The mission of schools is to develop students who are academically competitive in a global society.
Academic skills are undoubtedly important, but being smart without a positive code of behavior has proven to be very dangerous throughout history. The implication for schools is that in addition to teaching high academic standards, it is also imperative to teach and reinforce important life skills that will help students become great citizens, successful leaders, and live happy lives.
Character education becomes even more important as the use of technology evolves. Its’ ease and availability, makes it possible to influence thousands of people in a moment. We need leaders who use technology purposefully, ethically, and responsibly.
Although values and the teaching of positive behavior begin in the home, it is imperative that students learn to connect knowledge and good judgment.
At Memorial Elementary in Valparaiso, character education is embedded in the climate and culture as students learn to be “Vikings with Heart.” H.E.A.R.T. is an acronym for the life skills of Honesty, Effort, Attitude, Respect and Teamwork.
There is a shared belief at Memorial that building good character is an important part of the mission of the school.
Memorial students and staff identified specific behaviors that fit into each of the H.E.A.R.T. life skills. Honesty is practiced by telling the truth, having courage, being a person others can trust, and being a positive role model. Effort is practiced by giving our best, being on time, having pride, working hard and being prepared.
Having a Positive Attitude is shown by being positive about our work, courteous to each other and following rules and directions. Showing Respect is practiced by being an active listener, using school appropriate language, keeping our school tidy and clean, and doing our personal best in actions and attitude. Teamwork is practiced when each person does their part to work together collaboratively and when everyone works to promote school spirit.
All of these identified skills give Memorial a shared definition of what “Vikings with Heart” means. Each day students are encouraged to, “Show your heart.”
When students demonstrate H.E.A.R.T they are praised and celebrated. Poor choices are viewed as opportunities to teach character through H.E.A.R.T. Elementary school is a great time to learn and practice these important skills for life. The goal is always to help our academic scholars be world leaders with H.E.A.R.T.
Debra Misecko is principal at Memorial Elementary School.