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Nurturing character in schools
March 22, 2015, 1:27 pm
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In a society where from the onset we scaffold children with praise and reward whether they have had success or not, we have skewed the meaning of accomplishment. We are not teaching them about the effort it takes to be triumphant. We are not nurturing the character strengths needed to be successful in all areas of their lives, not just education.

Character is essential to the way in which we deal with situations that occur in our lives. It identifies whether we easily give up in challenging situations, or whether we plough through head first.

It defines us, and how we approach life. For this reason schools and educators should make it a point to promote the teaching of character to not only create positive classrooms, but also to instill a growth mindset in their students.

There is a strong link between the emotional state of mind and the academic, that is to say, the cognitive skills such as learning a language, mathematical formulae, etc are complimented by our non-cognitive skills, i.e. our character strengths.

For example, a child who is optimistic, can persevere and has a modicum of self-control will be able to take on a mathematics challenge more effectively than a child who is not able to identify those character strengths (non-cognitive skills) within himself. It is important to understand that character strengths are a part of who we are and therefore we can identify, reveal, elicit and nurture them within ourselves.

The challenge for educators remains on creating an effective way in which to nurture the right set of character strengths in schools. The following is a breakdown of how to teach students who are not particularly good when working in a team with others. The idea is to give the student a chance to develop and nurture the character strengths needed to be able to accomplish team work tasks:

Step 1:
• Identify the character strengths required to work well with a team.
• Identify when you have used these strengths in a good way in other areas of your life.
• Identify how you can make use of those examples and fit them into the task at hand.

Step 2:
• Encourage the student by praising effort made, and character strengths used for displaying good teamwork in a monitored teamwork session.
• Encourage students to praise each other for their combined efforts for a successful team building session.

Step 3:
• Organize a teamwork activity.
• Discuss and recap the character strengths needed to complete the task successfully.
• Have a one-to-one discussion with each student to evaluate the highs and lows of the teamwork activity.

It is important to note that the third step is a plenary step which enables students and teachers to bring their learning into a self-reflective zone thus allowing ownership for any successes as well as areas for improvement in the future.

Fundamentally, if educators and educational institutes take the time to incorporate a well thought out and planned system of teaching character in schools they can create a combination of students who are optimistic, take time to make an effort to succeed and possibly more conscientious of the world around them.

This is in contrast to the youth today who is in constant need of attention and praise whether there has been a conscious use of effort or not on their part.

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