Character development, while always a component of the educational process, changed this year at my school. Our District had originally used Character Counts: The Six Pillars of Character; however, this year we are switching over to The 7 Habits of Happy Kids. As with The Six Pillars, The 7 Habits will need to be integrated with our lesson planning in a meaningful way.
Sean Covey, author and son of Stephen Covey, wrote a book that develops these seven principles. If you are unfamiliar with them, The 7 Habits of Happy Kids are:
- Habit 1 – Be Proactive (You’re in Charge)
- Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind (Have a Plan)
- Habit 3 – Put First Things First (Work First, Then Play)
- Habit 4 – Think Win-Win (Everyone Can Win)
- Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood (Listen Before You Talk)
- Habit 6 – Synergize (Together is Better)
- Habit 7 – Sharpen The Saw (Balance Feels Best)
It’s a good system. Frankly, I prefer The 7 Habits to The 6 Pillars of Character. To me, it has an elmentary-aged friendliness to it. But, both systems are really very similar at the core.
Tried, Not True
I originally learned about The 7 Habits from a friend who works in another district. I actually created some signs and started teaching these in my class only to realize that it was too difficult to use The Habits plus The Six Pillars of Character. While similar at the core (like all character education programs), the programs were too difficult to bring together.
So, I brainstormed ways I could artfully (no pun intended) create a classroom system that encompassed something that fit into both and supported the ideas I needed my kids to learn for art making. I called it “Putting the ‘A’ in Art.”
Putting the “A” in Art
My ‘system’ is comprised of a five top-level categories with keywords listed underneath to help students anchor the meaning of the category:
- Direction Following (Understanding and learning the steps to take to succeed at a task.)
- Listen First
- Know Project Goals
- Work Silently
- Composition (Considering all of the ways to create your artwork.)
- Make a Plan
- Think for Myself
- Use Whole Paper
- Craftsmanship (Creating your art well.)
- Follow My Plan
- Act Like an Artist
- Take My Time
- Perseverance (Staying strong while handling setbacks.)
- Work Without Complaining
- Make Wise Choices
- Work Independently
- Pacing (Managing your time well.)
- Stay Focused
- Complete My Plan
Now, my five categories are not overtly character-based, but they are not intended to be. I designed them to be more art-specific with character-ish underpinnings. For me, they also make up a simple ‘rubric’ that guide student self-assessment and my grading decisions. I do not include creativity in my standard because all artistic output includes a measure of creativity and that ‘classification’ really touches on all aspects of the art-making process I’m trying to teach. So, isolating it seemed unwarranted.
Furthermore, coming from 16 years in the creative industry, I had to reconcile that what clients considered creative was not necessarily what I considered creative. I had to change my perspective and help my clients ask the more important question: “Is this an effective solution to the problem?” Now I need to educate my students—even at this young age—to think in this problem-solving way. And, sadly that is not always an ideal way to look at one’s creative output.
What does your district use for character education? How do you integrate it into your work? Do you just keep it as a standalone component? Something like citizenship. Or, do you integrate it into your art room agenda more closely like I have. To me, the overlap seems natural, but others may disagree. I’d appreciate your feedback.
In subsequent posts, you can expect to read up on
- My return to my classroom (versus the cart I used two years ago—boy, that seems like ages ago!)
- A few curricular updates
So, stay tuned and please contribute to the conversation.
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