Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors Sowing the Seeds of Character Education

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

School Counselors Sowing the Seeds of Character Education

Article excerpt

"Sow an act, ancl you map a habit. Sow a habit, and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny." Charles Reade, 19th Century Novelist and Educator

This maxim on character education is prominently displayed in the counseling office at Alimacani Elementary in Jacksonville, Florida. Counselors Mary Ann Dyal and Etta Raines are coordinating a character education program that is based on the timeless premise that children acquire good character not through the abstract but by being participants in character-building activities. The character education program of this school moves beyond the rhetoric of "doing good" by providing children with opportunities to experience altruism, responsibility, diligence, and excellence.

These school counselors have assumed the responsibility of coordinating a school-wide effort, which involves all teachers and staff in the delivery of the program. Character education is diffused throughout the curriculum,with guidance lessons and activities as the focal point.The heart of the program is service projects and action-oriented character education. Students are exposed to a systematic character education program with the intent of teaching them to sow acts, reap habits, and reap character. "Real life" opportunities to put moral reasoning into action are preceded by a didactic approach to awareness building of moral values. Children learn a repertoire of behaviors that when repeated become habits, which in turn facilitate the formation of good character.

Teaching the connection between character and academic success is one of the responsibilities of the schools. Students must have a strong work ethic, a sense of responsibility, a willingness to persevere, and an appreciation of the value of learning in order to be successful students.

THE COUNSELOR AS PURVEYOR

Character education involves complexities not often found in the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It requires that students experience personal growth as well as skills development-an integration of both intellect and emotion. Yet teachers typically receive little preservice or inservice training in the moral aspects of their craft (Lickona, 1993). School counselors are comfortable and skilled in the area of affective education, and character education falls in the affective domain of education. Many teachers do not feel comfortable assuming the lead in this domain, but are willing, enthusiastic participants in a character education program when a school counselor takes the reins.

"Values education has been controversial in our community. I have been hesitant to present lessons on values to my students. Under Ms. Dyal and Ms. Raines capable leadership, I feel comfortable participating in a character education program," says Kathleen Kane, Alimacani First Grade Teacher. Moral action depends upon competence in communication skills, and counselors spend the better part of their training mastering and perfecting effective communication skills.

The essentials of personal qualities that lead to good character (i.e., self-respect, empathy, self-control, conflict resolution, responsibility) are at the core of the school counseling program."I think the character education program taught by our counselors is the best utilization of classroom guidance time. As educators we are dealing with more children who have special problems caused by home and societal pressures and dysfunction. We must try to help our students develop positive character traits to handle the social pressures they face," says Barbara Thompson, Alimacani Fifth Grade Teacher.

SCHOOL COUNSELORS IN ACTION

Ms. Dyal and Ms. Raines have in place a comprehensive character education program in which different mediums are used to emphasize a certain character trait each month. The counselors have chosen traits that are core values shared across cultural and socioeconomic lines.The selected traits are ones the counselors also felt related to academic and personal success. …

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