What Makes a Good Character Education Program?

The ultimate character education program

I have worked in the field of education for over thirty years and know that character is important in both public and private schools. During those years, activities for character education have been developed.

When I first began teaching in the early ’90s, I remember a character education curriculum that used a puppet named Duso the Dolphin. Students were taught to act a certain way and behave because Duso told them to “Do So”. Some parents did not like the idea that we were using a fictional character to motivate students. Some even said that Duso was like a false god. That seemed a little extreme. However, the truth of the matter is that it is hard to teach character education traits without a source for good character. Christians have that source in God. Little Pot’s source is the potter.

A New Idea in Character Education

A new idea in Character Education

After writing The Little Pot, I became the principal of an elementary school. The teachers and I thought that the fruit of the Spirit would make the best character education traits. I was hesitant because I did not want our students to think the fruit of the Spirit was something they could be taught in school. It is the qualities of the Holy Spirit and they can only produce that fruit when He lives inside of them. Therefore, I went back to the story of Little Pot and thought through exactly how Little Pot grows fruit. I then took each part of the process and mirrored it with something that was teachable.

The character education activities followed Little Pot’s journey.

Identity within Character Education

Little Pot first needs to appreciate exactly how the potter shaped it.

identity
“The potter made is it just the right size and shape.”

We can confuse students about their identity. In society’s attempt at giving children choice, children may begin to question the absolutes they need within their life. For example, Gender identity is now defined as something different than that of a child’s sex assigned based on physical characteristics at birth.  Even though most children will label themselves as a boy or girl before their third birthday, our society has used the likes and dislikes of play, hairstyle, dress, and such characteristics of children to label them as different genders. In fact, if you do a google search for a gender list, you will find over 72 different types of gender that people can now claim to be. Male and female are only two. I can only imagine how this list could confuse a child.

Why is this important to character education?

If society can tell children that they are a specific gender based on their character and not their creator, we have lost the source before we have started. And gender is not the only thing our students need to appreciate about themselves. Their skin color, height, eye color, size, age, etc. are all characteristics our children need to be proud of. They need to know that God made them exactly the way He wants them to be, both physically and emotionally.

Humility within Character Education

character-education-humility
Little Pot was filled with humus soil.

Humus soil is the part of the soil that is best for growing things. It is made from organic matter like manure and dead things.  We get the word humility from the word humus. So, just as Little Pot contains humus, we need to contain humility. The things that make humus soil (manure and dead things) can help children to understand humility.

Manure:

We often describe the bad things that happen in our lives as manure (or another word that means manure). Does God allow bad things to happen to us? Why? One reason is that it makes us humble. We grow when we experience bad things because we want things to get better. Likewise, we can learn what it feels like and help someone else who is going through it too.

Dead Things:

Throughout scripture God asks us to die to ourselves so that we can He can live through us. The connection is that we choose to put God above ourselves. We put others above ourselves too.  What things do we want to do that we may need to “put to death” so Jesus can live through us?

God’s Word within Character Education

God's-Word-is-the-seed
Little Pot needs a seed to be planted.

After the soil, is the seed. If we want to grow good character, we need a seed too. Jesus tells us in the parable of the sower that the seed is God’s Word. Do not underestimate how teaching our students the Bible will result in good character and specifically the qualities in the fruit of the Spirit. Students need to “plant” God’s Word in their hearts. If God’s Word is taking root, the good character will germinate and emerge.

Integrity within Character Education

stem-integrity
A stem grows. The stem represents our integrity.

No one ever notices the stem. They never look at a plant and say, “Wow, that’s a nice stem.” They notice the leaves, the flower, and the fruit. Moreover, no one really notices our integrity. They will notice the things our integrity supports. If we are trustworthy and honest. Stems provide support for the plant and hold leaves, flowers, and fruit above the ground. In addition, good integrity provides support for us too. A small crack in the stem can damage the plant. Naturally, a small crack in our integrity will keep us from growing good character. Also, Proverbs tells us that a person of integrity is straight and upright. A strong stem will grow straight and upright too.

Relationships within Character Education

character-education-relationships
Along the stem, Little Pot watches leaves form.

The leaves take light and turn it into food for the plant. A process that is known as photosynthesis. If a child has strong integrity, they will form relationships, and each person they have a relationship with can ‘feed’ them with the light of Christ. Without the leaves, the plant cannot grow and bear fruit. Without strong Godly relationships, we cannot grow and bear the fruit of the Spirit.

If a leaf is no longer green and is wilted, it is not absorbing light and producing food for the plant. It can even pull the nutrients away from the part of the plant that is growing. When this happens to a leaf, it will eventually fall off the plant. In the same way, a friend or person that is not providing us with the light of Jesus may be removed from a part of our life so we can grow more fruit. It is important that we build relationships that will absorb the light of Jesus.

Knowledge within Character Education

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Finally, Little Pot blooms a flower. We bloom knowledge.

What does a flower do?

Flowers create nectar that attracts bees, butterflies, and other insects. Our knowledge will attract others. These pollinators are searching for nectar in the flower. As Proverbs 2:2-6 tells us, we should also search for knowledge. Pollen lands on the insects as they come and go. It gets left wherever the insects go. Knowledge lands on us as we study, and we leave some of that knowledge wherever we go. It takes all the parts of the flower to make seeds and reproduce. Consequently, we cannot gain new knowledge on our own.  Flowers share their pollen with other flowers. It is important to share our knowledge with others.  Pollen propagates the development of the seed, and our knowledge should propagate God’s Word. Flowers pollinate during different seasons and at different rates and times as we each gain new knowledge in different seasons and at different rates and times.

The Fruit of the Spirit within Character Education

character-education-fruit
The flower turns to fruit.

This is the journey that produces fruit. Strawberries withing Little Pot, and the fruit of the Spirit within us. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Good character is made of the same. It cultivates in the right environment and with the right process. Can we educate or teach character? No, but we can fill each other with what is needed, so it will grow. That is what character education should do.

You can purchase this full character education curriculum here.

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