Building character in classroom

April 02, 2004|By Jean Waller Brune

BRITNEY SPEARS videos, rap music, Abercrombie & Fitch advertisements - our children are constantly bombarded by media images depicting young men and women in overtly sexual situations.

Lyrics promote violence and poor behavior choices. Entertainers, politicians and athletes, once role models, often provide highly visible examples of immoral conduct. Parents are deeply concerned about their children's values and behaviors.

Schools can help parents raise children of character in today's seemingly toxic climate.

President John F. Kennedy said, "A child miseducated is a child lost." Our job as educators is to ensure that every child in our care is nurtured and educated meaningfully, day after day, year after year. The beauty of the No Child Left Behind Act - in addition to its name - is the renewed focus on individual student performance.

When children are carefully challenged and encouraged because of their unique learning abilities, trust and confidence can blossom in the classroom and character can develop. While, without question, a child's character is formed and nurtured in the home, school can and should be a place where character-building situations present themselves daily and each child is given opportunities to grow intellectually, socially and morally.

From the simple morning hug or handshake each child receives from his teacher to the complexities of "doing the right thing" when others around you are not, students taught in a respectful environment gain a quiet strength.

Character-building comes with academic challenge and the pursuit of excellence in the arts and on the athletic fields. It comes with community service and giving selflessly of time and energy to help others. It comes with helping younger students with studies and social concerns. It comes with a respectful relationship between faculty and students.

Schools have a responsibility to provide a safe, nurturing environment where intellectual curiosity abounds and students can take chances and make mistakes, where individuals are treated with the dignity deserving of every human being.

Teachers need to treat their students with respect and should expect the same respect from their students. If we work toward this goal, we can instill in our children the very values that accompany strong character.

All Maryland schools, whether public or private, have an important role to play in providing a teaching and learning environment that encourages our children to withstand the toxic influences of today's popular culture with responsibility and integrity. Schools are a great place for character to grow.

Jean Waller Brune is head of the Roland Park Country School in Baltimore.

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