What’s On Your Plate? Building Character: Lesson 1

For generations, schools have worked with intention to advance their students’ skills in the 3 Rs {Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic}, commonly revered as the core essentials of a child’s education.
We relied heavily on children coming to school with the 3 Rs of the character kind, things like Respect, Responsibility, Relationships, already in place. School was much more about teachers giving and students receiving information than it was about connecting and growing in relationship with one another.
Some even thought of character education as one more thing on our already-full plates.
What we’ve come to know is that building relationships isn’t putting one thing more on our plates, it actually IS the plate, foundational to all of the other learning.
Researcher Angela Duckworth tells us that if we only teach academic content, we are missing more than half of what a child needs.
Schools of character have shifted the thinking that school is, first and foremost, a place for students to learn content with the belief that education is all about relationships. What we commonly knew as soft skills are, indeed, success skills in today’s work force.
Are you intentionally building relationships to connect with the whole child? From the moment that children enter your school, a warm welcome helps them feel that they belong, that they matter, and that they are loved. When we show and teach children how to give and receive as a valued and value-able member of our school family, learning thrives.
The same follows for faculty and staff. We simply cannot leave healthy relationships to chance. Ask yourselves this school climate question: How does our staff feel at school as we grow together as a learning community?
And then the big-picture: How do our community stakeholders feel when they enter our building? Are they greeted with a friendly smile? Will they observe our vision and mission actively displayed on our walls and in our halls? Can they feel our positive energy come to life as they interact with us? Do they see comfortable, joyful children engaged in the learning process? Do they witness passionate teachers who are on fire for their learners? Have they come to a place where everybody counts?
Intentionally building relationships starts with a smile, eye contact, a handshake, a greeting, and the chance to step into someone else’s story, to listen wholeheartedly to understand. To show empathy. To mobilize compassion. To put kindness into motion.
Every day with every interaction, character educators get a chance to model, teach, and practice these relational success skills with their students and with one another until they become habits of the head, heart, and hands. Once we’ve provided a plate where students, staff, and stakeholders alike cannot wait to be, a plate where they come to connect, a plate where healthy relationships have a stronghold, then the seeds of academia will have a more fertile soil in which to take root and bear fruit.