Q: How can I help my students develop good character?
As adults, we have a great opportunity to influence the children around us. We do this through our example, including our choices and actions (children are always watching and learning!) as well as through our words. There are a lot of character development programs especially designed for educators to influence children’s esteem and virtue. But if we don’t embody those values, we are sending mixed messages that will lead to confusion and even resentment. So as an adult, and particularly as a leader, we must always be aware of the example we are setting for our children.
As much as we want our influence to impact the children around us, whether they are our own children, our neighbors, or our students, we can’t control how others will respond to us. What we say and do will resonate with some people, and it will turn other people off. That’s human nature; we are all different and some people are more open to learning that others. We can never control other people, nor should we want to. Attempting to control others’ thoughts and behaviors will lead them to shut down; by doing this, they will not be open to learning from us. So we need to share our ideas, and be a great example to others, without the expectation that everyone will buy in to what we want them to believe or do. And when other people reject our ideas, we need to show them respect and continue to share who we are with an open heart and mind.
There are many influences on children including their school, family, community, and the media. Each source of influence has a different motivation. Some are most concerned with the well-being of children while others are not. Our children are exposed to a lot of things that we might find harmful, or detrimental to the values we are trying to imbue. We can try to change some of these practices, but it takes collective effort over time. Join with others who also care about children, and who want them to build character, and you will be even more successful in influencing who they are.