Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

School Culture / Climate



P-E-A-C-E: The Acronym


by Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center University of San Diego


In the Center’s July newsletter, we described 25 Steps on becoming a culturally response teacher.

Several responses and questions helped me develop the content for this blog. A few respondents believed that “civility is on the decline “and one teacher wrote: “We need a citizens’ peace treaty.”

I had my topic for this blog.

“If we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.” -Mahatma Gandhi


“Perseverance” is the ability an individual or group has to keep going to reach a goal in spite of how hard it is to attain or how many obstacles one faces.

Perseverance builds self-confidence, improves performance, creates trust, helps one work through relationship issues, and opens the door to “resourcefulness.”

Angela Duckworth calls it “grit.” To encourage “grit” among students, she suggests that teachers “MODEL IT! CELEBRATE IT! ENABLE IT!”

“Grit predicts accomplishing challenging goals of personal significance. In most research studies, grit and measures of talent and IQ are unrelated, suggesting that talent puts no limits on the capacity for passion and perseverance.”



Psychiatrist Alfred Adler defined empathy as “seeing with the eyes of another, hearing with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”

Sam Chaltain ( developed “The Empathy Formula” noting three types of empathy:

[1] Cognitive empathy—the act of knowing how another person feels.

[2] Emotional empathy—the capacity to physically feel the emotions of another.

[3] Compassionate empathy—the combination cognitive and emotional empathy; to take action about what one feels and thinks.

Michele Borba says this about writing her book, UNSELFIE: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.

“My goal was to create a conversation that makes us rethink our view of success as exclusively grades, rank and score and includes traits of humanity! It’s time to include empathy in our parenting and teaching if we hope to prepare children to succeed and thrive in our global new world.”


Bruce Tulgan is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, a management research and training firm. In an article, Teaching Positive Attitude, he offers this advice that is applicable to educators.

“Research shows that if you make an effort to display positive words, tones, and gestures on the outside, it has a positive effect on your internal brain chemistry and it actually makes you feel better on the inside. Good attitudes can be a self-fulfilling prophesy: Behave as if you feel positive, and you will eventually begin to genuinely feel positive—and experience positive results.”

Here are five reminders about the importance of helping your students learn how to develop positive attitudes [edited]:

[1] Positivity makes it easier to ask for help. When you see an obstacle in your path, you’re more likely to reach out to a teacher or parent for advice.

[2] Positivity can even improve your health—by lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.

[3] Positivity increases your satisfaction in life and school. When you choose to embrace positive thoughts and focus on the things you’re grateful for and successful at, you stop comparing yourself.

[4] Positivity helps you grow. Positivity can be useful by prompting students to take risks and try new things in the classroom and at home.

[5] Students who learn from their mistakes can still focus on the positive side of things.


Collaboration requires commitment. Commitment requires courage.

Canice Nuckols says there are “2 critical factors” and suggests four ideas with regard to teacher collaboration [edited]:

The critical factors:

•  The first is teachers’ “buy in to the idea of collaboration.”

•  The second is that teachers understand “how to effectively engage in collaborative work with fellow teachers is critical to the process.”

Her four collaboration ideas are:

[1] Create a shared vision. Develop statements addressing the group’s vision, goals, and an assessment plan. This connection between the shared vision and subsequent goals (and assessment) will define the
work of the team and ensure ownership on the part of each individual.

[2] Develop a collaborative community. Mutual respect and trust for each other can be gained by getting to know each other on a personal as well as a professional level This will take time to develop and will require a lot of work among the members—attending all meetings, being an active, contributing member, and accepting of the ideas of others.

 [3] Establish protocols. In order to progress towards the goals established by the group, teachers/members will need to develop protocols to ensure the smooth functioning of the group—defining roles and responsibilities, how the group will communicate thoughts and ideas, and defining time parameters.

[4] Proactively manage conflict. The group should establish a conflict management plan that includes providing support and time for individuals to work through the reasons that are causing conflict. All members of the group should be vigilant with regards to managing their own responses and interactions with their colleagues.…


In its June 17th, 2020 issue, Education Week ran this front-page headline: “Are America’s Schools Ready For Tough Talk on Racism? We want equality is easier to say than We stand against racism.”

