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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Character Project: Punctual

This is quite possibly one of the largest issues facing schools today with the exception of various state and federal initiatives.  No matter what conference or workshop I attend, talk concerning attendance and tardy issues eventually surfaces.  For example:

·         I personally stress to both parents and students that they need to be here and be on time to get the most out of their education.

·         The legislature has overhauled the CHINS process to focus on truancy prevention rather than forced compliance through consequences.

·         Our school policy concerning these two issues has grown to include parent conferences, office detentions, and social probation.

·         Research shows the importance of student attendance and punctuality and schools have large databases (including large amounts of paperwork) in place to track students on this very topic.

We all know these issues, parents acknowledge these issues and yet our students continue to come late and miss days.  Hence, the need to include punctuality as a character trait.  The truth is we can attempt to extrinsically motivate students to attend school regularly and on time, but most know that intrinsic motivation is the key.  Students have to want to be present and punctual.  This can be accomplished through programs and school offerings, but ultimately it must come from the character of the student involved.  The idea of being present or on time has to be ingrained to the point that students feel uncomfortable with the idea of being late.

The question remains:  How do we accomplish the creation of intrinsic motivation in our students?

The answer is simple to acknowledge, but often difficult to perform.  It is the same way we improve students’ character and as a result, the culture.  We must model the behavior we seek to achieve consistently and over a prolonged period.  In short, we must make the trait part of our character and then put it on display.

If I have made an appointment with you, I owe you punctuality, I have no right to throw away your time, if I do my own...” -Richard Cecil

 Here is the announcement read to the school for the fourth week of the challenge:

Good morning.  I wanted to start this week’s announcement by saying I was successful with the controlled trait, however a mid-week incident with the TV remote was almost my undoing.  I would have never thought I was that attached to it…anyways…enough of that…let’s move forward.

The rest of this announcement will be brief in an effort to help teachers be punctual and start their classes on time!

That’s right…punctual…or simply put, on time.

This is week four and our focus is being punctual.

Being Punctual means:

  • Being in your seat when class starts…not running through the door to beat the bell
  • Turning in assignments when they are due
  • Arriving to commitments on time or a little early
You know what else?  You are not only being responsible when you exercise self-control and are punctual, but respectful of other people’s time as well.  The reason all of these traits are connected is because they all contribute to good character.

So here is what to do today.  Make a list of events for which you need to be on time.  I mean everything like school, classes, your job, and yes, even handing in assignments!  Now set a goal to be on time (or punctual) for everything.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What adjustments can I make to my schedule that will help me be more punctual?
  • How does being punctual show responsibility?
  • Is it ever really ok to be late?
Strategies to use:

  • Use your agenda or any calendar
  • Plan ahead for scheduled events
  • Create routines

One way to really understand the importance of this trait is to remember how you feel when someone you are depending on is late.  That is how they feel when you do it to them.

Try sharing what you are doing to improve your character with your teachers this week.  Better yet, show them…

We are all doing a good job, let’s keep up the good work…


Character Project: Optimistic

This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is optimistic.  The difficulty inherent in describing this trait is condensing its expansive implications.  While it is easy to list the many outwardly traits and benefits of optimism, it is a little more difficult to explain (and at times deal with) the journey to that positive state.  The issue here is that optimists are not born, but created.

The transformation to optimism essentially requires the repetition of three experiences that must be taught, modeled, and experienced before being accepted.


Yes, failure.  To become an optimist, a person must experience one of the most negative events that exists; personal failure.  Usually this comes from a series of mistakes that go unchecked or examined and therefore, lead to what many consider the ultimate end.  Therein lays the difference between optimists and pessimists.  Optimists do not see failure as an end, but a way to improve.  This is extremely important to realize.  We all forget from time to time that learning is impossible without mistakes.  What is done with those mistakes is the key.  If they are discarded as an end to a process then they are just that.  Viewed positively as a chance to improve, mistakes and failures open a whole new opportunity to achieve greater success than originally believed possible.


