What are the traits possessed by the people you admire? Although there are so many characteristics that are important in building character, we specifically focus on six areas for our students. Throughout everything we do, we incorporate character education.
The traits we hope to further develop in our students include trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship. We believe these are universal characteristics that all people possess and which all cultures recognize as admirable.
First and foremost, is trustworthiness. We hope that the students will become people who can be trusted; to be their personal best without resenting or undermining others who are also striving to reach their full potential.
Trust implies respect for oneself and for others we meet in our daily lives. It may include respect for our environment or for the physical items in our lives.
Focusing on respect and developing it in our daily lives gives purpose to the directive “stop jumping on the couch.” It obviously supersedes bullying which has become a hot topic in schools these days. But at its core, respect helps children realize that the first person worthy of respect is one’s self. Their bodies deserve healthy food, fresh air, and exercise. Their minds deserve challenging, purposeful ideas. Their lives deserve purpose and direction. They should never accept mistreatment or abuse from another. They should never sacrifice their own welfare to please or to win the friendship of another. To thine own self, be true!
This trait goes hand-in-hand with both trustworthiness and respect. When one takes responsibility, for chores, for respectful behavior, for the care of someone in need, for their own mistakes and shortcomings one becomes known as trustworthy and respectful.
We often look at responsibility as a burden; as the need to do things you don’t particularly want to do but feel obligated to do. At times, this is true but responsibility also reminds us to act as a leader in a crisis, to be persistent in accomplishing a goal, and to accept joyfully the inherent trade-off in living responsibly.
Being a responsible, respectful, and trustworthy person will earn your child the respect of his peers and will eventually open doors for him or her that a less developed or self centered personality may slam closed.
Fairness is more than simple kindness as any parent knows. Sometimes, being fair with your children or colleagues requires holding them accountable even when they don’t want to be. It isn’t fair to let someone walk all over you or make demands on your time. Fairness is interwoven with trustworthiness. It demands justice and responsibility; to obey the laws and rules and to contribute to the greater good of society as a whole.
Caring is the oil that lubricates life and makes marriage, family life, friendship, and work relationships blossom, grow, and remain strong. Being cared for is perhaps the strongest desire of any person.
Children deserve it long before they might be able to reciprocate but learning to reciprocate is essential. A self-centered, uncaring person may live a lonely life.
Caring must, however, balance self-respect and responsibility if one is to avoid being a victim or doormat to the desires and demands of another.
Finally, there is citizenship. While a child grows and has his or her basic needs for love, care, respect, and nurturing met, he or she will be enriched by the understanding that his or her contribution to society is valued and important.
Few of us reach a level of world fame but all of us like to feel needed and important to the people around us. Pride and fulfillment, earned through our small acts of kindness or accomplishment, make life worthwhile. A clean, well-balanced environment will sustain life on this planet.
Laws keep all of us safe when they are fair, respectful and respected by the citizenry. Giving to those less fortunate or to those who are experiencing a tragedy or hardship enriches the giver as much as it helps another.
So we offer these values, not to indoctrinate any particular ethic or code of conduct that must be enforced and yielded to but because, ultimately, they will enrich the lives of these children we love. Maria Montessori spoke of “the new man.” She was referring to children who are free to develop all of their talents and skills in a world that nurtures them. They have a responsibility to be the best they can be and, in fairness, deserve all the riches that life may offer because they are carrying their share of responsibility, commitment, and are willing to contribute to the greater society in which they will spend their entire life.