Character is not about how smart you are, how much money you have, what car you drive, where you live or what job you have. Character is about responsibility, respect, honor, integrity and compassion. These are the traits I want our students to have. Having a vision of academic success cannot be complete without character. Sure, I want our students to achieve academically, but I also want intelligent and capable students who have the ability to make sound decisions and to act with integrity. Character needs to be a partner to learning because the students we have today will be tomorrowâ€™s leaders, and I want our leaders to lead with character.
I believe that in order for schools to truly be places where students can achieve and reach their fullest potential, students have to have at least one meaningful relationship with an adult in their school. I hope they have multiple meaningful relationships, but they need at least one. Students need to know that someone on the inside cares about them and genuinely wants them to be successful. When these bonds and relationships exist between students and teachers, there is a symbiotic connection that causes both student and teacher to work harder for each other, resulting in a shared success that benefits both.
Learning is an intentional, active undertaking and a passive, experimental phenomenon, and it involves the acquisition of skills, information, values, customs, beliefs, behaviors and identities. Learning happens in the classrooms, on the fields, in the studios, on the stages and in the hallways. In all of these venues and many others, learning is the byproduct of engaged, curious students. Wherever learning is taking place – and specifically in schools – seeds of creativity, inquisition, analysis, investigation, innovation and critical thinking are being planted. The learning process must include creating an environment in which those seeds can flourish.
Value Role Models
Teachers should strive to infuse certain traits and values into their students through their words and actions. While imparting knowledge and wisdom, teachers need to remain conscious of the fact that they are also serving as role models for their students. How we teach can be as significant as what we teach. Having passion and compassion, demanding kindness and respectfulness, displaying honesty and fairness, exhibiting loyalty and trustworthiness and demonstrating commitment and selflessness help to produce not only successful students, but also successful people. Educators have the opportunity, indeed a duty, to change lives and to shape the future for individuals and for society.
There has to be more love incorporated into our classrooms and schools. Hopkinsville native and Berea College professor Bell Hooks wrote, â€œLove in the classroom prepares teachers and students to open our minds and hearts. It is the foundation on which every learning community can be created. Love will always move us away from domination in all its forms. Love will always challenge and change us. This is the heart of the matter.â€ I realize that talking about â€œloveâ€ as a value in a school may not carry the weight of the academic juggernauts of Honors and AP classes or give one the swag of athletic competition, but I would argue that love has done more to change the world than any of these, and for me, schools are about changing the world.
While there are many other things that I value as an educator including hard work, service to others, equality and equity, individual accountability and mutual respect, I value most the â€œpowerâ€ of education. I have witnessed firsthand the incredible impact of what obtaining an education can do to a life. My professional and personal life has rested at the intersections of privilege and disadvantage, and access and opportunity, with the understanding that to whom much is given, much is expected. So it should be for our students.
Dr. James Calleroz White is the Head of Louisville Collegiate School. He is a Hopkinsville, Ky native and 20-year educator. He has a bachelorâ€™s degree in government and a masterâ€™s degree in education from Harvard University and a doctorate in educational leadership, teaching and administration from Arizona State University. Dr. Calleroz White is a regular contributor to The Voice-Tribune.