How often did you hear, “Honesty is the best policy” when you were growing up? Students at The Learning Center! Charter School are learning about honesty and other traits that define good character. The idea is to teach good character today to build good citizens of tomorrow– and live it at the same time. The school-wide Character Education program, directed by teacher Cheryl Catuto, focuses on one character trait each month. Catuto, who is also Research and Curriculum Coordinator for the school, created grade specific lessons and activities for all the teachers to use in the classrooms. “At the end of the month,” said Catuto, “we give out a special VIP award for the particular trait.” Each month, a different character topic is emphasized: responsibility, respect, citizenship, honesty, cooperation, caring, fairness, forgiveness and integrity. It is reinforced by each teacher throughout the month, as well as in electives, lunch and PE. “That is the beauty of the whole school focusing on the same trait,” said Catuto, “all the staff can encourage good character.”
Teachers help the students understand the character trait and then revisit them throughout the month. The teachers also refer back to the traits that have been previously covered. They may remind them to be responsible to turn in their work or respect each other. For example, the unit on “honesty” mentioned telling the truth even when it’s difficult. “One student found a credit card on campus that belonged to a visitor of the school, said Catuto, “he turned it in to the office.” That student was awarded VIP Citizenship for Honesty.
In the upper grades, Character Education is introduced in homeroom or in “Middle REAL,” a middle school entrepreneurship program where teachers take a more in depth look. In Middle REAL, students focused on Citizenship and how students are part of our community, making our home, school and neighborhood a better place.
Each month, a student is elected “VIP” for Citizenship, which is announced at lunch by director of the school, Mary Jo Dyre. She emphasizes during her announcements how these students show great character. “We are a Community of Learners,” said Dyre. “Part of being a good citizen within that community are the social and character lessons that are emphasized as much as academics.”
The VIP awards are then sent home for the parents to see. The award winners are also in the office on the bulletin board.