By Laurie Wolke
The 2016-2017 school year at Laurence is progressing beautifully and it brings me such joy to see how our Character Education program is unfolding. This year's "Keep Kind in Mind" sequel, "Follow Your Inner Compass," is reinforcing last year's lessons and taking them to a deeper level.
One of the most important tenets of our theme is encouraging our students to value being kind and good person as a measure of success in addition to valuing achievement and happiness.
Last year, Parent Education speaker, Dr. Robin Berman, talked about the importance of focusing on kindness rather than happiness, reinforcing the concept behind our "Keep Kind in Mind" theme. And this fall, Professor Richard Weissbourd, our kick-off speaker for 2016-2017, spoke to parents about the importance of being deliberate and intentional about helping children develop a moral sense in the same way they are deliberate and intentional about teaching them to achieve and be happy.
Here at Laurence, we are very deliberate and intentional about everything in our curriculum, and our Character Education program is no exception. From a multitude of service learning projects to our "Compass of Choice" conflict resolution guides, to our gratitude journals and morning class meetings, we make learning to be a good and kind human being a part of the daily learning process.
A fascinating takeaway from Professor Weissbourd's talk was the result of one of his studies in which he asked students to rank what they thought was most important to their parents: achievement, happiness or caring. Fifty percent of the students answered that they thought their parents cared most about achievement. The study then posed the same question to parents, and a majority of parents said that what was most important to them is that their kids are caring.
Professor Weissbourd attributed the gap between what parents are espousing and what children are hearing to hidden messages. For example, dinner conversations may be focused on achievement topics, or children might observe parents maneuvering to make sure their children are on the best sports teams. He emphasized the importance of making sure that conversations focus not only on personal achievement, but also on the importance of responsibility toward something larger than themselves.
I found this aspect of Professor Weissbourd's talk so interesting that I have been challenging our Laurence parents to pose the question to their children. During our 6th Grade Thanksgiving Feast, one parent told me that she accepted this "Laurence challenge." She asked her daughter, "What do you think is most important to dad and me? That you achieve, that you're kind, or that you're happy?" The daughter responded that she believed her parents cared most that she was kind and happy.
I hope you'll take on this Laurence challenge and ask your kids what they think is most important to you!
I touched on these themes during my Back-to-School Night speech in late September. Many of you asked me for a copy this speech, so I thought this blog post was the perfect opportunity to share it with you. Please click here to read it any time.
I hope that you and your children are enjoying this school year's journey!