I don’t know the answer to the question. I do know that I need clarity on the meaning of the two words “equity and equality.” You might as well.

Robert Longley, a history and government expert, says:

“In education, equality means providing every student with the same experience. Equity, however, means overcoming discrimination against specific groups of people, especially defined by race and gender.”

In an article titled, Racial Equality or Racial Equity? The Difference It Makes, author Paula Dressel, Ph.D., writes [edited]:

“Racial equity results when you cannot predict advantage or disadvantage by race. But the route to achieving equity will not be accomplished through treating everyone equally. It will be achieved by treating everyone equitably, or justly according to their circumstances.…This is why we advocate the dual aspirations of raising the bar and closing the gaps. Yet, when resources are limited, as they often are, it is critical to invest in ways that erase those gaps that for too long have compromised the promise of children, families, and communities of color. Racial equity matters.” equality-or-racial-equity-the-difference-it-makes/

“If you are a parent [or teacher]—regardless of your race or the race of your child—ask your child’s teacher or principal: ‘What is the school doing to ensure all students, especially Black and Latino students, are getting access to rigorous academic experiences?’”

-Gloria Lee, founder and CEO of Educate78

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center University of San Diego
BLOG, July 2020



It’s What’s Up Front That Counts—The PRINCIPAL

by Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, University of San Diego, January 2020

During the holidays, I had a conversation with a friend who is a district administrator in another state responsible for monitoring and assisting new principals and those experiencing “difficulties.“ Her story was filled with concerns about their administrative skills and leadership abilities.

In this blog, I share information with those of you who are in educational leadership (administrative) positions with a special focus on school principals.

My view about leadership in schools and elsewhere is summarized best by Zenger and Folkman (The Extraordinary Leader):

Character is the center pole, the core of leadership effectiveness. Character traits, for our leaders and ourselves, include respect, responsibility, compassion, trust, perseverance, honesty, gratitude, self-discipline and courage.

I also like the Turknett Leadership Group’s “Leadership Character Model” ( Their view is that “Leadership is about character – who you are, not what you do.” Their model includes three keys to character-related leadership:

  • Integrity (honesty, credibility, trustworthy);
  • Respect (empathy, lack of blame, motivational mastery, humility);
  • Responsibility (self-confidence, accountability, focus on the whole, courage).

You may have read a few of my past blogs on school leadership such as: “What’s Under Your School’s Character Education Umbrella?”

“The Principal: Character, Collaboration and Commitment”

“What is This Thing Called – Leadership?” “The Qualities of Character and Leadership” “Presidential Character and Leadership”

Three examples of my books on this topic include:

Complete Guide to Administering School Services

An Administrator’s Guide for Evaluating Programs and

Personnel Character Education: A Guide for School Administrators

In the character education guide book, we developed the idea that a principal’s leadership role must include being a visionary, a missionary, a goaltender, a standard- bearer, an architect, an educator, a communicator, a provider, and an evaluator.

Interestingly, Jacob Francom researched the roles high school principals assume when developing, implementing, and sustaining character education efforts in their schools. He found six main roles, three of which deal directly with leader skills and abilities: reflective leaders, collaborative leaders, and moral leaders. These principals were also plate peddlers (get buy-in from constituents), cultural engineers (character education becomes the foundation of the school‘s environment), and champions (obstacles overcome, successes celebrated.)

(“Roles High School Principals Play in Establishing A Successful Character Education Initiative,”

Journal of Character Education, Vol 12(1), 2016, pp. 17-34)

Three Surveys

A 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found that three out of four K-12 public school principals believe the job has become “too complex,” with the majority contending that school leadership responsibilities have changed significantly over the last five years. Nearly half of the principals surveyed indicated that they “feel under great stress several days a week.”

In a teacher survey, 21% of teachers polled completely agree that their school’s principal possesses the subject-matter/content knowledge necessary to help them improve their instruction. Forty-one percent of the principals believe that they did.