Optimists have a deep underlying view that while bad things happen, overall the world is a positive place.  This helps create successful individuals because due to the exclusion of luck or finite dates for improvement and performance.  For example, optimists do not believe that they performed well because they worked hard on that single performance.  Rather, their belief is that they will do well as a result of continuous learning, practice, and application.  The consequence is a belief that falling short is not the result of a lack of skill or “just not being good enough,” but instead an opportunity to improve.


How a person views the genesis of events in their life has a major impact on their adaptation to and growth from them.  Optimists do not blame themselves for negative occurrences in their lives.  Instead, they analyze the possible causes and their role with an objective mind.  This assists them in overcoming the idea that one setback means all is lost.  They believe there will be eventual success because of that very fact.  Optimists believe that failure is temporary and localized because mistakes are to be learned from rather than seen as evidence of their own personal weaknesses.

There is a lot of research that shows a myriad of benefits from emotional to social to physical that optimists enjoy.  That being said, what more could we want than for our children and students to be optimists? 

To achieve this, we must remember that it begins with us.

We must first become optimists ourselves if we are to model and teach our children to see the world in a way that will help them experience less stress, stronger emotional resiliency, and greater success no matter the challenge.

This could be difficult if we are not already optimists, but think of the reward.  Whether you learn and explain it the way Martha Washington did when she said; “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.” or take the Dr. Seuss route by saying; “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” You need to take a step and start.  If you fall a little short, just remember…it isn’t the end.  Learn from it.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Character Project: Creative

This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is creative.  I must admit that attaching creative (as generally defined) to the idea of good character was at first challenging.  Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defined creative as “having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas.”  That coupled with Bloom’s Taxonomy is great if addressing this topic from a purely academic aspect. Every teacher, school, and district strives to help their students move to what many consider the upper echelon of higher order thinking skills.  The idea of creativity when discussing behavior however, is different.

Often in an institution comprised of specific rules and policies for everything from behavior to locker break to assignment formats, the idea of “marching to the beat of your own drummer” is not encouraged much less supported.  Left with these thoughts and attempting to attach how creativity helps create a better character, I came across the following quote by Joseph Chilton Pearce:

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong". Joseph Chilton Pearce.

That’s when the connection became clear.  If one addresses the idea of creativity from the perspective of individuality and knowing oneself, then it not only makes sense, but lends itself to the following statements.  A staff member or student who is creative:
·         resists negative peer pressure;
·         accepts the differences inherent in individuals;
·         avoids cliques by befriending all types of people; and
·         makes wise decisions based on his/her own morals and code of ethics.

What more could a school want than to help foster the development of staff and students who are not just secure, but comfortable and confident enough in their individuality to do what is right rather than what is popular?  Taken in this context, the notion of creative is deeply tied to what many in education deem the hidden curriculum, or those things other than academics that are taught through interaction and modeling.  The idea of creating a school culture that consistently supports creative students and staff who act individually is possible, but not and easy road to travel.  Take the words of Robert Frost when he said; “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” for the inspiration to make a difference.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Character Project: Reliable

This week’s character trait at Seekonk High School is reliable.  While reliable and reliability is usually associated with scientific measurement, its personally applied definition is often more important in the day to day operations of a school, classroom, and relationships. 
Dictionary.com defines it as:  that may be relied on; dependable in achievement, accuracy, honesty, etc.

The possession and application of this trait is subtle.  While subconsciously expected from other people and items, individuals rarely find themselves giving a lot of thought to their own reliability.  For example:
·         They are either on time or not.
·         Students either complete the assignment or they don’t.
·         I either finish that paperwork or it waits until tomorrow.

Question:  How often, when faced with a similar situation as above stop and think; am I being reliable?  Would the second it takes to do so change your behavior?

