Connecting Character to Conduct
Howard T Herber Middle School has begun a character education initiative based on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development's (ASCD) book Connecting Character to Conduct. co-written by Richard Banyon, Malverne's Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, the book is an outgrowth of a doctoral thesis presented at Columbia Teachers College on the moral development of middle school students.
In the book, students were asked to describe the most difficult decision they ever had to make. the responses indicated that many students were making life-altering, long-term decisions with short-term reasoning skills, little adult guidance and no core frame of reference for making the right decisions for the right reasons. the uninformed decisions that children make affect families, schools, and communities. National results revealed that students, from the affluent to the most impoverished, are making decisions about how to deal with:
- divorce, parental dating, remarriage and changing family structures
- persistent feeling of being alond and feeling "anonymous" in the midst of their own schools, neighborhoods and homes
- how they spend many hours alone or with their friends, without adult supervision or guidance
- addictions and depression
- feelings of being "left out"
Very few children named an important decision that addressed academic learning, school conduct or healthy moral development, nor were these decisions based upon a clear method of problem solving. The results of the research indicated that many children are:
- making sophisticated decisions along on the basis of peer input or guidance from the media
- acting out violently and hurting themselves or others
- lacking basic academic skills, social skills, or both
- conducting themselves inappropriately, especially under the ordinary, everyday pressures of school life
- reporting that parents, teachers and other adults in their lives know little, if anything, about the things they worry about and act on every day
These results were shared and discussed with other educators, and it was agreed that a practical, positive approach was needed to help all students make sound decisions now and in the future.
"Our students feel pressured to make the right decisions in school and in the rest of their lives, and they don't know how," said Mr. Banyon. "They need the time and opportunity to develop character and conduct that demonstrates respect, impule control, compassion and equity. These guiding principles are to be aligned with out teaching, counseling and discipline practices."
Howard T. Herber Middle School is using the Connecting Character to Conduct all-inclusive approach that will help the school achieve its mission in adopting the guiding principles of respect, impulse control, compassion and equity (RICE) as the foundation for daily life. Unlike add-on programs or special courses, the program integrates these principles into the existing curriculum, discipline program, counseling services and the entire normative structure of the school. The HTH staff is using the principles of character and conduct to make the school safer, better disciplined and a more welcoming place to learn and work.
The RICE principles help sustain the high expectations and academic focus at HTH, despite competing pressures. during a Character and Conduct workshop held in the beginning of the year, the entire faculty and staff worked together to develop a schoolwide program to align their teaching, disciplinary and counseling practices. this program includes individual plans for classroom teachers, administrators, pupil personnel and other school staff to follow.
All the members of the school, including our student, use the RICE principles to define and fulfill their roles within the school settting. parents and children use guiding principles to make positive connections between character and conduct at home and at school. Whe parents see the value of the RICE principles as their children practice them in the school setting, they tend to use similar strategies to create a home-based culture that supports learning within their own family traditions. this positive link creates continuity between a student's home life and school life, therby encouraging student to make the right decisions for the right reasons.
"Our focus here at HTH is the intellectual development and academic achievement of all students, and the personal and social development of each student," said Principal Steven Gilhuley. "We encourage everyone to support the efforts of our students and faculty, and to help our student to learn well, stay safe, participate and graduate."