All students will achieve their maximum potential by becoming responsible, productive citizens and life-long learners.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Improving Culture by Building Character…one step at a time

I am a quote person.  There is something very energizing in taking the time to reflect on a quote that you find particularly relevant.  This trait I possess coupled with a quote in our student handbook that reads; “Your character isn’t something you’re just born with; its how you choose to act.” has led me to the following:

I have always been interested in the continual improvement of my school’s culture.  I have also always believed that a good, strong, moral character is the backbone to any productive organization or society. As a result of those two beliefs, I have always attempted to work on students character as well as the culture of the school.  However, it was not until recently that I came to realize the nature of the strong relationship between the two and why many of us are going about this culture shift idea the wrong way.

Simply put; you cannot change character by adjusting culture.  Rather, you need good character to build a positive culture.

While it is true that the relationship between the two is so tight that you cannot have one without the other, they must be approached, attained, and perpetuated in the proper order.  A positive culture definitely supports the cultivating of good character, but it in turn cannot exist without first being created by a collective group that possesses good character.  Therefore, the positive school culture many of us look to improve is only attainable by a strong focus on improving character.

This is where the act part comes in.  For an individual to achieve and maintain good character, they must consciously perform acts that keep it present in their thoughts and acts.  Upon reflection, I cannot remember the last time I actively focused on improving my character.  For those reading this; can you?  Sure, I “do the right thing” as often as possible, but when have I thought about what constitutes good character?  I cannot remember.  Therefore, realizing all too plainly that I am far from perfect, I have decided to improve in the area that I ask from all others, my character.  Our student handbook lists 30 character traits along with tips and strategies for improving and reflecting on them.  The first is: Respectful:

                                                       The rest are as follows:
Responsible     Controlled        Punctual     Reliable

Creative           Optimistic        Self-Motivated

Persevering      Thrifty             Gracious    Ambitious

Courageous      Resourceful     Joyful        Kind

Patient              Tolerant          Honest      Thankful

Polite               Considerate     Generous  Cheerful

Loyal               Sympathetic     Patriotic    Trustworthy

Fair                 Cooperative

My challenge to myself is this:
I am going to work my way through these traits by completing the activities listed in the handbook.  I will also share these activities in an effort to get as many of the students at my school focused on them as well.  I am asking them to challenge themselves to build a better culture by increasing the level of character displayed at our school.  I have also invited (and continue to invite) the parents to join in for the support at home.  I plan to focus on one trait each week, share some of my successes and failures, and encourage all those on this journey with me to let me know about their progress.  Again, the first week is respect.

Let’s stop talking about improving culture while we ignore character.

Let’s stop talking to students about how the culture can be better.

Let’s stop talking about “if only” and “what if.”

Let’s stop talking…and start leading the way…

I’m first…are you next?

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