Now think about students.  They expect everyone around them to be reliable.  This gives students a sense of security found in the routine of someone always being there for them.  If you think about how hard change and a feeling of not being connected is for adults (and we all know it is), imagine that feeling for many of those younger than us.  This is not a bad thing, but its value could increase with a little insight.

We all need to raise students’ awareness of their reliability and how that affects their academic and personal success.  For example:
·         How many times have students failed to hand in work on time even after they said they would?
·         How often have they promised to do a chore that went unfinished?

Would this be different if we as educators (parents, teachers, administrators, et.) taught students to take that second and think: am I being a reliable person right now?  Does it matter?  It is very easy to get caught in the trap of complaining about others actions (or lack thereof), but have we done anything to change the situation?  More importantly, should we complain about another person’s reliability before looking at our own?  Being able to model and use our own behavior as an example makes change much easier to teach and expect.

Students expect people to help them achieve, be honest, dependable, and reliable.  The first question is are we?  The second question is; are we teaching them to be in return?  As they grow older, students must bring more to the “table” and understand the life lesson of give and take.  If they are to exist in an atmosphere that collectively offers success and safety, they must contribute to those very things by being reliable individuals.

Explain it to them this way.  Reliability is the foundation of trust and who doesn’t want to be trusted?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Leaders Managing Schools is a Waste of Resources

The title for this post may seem a little abrasive or off-putting, but this stream of thought came to me through the various processes:

·         sitting in multiple meetings concerning the implementation of our new evaluation system,
·         considering the viability of DDMs as valid measures of student achievement,
·         reflecting on the sheer enormity of the task being required of both educators and administrators, and
·         realizing that there is no other job -anywhere- that requires employees to not only be evaluated on 33 separate indicators, but also be responsible for gathering them.

That is when it became clearer.  How can we expect education to move forward when we are telling and training our leadership to spend most of their time managing the current situation?  Education in general takes vision, effort, and time to change.  To use one of the newer words…grit.  How is that fostered by increasing restrictive regulations and demands on time?

Depending on your belief about the creation of leaders, it may be argued that they are one of the most finite resources in public education.  Unfortunately, in an effort to quantify the qualitative process of education; allocate dwindling funds; and turn education over to the political process, this resource is being at best underdeveloped and at worst squandered. 

How so you ask?  Make the comparison between leaders and managers and it becomes clear.

Whether you subscribe to Daniel Pink’s concept of “nature times nurture” or Susan Heathfield’s explanation that “the combination of skills, personality, and ambition essential to leadership are difficult to develop or exhibit,” it is clear that leaders are either born, emerge through a critical event, or they choose to develop into a leader through a combination of training, experience and determination.  The best case scenario is the focused acceptance and application of all three.

Managers on the other hand possess a skill set that while powerful, has a different focus and is easier to master.  They are focused on working in the present with infrequent change accomplished by extensive planning, solving problems through conflict management, and making quick decisions.  Successful managers also concentrate on building relationships by increasing their “people skills.”  Warren Bennis explained this further by saying; “Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing.”

I would be remiss not to mention that there are some areas of overlap between the two terms.  While all leaders need a set of managerial skills to oversee the smooth operation of a classroom, school, or district; managers (by definition) lack the skill set to move a class, school, or district forward.

Now think about;
·         21st Century Skills
·         Common Core
·         College and Career Readiness Skills
·         New evaluation system
·         Literacy initiatives
·         New Science standards

That list contains nothing but future endeavors that need to be implemented through a keen understanding of and appreciation for student, teacher, and community needs.  It is a road fraught with potential pitfalls if it is not navigated by people who accept and respond to change based on their context.  Unfortunately, State and federal mandates are attempting to decontextualize the individual, locally impacted environment education has become.  It is because of this that we need positive pro-active individuals capable of moving districts and education forward in a continuous changing environment.

In short, while we need individuals capable of managing the paperwork tied to compliance; we are more in need of people capable of getting others to follow them or else there will be less people to keep paperwork on as the most valuable members (teachers) are either pushed out of or dissuaded from even entering this once noble profession.