Social Emotional Learning & Character Education

In the 1980s and 90s there was a national push towards integrating character education as a part of the regular curriculum in K-12 public education. Many schools purchased branded products and programs, others created their own, while some read an inspirational quote during morning announcements to meet the requirement on their checklist. Unfortunately, many educators did not have a deep understanding of the importance of building character education as a component of their classrooms.

As a fairly new teacher at that time, I personally had not had the training in my college courses to build my understanding in this area. I was trying to maintain an understanding of my core curriculums and there was no staff development that I was made aware of in this area. After just a couple of years in the classroom, I realized that character education was necessary. Many of my students did not come to class with foundational values and beliefs. With a lot of latitude to build my own lessons, I decided to embed character education into my reading lessons to help extend the reading skill with a layer of instruction in building character. Our school counselor had a character trait of the month listed about the school, so I was determined to build my lessons around the values being “promoted” school wide. I used a lot of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” stories, poems, and passages which my students seemed to enjoy. As I created my notebook of lessons, many colleagues became interested in tapping into my resources and of course I have never minded sharing. As the next couple of years passed, I realized that while particular character traits were being addressed, my students still had many conflicts and concerns that my little lessons would never be able to touch.

As schools moved towards a system of accountability and big data, character education seemed to become a thing of the past. Common Core became the next “trend” and teaching the whole child became less of a priority.