Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!
Martin Luther King, Jr. is being celebrated in the US today, but his vision of “judging people by the content of their character” reaches far beyond America’s shores.
Character Education is part of the current K – 5 curricula in many parts of the world. New teachers might think that this is a relatively recent trend, but research tells otherwise.
I found, for example, and still marvel at an old copy of The Grade Teacher, a publication of the Educational Publishing Corporation, Darien, Connecticut (US) in my library.
The dog-eared issue, dated April, 1942, sold for considerably more than its original 30 cents price. Thumbing through this aged “Professional Magazine for Classroom Teachers of All Grades,” I found an article titled, “The City of Refuge” with a subtitle: “Foundations of Character Education“, by Henry Turner Bailey.
This decades old analysis of character education by Bailey connects with Attentionology.
For example, RESPECT, as in listening attentively when someone else is speaking, is a key trait of what is widely perceived as “good character.”
In his article, Bailey makes the case for building foundations of character education by leading the way to the joys of learning.
His writing may sound antiquated to modern ears. He defines “Real Teaching” as methods by which “all school topics should be taught so that, through them, children may catch visions of what is beyond.”
Bailey acknowledged the challenges that teachers in America (and likely elsewhere) faced during the turbulent years of World War II, leading the way “into the land of delights” (his definition of the rewards of solid character education).
The war wasn’t all to overcome in Bailey’s era. He wrote about creating a new vision for education free of the restraints of earlier teaching methods.
He said, “Those who occupied our places in the past did not always serve with gladness, nor lead forth their flock with joy. When they forced children to learn verses by heart, as a punishment for some offense, they placed stumbling blocks in the path and almost closed one of the gates – perhaps the chief and most accessible.”
Bailey characterized teaching as a privilege “to free the spirit” of children. “To be able to give freedom to many is something worth the effort of a lifetime,” he wrote. “What satisfaction may be ours!”
This focus on freedom certainly connects Bailey’s writing about character education to the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Good Judgment, Integrity, Responsibility, Kindness. These and other traits that are part of Character Education can be infused into every lesson offered in school.
What about courage?
Share this poem with your class. I wrote it as part of a collection titled, Good Character Counts!
I Know Courage
I know courage when I see it
In the face of someone
Who set aside fear.
I saw courage at work
In the firemen featured
In the news last year.
I know courage when I see it
In the raised hands of someone
Who acts on his or her belief.
I heard about courage at work
When my mother told me
Of neighbors stopping a thief.
I will know courage when I feel it
Filling my own heart and mind
With a sense of right and wrong.
Courage will build my character
As I learn that I can help others
By being brave; by being strong.
Martin Luther King, Jr. King had the courage to act on his beliefs.
We celebrate King and his legacy today. But, encouraging good character in children, and celebrating the lives of those who exemplify it, is a job that needs many more days than just one Monday in January.
Please send comments about how you teach Character Education.
Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!
Stop by on Wednesday for Mid-Week Focus.
Talk with you again soon,
Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet