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Character Education as an Essential Element of Teacher Preparation. Teacher character is more important than teacher technique. Context of our Conversation. Ever since the ’60’s, almost the entire emphasis in American public schools has been on academics. This is manifest in

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Character education as an essential element of teacher preparation

Character Education as an Essential Element of Teacher Preparation

Teacher character is more important than teacher technique


Context of our conversation
Context of our Conversation Preparation

  • Ever since the ’60’s, almost the entire emphasis in American public schools has been on academics.

  • This is manifest in

    • Content: the development of subject specific standards, and

    • Method: the articulation of the California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP’s) and the Teaching Performance Expectations (TPE’s)


Context of our conversation1
Context of our Conversation Preparation

  • Accountability: high-stakes standardized testing of the academic achievement of school students, and

  • Accountability: only somewhat less high-stakes testing of the pedagogic knowledge of teacher candidates, the Teacher Performance Assessments (TPA’s), which measure only

    • Instructional planning

    • Assessment

    • Adaptations of instruction and assessment for English learners and students with special needs


Context of our conversation2
Context of our Conversation Preparation

  • But, as we shall see, the State of California expects more than academic instruction, although that expectation is less loud, less visible, and not tested at all

  • What I will suggest is that character education should be at the heart of teacher preparation

  • And that, if it is, it will improve the chances for successful academic instruction


Historical background
Historical Background Preparation

  • First, a brief review of the role of character education in American schooling

  • During the Colonial Period, all schools were “private” and all schools were religious; moral training was seen as more important than anything else

  • During the period between the end of the War of 1812 and the outbreak of the Civil War --- say 1820 -1860 --- there were 3 main goals of what were now publicly funded schools:


Historical background1
Historical Background Preparation

  • As the country committed to democracy, a radical thing to do, the public schools were committed to preparing young people for life in that new democratic way of life, by inculcating in them a belief in

    • Democracy

    • Capitalism

    • Protestant Christianity


Historical background2
Historical Background Preparation

  • In the response to the 2nd Great Wave of Immigration, which ended with the outbreak of the World War I in 1914, public schools were devoted to “Americanizing” the children of immigrants.

  • The “Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education” of 1918 emphasized not academics but morals and ethics:


Historical background3
Historical Background Preparation

  • Cleanliness and good hygiene

  • Contribution to family life; being an obedient and helpful child

  • Using non-work time for healthy pursuits, not for drinking and gambling, etc.

  • Obeying the law

  • Learning a trade and becoming a responsible, conscientious worker


Historical background4
Historical Background Preparation

  • The common thread: public schools are the public form of child-rearing

  • The obligation to help form the character of the child was taken for granted by all school teachers, until

  • The 1960’s: The Great Disruption

  • Too many differing ethical standards, too much disagreement: public schools should stay out of the morals business


Historical background5
Historical Background Preparation

  • Result:

    • Schools attempted to become “value neutral” institutions where no point of view is privileged and all points of view are respected

    • To put it another way, in our attempt to eliminate the morally unjustifiable standards of race discrimination and gender discrimination, we tried to remove all “absolute” standards, thereby throwing out the baby with the bathwater


Historical background6
Historical Background Preparation

  • Result, con’t:

    • Teachers now find themselves in the difficult position of trying to create positive, beneficial classroom environments without being able to depend on an institutional commitment to the principles that underlie “positive” and “beneficial.”


The question
The Question Preparation

  • Is there a way to help teacher candidates

    • Understand that there are universal values

    • Understand that their obligation as teachers is to help their students embrace and live by those universal values

    • Develop good character in themselves so that they can be examples of good character to their students

    • Develop ways to accomplish this without depending on the institution


California s requirements
California’s Requirements Preparation

  • Education Code Section 233.5(a)

  • Each teacher shall endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship, and the meaning of equality and human dignity, including the promotion of harmonious relations, kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures, to teach them to avoid idleness, profanity, and falsehood, and to instruct them in manners and morals and the principles of a free government.


California s requirements1
California’s Requirements Preparation

  • "Effective schools seek to develop and reinforce character traits, such as caring, citizenship, fairness, respect, responsibility, and trustworthiness, through a systematic approach that includes adult modeling, curriculum integration, a positive school climate, and access to comprehensive guidance and counseling services."

  • —Elementary Makes the Grade! (CDE, 1999)


California s requirements2
California’s Requirements Preparation

  • In August of 1999, The California Superintendent of Education stated that “Character education is a critical component of education which needs to be embedded in the school culture and the core curriculum throughout the school year……"


California s requirements3
California’s Requirements Preparation

  • From the TPE’s: Teacher candidates

    • “encourage student effort”

    • “ensure active and equitable participation of all students”

    • “support students in assuming increasing responsibility for learning”

    • “establish procedures for routine tasks”

    • “maintain clear expectations for….social behavior”


California s requirements4
California’s Requirements Preparation

  • “help students work responsibly with others”

  • “respond appropriately to sensitive issues”

  • “model ethical behavior for students”


Being a good example
Being a Good Example Preparation

  • “model ethical behavior for students”

  • Edmund Burke: “Example is the school of mankind and they will learn at no other.”


Obligations of teacher preparation programs
Obligations of Teacher Preparation Programs Preparation

  • Given the requirements articulated in the ed code and in the TPE’s,

  • And given that the teacher’s example will be the most effective form of character education,

  • it is obvious that colleges and universities have the obligation to prepare teacher candidates to be good examples


Obligations of teacher preparation programs1
Obligations of Teacher Preparation Programs Preparation

  • How can teacher preparation programs do such a thing? Teaching subject matter knowledge and pedagogical expertise is one thing, but teaching “character”?

  • It can be done

    • In reading

    • In writing

    • In discussion

    • In written and oral reflection on practice


Obligations of teacher preparation programs2
Obligations of Teacher Preparation Programs Preparation

  • Four areas of emphasis

    • An informative, inspiring book: The Elements of Teaching by James Banner and Harold Cannon

    • A careful, analytical reading of the TPE’s (especially in light of The Elements of Teaching)

    • the use of movies that deal with ethical dilemmas for teachers (especially in light of The Elements of Teaching)

    • On-going opportunities for reflection on practice (especially in light of The Elements of Teaching)


The importance of an inspiring text
The Importance of an Inspiring Text Preparation

  • The language of the TPE’s is bureaucratic; i.e., correct but bloodless, without vitality or reference to deep human meaning

  • Contrast with Banner and Cannon’s view of the importance of “character”:

    • “The challenge of personality that confronts (teachers) is not that of making themselves pleasing to their students, as much as that may seem to be desirable, but that of drawing out of themselves the traits of character --- the traits of their moral nature --- that will accommodate and enhance their students’ learning.”


The importance of an inspiring text1
The Importance of an Inspiring Text Preparation

  • Or this:

    • “If there is an ideal character for a teacher, it is one occupying a middle position between conflicting extremes. To be kind is not to be soft or weak, and to be demanding is not to be unfair. The balance to be achieved lies with a good-natured reserve and an enthusiastically generous sharing of intellectual excitement….”


The importance of an inspiring text2
The Importance of an Inspiring Text Preparation

  • Let’s look at just two examples from the TPE’s:

  • TPE 4

  • Candidates encourage student creativity and imagination.  They motivate students and encourage student effort.  When students do not understand content, they take additional steps to foster access and comprehension for all learners. 


The importance of an inspiring text3
The Importance of an Inspiring Text Preparation

  • TPE 5

  • Candidates for Teaching Credentials clearly communicate instructional objectives to students.  They ensure the active and equitable participation of all students.  They ensure that students understand what they are to do during instruction and monitor student progress toward academic goals. 


The importance of an inspiring text4
The Importance of an Inspiring Text Preparation

  • It’s not that the TPE’s stand for the wrong things, but that they stand for the right things in such shallow and untouching ways.

  • Reading the TPE’s in conjunction with the appropriate sections of Banner and Cannon allows students to see the richness, depth, complexity, and profound human meaning that lies hidden beneath the bureaucratic coldness of the TPE’s.


The importance of an inspiring text5
The Importance of an Inspiring Text Preparation

  • Movies about teachers are great ways to see, think about, and to discuss ethical issues of teaching.

