Cat's in the Cradle (Part 2)

In the last post we considered Harry Chapin's 1974 song "Cat's in the Cradle" and how it could be applied to our teaching. One thing I know is that I can have all of the "big ideas" or "golden intentions" in the world, but if I don't actually get real and start to practice what I'm thinking, the good ideas evaporate and blow away in the wind. If I want my students to develop character, I need to figure out ways that I can encourage virtuous behavior. If I can practice and help my students practice living with integrity, then it will eventually become an integral part of who they are. So, here are five tips that we—and I'm speaking mainly to myself—can use to help students develop good character.


Make a conscious decision to model behaviors you want your students to imitate. Talk to your students about the decisions you make and how you make them. Develop a rich vocabulary of words like responsibility, discretion, forgiveness, truthfulness, and other desirable qualities. Use these words when you discuss what you do and what you see others doing.


Pay attention to the emotional needs of your students. Keep these needs in mind when you praise a student or give needed correction. Even when the day is long and the demands of parents and administrators are stressing you out, don't take out your frustrations in the classroom.


Admit when you are wrong and try to make it right. Acknowledge the positive influence of others in your life and express gratitude. Your students will learn how to respond in similar situations by observing what you do.


Sometimes in the middle of state-mandated testing, or the fifth fire-alarm this week, it is difficult to be joyful. If you maintain a good attitude, even when you face challenges, so will your students. Look for opportunities to praise each student for specific things they do, such as shutting the door quietly, raising their hand to answer a question, or helping a classmate carry books. What you acknowledge and praise, you will see more of.


Strive to live with integrity each day. Be the same person in the classroom, in the hallway, in the teacher's lounge (that's a hard one!), at a faculty meeting, and at home. Live like someone is watching your subtle moves and little habits—because your students usually are. 

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