For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Educator Summit is an annual invitation only conference for teachers and other education professionals put on by Character Lab and Relay Graduate School of Education. The Summit is in its third year (I believe though I could be wrong on this one) and is centered around infusing character education into the K-12 classroom for the benefit of both teachers and students. Now I have encountered professional development with Relay GSE before. I went to New Orleans in May for their T2TEI2018 and it was phenomenal. Initially, though I knew the learning would be significant based on prior experience, I was not sure how deeply we would dive into character education. I thought I would learn some new teacher moves but not much more. I should have known better. I have been blown away today and that is putting it mildly.
Typically, when I encounter character education programs, they tend to be boxed lessons that teachers use with students to essentially teach them to manage their behaviors. While those lessons have their place, I know now that they are in no way representative of the breadth and depth of character education. The Educator Summit seeks to give those that work most closely with students insight into how to create classroom environments that not only are well managed but provoke student curiosity, connection, and deep thought. The goal here is to create learning experiences that shape character instead of telling students what “good character” looks like.
Character Lab brought in a slew of researchers to push our thinking and help us to question our practice. These experts included Dan Heath who encouraged us to create moments for our students, Gabriele Oettingen who pushed mindfulness past positive thinking and into mental contrasting, Chris Hulleman who focused on motivating students by explaining the relevance of their learning, and K. Anders Ericsson who reminded us that becoming a master requires regular expert feedback.
“You have the power to elevate people. You have the power to create insight and I hope you use that power.” – Dan Heath
Each of these experts brought their own story to our workshops and each left me wondering how I could possibly take all of this home and make the impact needed for kids. If you were wondering the same, here are three things you can do today to infuse character education meaningfully into your classroom.
- Be better than prom. Dan Heath used an example today where he told us about two teachers in California who decided to create a learning experience that would be the academic equivalent of prom. They developed a learning event that students look forward to each year and remember for years afterward. They set out to do so and they did.
- Help your students to build connections between classroom learning and their daily lives.
- Provide your students with regular and ongoing feedback.
View a snippet of Dan Heath’s Keynote below and prepare to rethink your instruction!
Remember to lead is to constantly learn, and while others may not tell you the truth, I always will. Character is not a lesson in a box, it is a change in approach. – Dr. Kia
**NOTE** for more pictures of my travels, follow me on INSTAGRAM @drkiacoaches if you would like me to come and write about what you are doing in education, email me your event details at firstname.lastname@example.org