Common Sense on Character

One of our KCS Habits of Mind, Body and Action

One of our KCS Habits of Mind, Body and Action

“It’s great to have him back, but I already run my class and raise my daughter according to his book.” — a KCS teacher

I knew it as soon as I heard Ron Morrish, speaker and author of Secrets of Effective Discipline and With All Due Respect, over 10 years ago. His message on how to develop self-discipline in children would transform my approach as both educator and mother of two young boys. Seven years ago he first spoke at KCS. This month he visited with faculty once again.

Many parents and visitors have remarked on the manners and behaviour of our students. Stand-out moments for visitors are how often they’re greeted by students and have the door held open for them. For a bustling community of 369 students, over 60 staff, and the many parents and others who join us each day, the atmosphere is happy, respectful and purposeful. While there are many good reasons for that, one is Ron Morrish and how KCS has incorporated his pointers into our day.

Ron is the first to say that much of his advice captures how many of us were raised. He says it’s the “common sense” that, unfortunately, is less common these days. So what’s included in this common sense on character? Here’s a small sample:

  1. Always model the behaviour you seek
  2. Teach the behaviour you seek; don’t assume children should know how to behave at all times
  3. Be clear and ensure follow-through on directions
  4. Make sure small things are done properly and consistently (manners, holding doors, routines)
  5. When mistakes happen, require a “do-over”; mistakes mean more practice doing things right
  6. Take proactive steps so children can be successful behaving as they’ve been taught
  7. This all takes persistent work

Parents, you’ll be glad to know that your children’s teachers spent an afternoon enjoying a refresher from Ron Morrish. And to the parents and educators seeking more self-discipline among the young in your midst, consider looking into Ron’s teachings. As it has for many of us, it could really make a difference for you too.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

Testing What Matters in Life

How did you do on your last test?

If you’re not a student you probably can’t remember. Tests are for students, right?

Formal education has a long history of testing. Spelling, math, science, history – no other institution tests more than schools. Obviously.

KCS CaresWhat’s not as top of mind, however, are the tests that we face minute-by-minute, wherever we are, whomever we’re with and whatever we’re doing. These are the tests of character that appear in our interactions with others, choices of how to spend our time, how we work, how we play, and how we respond to the challenges thrown our way. And if you’re following what most experts are saying, it is character, and specifically traits such as initiative, curiosity, grit, creativity, and adaptability, that will best determine our success in life.

Educators and parents alike spend a lot of time thinking about tests, whether designing, marking or preparing children to do their best with them. Tests help us monitor growth in students and effectiveness of teaching. They have value. But most of these tests don’t measure what matters most. They aren’t designed to.

So, what would a test of character look like? Simple. Watch what others do, of their own volition, and particularly when out of the gaze and direction of authority figures. Minute-by-minute.

And if you want to help prepare students to do well on these tests? Provide a school experience that not only teaches character but also includes the encouragement, time and support needed so students can practice the skills and traits that matter, and do so for their own purposes. Students of character need freedom to initiate, create, persist at solving real problems, make a difference and more, not for marks and not because they’re told to. They need a school that believes in the infinite potential of children, if we let it take shape, and a school which recognises that this means doing a number of things differently.

Educators, watch what your students do with free time. That’s testing what matters. And give them a school experience that lets them develop the traits and skills that matter most. That’s preparing them to ace the test. You won’t be disappointed.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

This article was first published in SNAP Etobicoke, December 2012.