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Fostering Caring Beyond the Classroom

Caring beyond the classroom: Using role models to inspire altruistic behavior and providing opportunities for school and community service.

Key Ideas

  1. Character education should extend students' caring beyond the classroom into larger and larger spheres.
  2. Students can develop their awareness of the needs of others, their desire to help, and the skills and habit of helping through: (a) exposure to inspiring role models, and (b) opportunities for service in their schools, families, and communities.
  3. Service opportunities with the power to transform character are those that involve children in face-to-face helping relationships, so they experience the fulfillment of touching another's life.

Strategies

  1. Students should study heroes and other examples of caring and courageous persons in history and the news — then find everyday heroes in their own communities and tell their stories.
  2. Service should begin in the classroom (e.g., through classroom helper jobs and peer teaching).
  3. Students' first "community service" should be service to the school. The school is their community. Possibilities:
    • School jobs (In Andover's South School, for example, each class volunteers for a special school job; teachers meet with the principal to match jobs to different grade levels; each classroom develops a plan for carrying out its job; and a class "foreman" meets with the principal to review the plan.)
    • "Class adoptions" of younger classes by older classes
    • Cross-grade tutoring, coaching (e.g., older kids coach younger ones in soccer and basketball and ref noontime games), and companionship (e.g., 6th-graders eat lunch with 1st-graders)
    • A service club (e.g., Sweet Home Middle School's S.M.I.L.E. Club)
    • Student government that maximizes schoolwide participation in solving school problems.