy and ideas. It may happen that the consensus that parents or teachers no longer form a core value with the school may be rewritten to reflect the priorities of the constantly remodeling school community. Fortunately, this ensures that the most important quality of the core value experience, the quality of power, is incorporated into the equation. Only when those who express their core values ​​in their own hearts believe in the basic concepts will they become the power of the transformational experience of moving the cute rainbow that is envied outside to the walls of the school.

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