  • Here is Banner and Cannon on compassion:

    • Compassion requires first that teachers know who their students are

    • Compassion demands an adherence to high standards

    • Compassion requires that students put themselves in their students’ places


The importance of an inspiring text6
The Importance of an Inspiring Text Preparation

  • Compassion makes approval enjoyable and correction palatable

  • Compassion requires avoiding favoritism

  • Compassion moves teachers to acknowledge their students’ struggles

  • Compassion means acting as a whole person

  • Compassion is evident in a steady devotion to each student’s future


The importance of an inspiring text7
The Importance of an Inspiring Text Preparation

  • “Those who experience difficulty in accepting the idea of compassion in the classroom, who resist the idea of sympathetic emotions, or who prefer their working lives to be exclusively intellectual should avoid teaching altogether and probably should consider devoting themselves to less demanding occupations, such as politics or crime.”


Movies as a means to an end
Movies as a Means to an End Preparation

  • Consider The Emperor’s Club

  • The main character, Mr. Hundert, is an exemplar of everything that Banner and Cannon preach.

  • But his compassion for a student leads him astray

  • His story serves as a cautionary tale about the remarkable complexity and subtlety of teaching taken seriously


Movies as a means to an end1
Movies as a Means to an End Preparation

  • Or The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

  • Miss Brodie has most, if not all, of the characteristics that Banner and Cannon preach

    • Learning

    • Order in her classroom

    • Authority

    • Imagination

    • Compassion


Movies as a means to an end2
Movies as a Means to an End Preparation

  • But she perverts all of them

  • She is undermined by her overriding devotion to herself, before her students, but in a completely unconscious way

  • Her story serves as a cautionary tale, too: Merely having all the right characteristics is not enough. One has to be motivated by a right concern for one’s students


Movies as a means to an end3
Movies as a Means to an End Preparation

  • Or Goodbye, Mr. Chips (the Robert Donat version)

  • Mr. Chippings suffers both personal and professional disappointment, desire and ambition squashed, but is always redeemed by his love of teaching

  • He is tempted by selfish considerations --- in his case, self-pity; but his commitment to teaching allows him to rise above


Movies as a means to an end4
Movies as a Means to an End Preparation

  • Or The Dead Poets’ Society

  • A wonderful opportunity for discussion

  • Mr. Keating strikes us as wonderfully inspiring, even revolutionary

  • On careful analysis, it’s not obvious whether he did the right thing or not, whether he was wise or not


Character education curriculum in teacher preparation
Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation Preparation

  • First, a rich, well-written, inspiring book about the importance of teacher character

  • Second, a careful analysis of each of the TPE’s, line-by-line, so students come to understand their ethical obligations to their students

  • Third, a process of enriching the TPE’s by looking at specific parts of each TPE along with specific parts of a Banner and Cannon chapter


Character education curriculum in teacher preparation1
Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation Preparation

  • Fourth, viewing, discussing, and writing about movies focused on ethical issues for teachers

  • Fifth, plenty of opportunity for writing, discussing, and reflecting on the importance of teacher character

  • Sixth, on-going opportunities for both written and oral reflection on the importance of teacher character in one’s own practice


Character education curriculum in teacher preparation2
Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation Preparation

  • Seventh, on-going opportunities for teacher candidates to have conversations with Cooperating Teachers and University Supervisors, not just about pedagogy but about principle

  • Eighth, on-going opportunities for intra-cohort conversations about the influence of principle on practice


Character education curriculum in teacher preparation3
Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation Preparation

  • Two quick notes:

    • NCATE talks about “professional dispositions.” What Banner and Cannon write about is about principle and how it applies to practice. “Professional dispositions” refers just to practice. It’s shallow and prescriptive.

    • I would not support any systematic, rubric-based assessment of teacher candidates based on “character”. It would be antithetical to the basic idea.


Character education curriculum in teacher preparation4
Character Education Curriculum in Teacher Preparation Preparation

  • California --- through the TPE’s and the TPA’s --- is attempting to make the entire process of teacher preparation so completely rational, predictable, and orderly that everything can be measured.

  • A right program of character education, embedded in an authentic way within a teacher preparation program, can enrich what the State is demanding, lead to better