At the heart of a democratic and caring community are responsible, respectful, and compassionate citizens that contribute to growth and prosperity. The goal of Character Education is to help students develop as productive and contributing members of society.
The elementary Character Education curriculum has been organized around two themes – The Six Pillars of Character and Conflict Resolution. The Six Pillars of Character – trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship – provide a common vocabulary that we can use from Kindergarten through high school to help children understand what ethical conduct and decision making mean. Conflict Resolution provides a framework for teaching children the skills they need to successfully and peacefully resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise in social situations.
By winter break all children in Orchard Hill Elementary School will have learned about and practiced “I-Messages”. They will also explore the specific behaviors of a good listener, such as direct eye contact, attentive body language, a quiet manner and a willingness to take time to show interest by asking questions and rephrasing what the other person says. The children will develop an awareness of their own feelings and the feelings of others, will be able to verbalize their feelings, will become aware of body language and will learn to listen to others talk about their feelings. The lessons on “I-Messages” and active listening provide strategies for the students to utilize when conflicts with other children arise during the course of a regular school day.
An “I-Message” means that when you tell someone else about something that is bothering you or upsetting you, you start with the word “I” rather than with the word “you”. An “I-Message” often begins with a statement like “I feel very…about the things that are happening right now.” These messages, used consistently in the home, can help all family members to express their feelings clearly to other members. While “You” messages often blame, criticize and judge other people, an “I-Message” produces a calmer situation by creating an atmosphere where all feelings are accepted.
“Good listening,” means that when your child talks you listen with complete attention and give your child clear feedback. Sometimes ask, “Do you mean…?, or Are you saying that…?, or You just said…” Repeat back in your own words, what you have understood your child to say. This provides a model of how to listen for the child and allows the child to know that you are listening and trying to understand. It also gives the child a chance to fully explain what he/she is saying.
TAKE TIME TOGETHER TO
1. Talk things out when conflicts arise at home. Use feeling words.
2. Take note of your child’s feelings vocabulary. When your child says she feels “good”, “bad” or “mad”, encourage her to use specific words which convey her feelings more clearly, (i.e. embarrassed, excited, jealous, frustrated, lonely, tired, angry, scared, shy, brave, etc.
3. When reading together, point out feeling words in the story.
4. Always remember to honor feelings. Each person is entitled to her feelings. Disagree about events and behavior, not feelings.