Creative teaching techniques instill solid character traits

Creative teaching techniques instill solid character traits

by Kathryn Christ

Dean Fusto, a language teacher at Episcopal High School, promotes tolerance.

His book, “The Next Best Thing To Being There,” describes activities the University of North Florida graduate uses in the classroom.

“The book focuses on identifying and disarming stereotypes,” Fusto said. “The suggested activities all focus on creating an experience for the students so they can develop empathy and understanding towards others.”

In one activity students create cultures, complete with language, history, values and rules. The classroom is divided into two groups that attempt to interact within the boundaries of those fictional cultures.

Students are forced to develop strategies to understand each other.

In another activity, students research and role play the lives of famous people, expressing those individuals’ values.

Students also keep cultural logs. “If we are studying another culture’s music, we’ll take the time to listen to the music and then reflect on what we’ve heard. The students have an opportunity to explore why another culture appreciates this type of music,” he said.

Fables, stories with a moral to them, are an effective way to reach children.

Diane Findlay recommends relating to children emotionally through well-developed characters in her book, “Characters With Character: Using Children’s Literature in Character Education.”

“These characters with good traits serve as vehicles in reinforcing these values with the students,” Findlay said. “We’re becoming more aware that character traits are exhibited every time we interact with people. Values education creates a more conducive learning environment as students who feel safe and respected are better prepared for learning.”

Elena Federico has been influenced by her school’s environment.

A sixth-grader at Riverside Presbyterian Day School, Elena volunteers with Hearts, Hands, and Hooves — a rehabilitation program that uses horseback riding as a therapeutic tool. Last year, Elena received a Millennium Award, which recognized her involvement.

“At Riverside Presbyterian Day School, character education is emphasized at every grade level,” said Lisa Federico, Elena’s mother. “The guidance program is extremely effective in consistently teaching respect for others and tolerance.”

Sixth-graders participate in Pathfinders, spending three days at Camp Montgomery near Gainesville in activities that teach cooperation and respect.

“Our emphasis is on how we treat one another. We try very hard to model the behavior we expect from our students,” said Mary Lee Pappas, admissions director at Riverside Presbyterian Day School. “We talk about service projects in our weekly chapel service. We discuss them as a school family before beginning a new one.”

Sixth-graders rotate through four service projects, serving as chapel guides, safety patrol, library assistants and kindergarten assistants.

The Character Counts Coalition created an educational framework focusing on “Six Pillars of Character”: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. With 3,000 schools, including Duval’s public schools, the coalition touches 1.8 million students.

“We created a framework that is embraceable. It is easily adaptable by teachers and youth servers throughout the country,” said Julie Dwyer, national director of Character Counts.

Kathryn Christ is a correspondent with The Business Journal.