During my 38 years as an educator and the last 1 ½ volunteering, I have learned a few things I would like to share.  Interestingly enough, whether employed as an educator or volunteering more recently in various settings, what I want to share still seems to revolve around fundamental character traits and social-emotional well-being.

Who we are and our self-worth is not innate qualities but instead learned. As we move forward into our Social-Emotional Learning, using trauma-informed instruction, and culturally responsive classroom environments, it is essential to embed positive character traits. Why?

Our Character is, as they say, what we do when nobody is looking! It doesn’t matter what religion, culture, or race people can agree on positive character traits such as Respect, Citizenship, Kindness, Perseverance, Responsibility, and Honesty, to name a few. Your Character makes a difference!

For example, Respect is the foundation of all character-building despite religion, culture, or race.  It begins with self-respect, and Respect for the work you do, whether that be to educate the students, be part of an organization, lead a business, or be educated. Respect is the “Golden Rule,” meaning to treat others the way you wish to be treated.

  During my days as a Principal, we began school, Filling Buckets with “A Key to a Better Me,” with the character trait RESPECT to set the tone for the whole year.  Our communities could not continue without education, and the total school community makes a powerful difference in students’ lives. By joining in this Bucket-filling with character program we created a common language for all to rally around.

Citizenship was the character key for October.  Citizenship can be summed up in the phrase, “Make it a great day!” This is so much more powerful than having a nice day.  The saying implies that you have the power through your actions and responses to influence your life’s direction.  When you are making the day great, you know you can count on yourself, and everyone else can count on you, too.  Try changing your greeting to “Make it a great day!” and watch what happens.

Kindness is the character trait that makes a living a profound pleasure.  All of us know how good it feels to give and receive small kindnesses.  What we sometimes forget is to be kind to ourselves.  Many of us go home at the end of the day to family members who also need our care.  It would help if you were sure to take care of yourself as well.  Spend an extra five minutes in the shower—you deserve it.  Enjoy reading a book.  Save a little time for the hobby that you love.  These are the things that help us remain human.  Taking care of ourselves replenishes and nourishes the spirit that we can then pass on to others. 

 During November, our Character Key was Kindness.

It is only right that we pause and ask ourselves what it is that we have to be thankful for at this time of year.  On this Thanksgiving Day, as we give thanks, let us know what it is for which we are grateful.

When we listen to the radio, watch the TV screen, and read the newspapers, the answer is not always so clear, for we see tragedy upon tragedy, poverty, hunger, and war.  When we see these things in front of us, indeed, the doubt must come that we have little to be thankful for in this far-from-perfect world.

Yet, as Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “I can see how a man can keep his eyes on the mud and conclude there is no God, but I cannot see how anyone could turn his eyes to the heavens on a starry night and deny the existence of a Supreme Being.” Maybe the problem is the point of view?  There is a choice in our perceptions of the world.   We can concentrate on what is wrong, or we can appreciate what is right!

There is so much that is good and worthwhile in this worldSo much of that which is excellent and valuable happens right here in our neighborhood. 

These three traits will lead to happiness in life—guaranteed!  But if you want success, you have to add perseverance.  (A Key later in the Spring)  What I lack in talent I make up in “try, try again.”  That and talented friends—and I’m not afraid to ask for help. 

These are my words of wisdom—live the character traits of Respect, Responsibility, Kindness, and Perseverance, but start with yourself.  Respect yourself and your work.  Live up to your responsibilities to you.  Be kind to the most important person in your life.  Never give up because you are worth it!  And remember, “Make it a great day!” 

As we move forward implementing our Social-Emotional Learning, which I am 100% in favor of, remember to embed positive Character into it. Therefore, Fill Buckets with positive Character!

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