January - Responsibility

Being dependable in carrying out obligations and duties.

February - Compassion

Feeling for another person’s sorrow or hardship.

March - Tolerance

Recognizing and respecting differences, values and beliefs of other people.

April - Citizenship

Carrying out the duties and responsibilities to one’s country.

May - Patriotism

Good citizenship, displaying high regard for laws, government and the heritage of one’s country.

August - Respect

Showing high regard for authority, other people, self, property and country.

September - Honesty

Being truthful, trustworthy, and sincere.

October - Self-Control

Having discipline over one’s behavior or actions.

November - Cooperation

Working with others to accomplish a common purpose.

December - Kindness

Being helpful, thoughtful, caring, compassionate and considerate.

  • Promote a wide range of diverse teaching strategies.
  • Encourage development of school-wide curricular projects and activities that emphasize character development.
  • Provide opportunities to address ethical issues in such areas as science, social studies and literature. Weave the question “What is the right thing to do?” into discussions.
  • Resources:
  • Define the differences between heroes and celebrities. Study the positive traits of heroes through social studies and literature units.
  • Have students write poems/essays/short stories on character.
  • Have journal writings focus on character development/traits.
  • Have students find newspaper articles that involve character traits.
  • Have students select a friend about which to make a character poster.
  • Establish peer mentoring programs.
  • Have students write and produce plays emphasizing good character. Videotape for viewing now and next year.
  • Have students create a character “quilt” out of paper.
  • Have students create a “chain of kindness”—a paper chain with acts of kindness written on each link.
  • Put up a “Great Wall of Character” to display quotes, pictures, and other character-related items.
  • Have the yearbook feature a page that focuses on character traits.
  • “I can live for two months on one good compliment.” Mark Twain
  • Provide “anonymous compliments” activities by having students draw a name of a classmate and write down a compliment. Place these in the “compliment box,” and after review by the teacher, give to the student. Staff members might also enjoy this activity.
  • Sponsor an essay contest on the importance of character.
  • Display character quotes in the teachers’ lounges, computer labs, screen savers, hallways.
  • Have students select a proverb that they would like to be their personal “motto.” Resource:
  • Plan a unit around students’ implementing their mottos in their lives. Integrate writing, interviewing others, designing posters, etc.
  • Use the “Chicken Soup” book stories as examples of strong character. Have students write their own Chicken Soup book about parents, teachers, and others in the community who have made a difference in their lives. Publish the book. Resource:
  • Read and discuss biographies of accomplished individuals.
  • Review specific programs that support integrating character education into the curriculum.
  • Promote civic awareness and responsibility. Resource:
  • Assign homework that provides students and families an opportunity to work on character development together.
  • Teach students how to write thank-you notes. Send out thank-you notes.
  • Use the Internet to access resources, including lesson plans and activities.

Establish rituals and traditions. For example, I have been in several high schools where the seniors are assigned to mentor and support in-coming freshman. I have also noted that in assemblies all rise for the seniors who enter as a group and who sit down front. Seniors are also the first to leave. Underclassmen have told me that they do not mind standing because one day, “Everyone will stand for me.”

Establish consistent rules and procedures for the school. Enforce consequences for tardies and other unacceptable behaviors. This helps build a sense of responsibility in students and provides a more positive environment.

Involve student government in formulating plans on how to promote character development and civility in a high school. One high school’s efforts is highlighted in the book Rules and Procedures: The First Step in School Civility.

The importance of character should be promoted throughout the school. This can be through posters and bulletin boards in classrooms as well as hallways. Monday announcements should address those students who have participated in service projects during the weekend. Ask the faith communities and service clubs to fax participants of service activities to the school.

Much in character education is caught and not taught. Teachers must model what they want their students to do. Greet students at the door. Have homework and class-work posted in the same places every day. Take time to help students before and after school. Arrive at school on time every day. If students have to be at school on time so should all teachers. Remember, be the moral compass for the students.

Consider writing a “Chicken Soup” type book within your school. Hixon High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee did just this. The students wrote about parents, teachers and others in the community who have made a difference in their lives.

Encourage employers to request that a prospective employee provide not only the academic record but also his/her attendance, and any listings of suspensions or expulsions. The student can deny this request, but the employer is sending a message that your attendance and civility in school matters. Share with students that employers are requesting this information.

Celebrate academics, athletics and character. One high school in Indiana has three entrances. One entrance celebrates the academic efforts over the history of the school. Another celebrates the athletic. The third entrance celebrates the good citizens of the school.

Infuse character into the curriculum. This is not an “add-on.” It must reflect the “ethos” or life of the school. Each discipline should be responsible for a presentation on how character is being developed within its curriculum.

The faculty must treat their peers with respect. Faculty meetings are not for grading papers. Educators must develop the habit of treating those who are presenting ideas with respect and dignity. In addition, each faculty meeting should involve some discussion on the character-building efforts of the school.

Maintain and enforce a consistent dress code. This does not necessarily mean uniforms, but it does mean appropriate dress for school. Communicate this with parents as well as students.

Have staff trained in strategies such as seminar teaching and cooperative learning. These strategies have been shown to increase civility between students and also between teacher and students.

Recognize that character is as important as academics. If students are more civil to each other, then the teacher has more time to teach, and the student has more time to learn. Academic standards rise in civil environments. As educators, we must be the compass for this to occur.