Thursday, July 4, 2013

Supporting a Community to Build Stronger Students

(Photo by Ken Staab)

What does it mean to have a strong character?  Is this the same thing as being a good citizen?  I have been pondering this idea recently as my school works to implement a character education program.  We were extremely thorough and thoughtful when researching and deciding what would work best for our students and our school community.  Even though I am pretty skeptical of most character programs, I am excited about the work we will be doing with this program, mainly because it focuses on actual relationships and teaching practices rather than "character qualities."

This caused me to reflect upon my upbringing and analyze how my own character was crafted.  I believe I am a good person (though FAR from perfect), and honestly, this has more to do with my parents and family than with any teacher or school I ever attended.

I am really lucky to have been raised in an incredibly loving and nurturing family.  My father is a natural and life-long coach.  My earliest memories are of him teaching me how to dance, ride a bike, kick a soccer ball, and read.  He coached every team my siblings and I were ever on and continued coaching local football and basketball after we grew out of the leagues.  He became a surrogate father to many young men that still look-up to him as adults. Now that my siblings and I are grown, he works as a fitness coach and teaches classes at a local gym.

My mother was a stay at home mom for most of my childhood and went back to school when I was young to become a nurse.  Watching my mother as a student shaped my understanding and pride of education and learning.  I have vivid memories of sitting at the table with my mom while she studied for her exams, watching as she hosted study groups, and celebrating with her every time she aced a test.  It was a true example of the rewards of dedication and determination.  She went on to become a hospice nurse. Her patience, kindness, and strength made her loved by many families and their loved ones experiencing their final days of life.

My parents worked hard to instill morals and values in us, but their actions were more of a lesson than anything they would ever tell us.  I learned patience, kindness, teamwork, open-mindedness, and love from what my parents did naturally everyday. Additionally, my parents had a huge network of people that supported our family.  Neighbors and friends that were as important to my upbringing as any family member.

My "extended" family (Photo by Ken Staab)

This prompts me to wonder how we can support parents to help build the best children and adults we can.  This is a team effort, and good citizens are not created in a vacuum.  Our students will be blogging as a learning reflection this year, creating a space where they can communicate what they are learning, struggles and successes they encounter, and dreams and ideas they hope to achieve.

What if we encouraged parents to do the same? Our school is lucky to have a strong community of parents, but what if we were able to connect them through blogs?  Holding true to the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child, could be build a stronger village by helping parents support one another in this way?  With so much focus on connecting our students, doesn't it make sense to expand this to our parents as well?

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