(Education Week Research Center, 2019)

A survey of the top reasons cited by principals for leaving their jobs are: poor working conditions, lack of resources, insufficient salaries, inadequate preparation and professional development, overwhelming job with inadequate support, lack of decision-making authority, and high-stakes accountability policies. The research also shows “that principals are highly committed to their students and staff. The root of the turnover problem is school conditions.”

 Two Article Summaries

(Education Dive, Roger Riddel, July 22, 2019)

Bernard Marr, internationally best-selling author and keynote speaker, writes about the 14 Essential Leadership Skills During The 4th Industrial Revolution. They include: actively agile, emotional intelligence, humbly confident, accountable, visionary, courageous, flexible, tech savvy, intuitive, collaborative, quick learners, culturally intelligent, authentic, and focused.

In the February 27, 2019 issue of SmartBrief, Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, writes that the “average 21st century school leader is in over his or her head in work demands and expectations.”

He poses this question: “What are principals to do?”

His answer: “Become more comfortable with and proficient at delegating.”

How? His suggestions (edited) include:

  • Remove bottlenecks, attend to the “continuity of ”
  • Focus on prioritization.
  • Work only on the things that they are uniquely qualified to
  • Delegate tasks – delegating meaningful work that builds trust and improves morale and engagement.
  • Encourage cooperation and
  • Focus on communication.
  • Encourage new ways of looking at things, new approaches to problem solving.
  • Be accountable and responsible in shaping employee


The Question

The question for current school principals posed by Baruti K. Kafele, an award-winning former urban principal in New Jersey: Is my school a better school because I lead it?”

His answer: “It’s my strong belief that to lead your school forward, you must consider this question daily. To answer this question affirmatively, you must be absolutely clear about who you are as the school leader, what your mission is, what purpose drives your work, and how you envision the future of your leadership and school. These characteristics determine who you are, what you’re about, why you’re about it, and where you are going. They serve as a mirror for why you do this work in the first place. You must lead your school with the confidence to say, ‘Yes, my school is, in fact, a better school because I lead it.’ And when you do, students win.”


Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, University of San Diego, January 2020



The Twelve Days of Teaching Character & Civility

Teaching Character & Civility

by Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES. USD

Seminar: I had just completed my 40-minute talk urging teachers and other school personnel to focus on the character development of students in their classrooms and schools: “What is it?” “Why do we need it?” “Where do we find the time to do it?” “How do we do it?” “How do we know if it’s working or not?”

After the presentation, I opened it up for questions. A middle-grade teacher asked: “For now, I just want to know how to I teach my kids to be civil to one another in and out of my classroom?”

On the FIRST day of classes my mentor said to me:

“You asked me how do you teach students to be civil to one another?”

Character is about relationships – emotional and social. It is about teaching your students skills such as sharing, participating, following directions, and listening. It is about helping them to recognize their own emotions (self-control), how to recognize the emotions in others (listening and questioning), and how to motivate oneself (grit and perseverance). It is about learning how to be a friend, how to care for others, how to appreciate others, how to be polite, respectful, courteous, civil, and how to resolve conflicts peacefully.

On the SECOND day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I want you to think about the implications of this survey and read this article. Notice we are talking about skill development that students can and must learn in your classroom (and elsewhere).”

A survey of 8,000 teachers done at Vanderbilt University identified these top 10 skills that students need to succeed: “Listen to othersfollow the stepsfollow the rulesignore distractionsask for helptake turns when you talkget along with othersstay calm with othersbe responsible for your behaviorand do nice things for others.”

Read: 7 Ways To Teach Children Civility, Matthew Lunch, The EDVOCATE, 2-23-18. He says that “our children desperately need someone to teach them civility and show why it is important.” His seven ways include: 1) manners matter, 2) show tolerance, 3) give examples, 4) listen well, 5) apologize regularly, 6) encourage empathy, and, 7) practice what you preach.

On the THIRD day of classes my mentor said to me:

“We should discuss the curricular and teaching implications of these two studies. The Pew Research Center lays the foundation for your question about how to teach students to be civil.”

They report that of the ten skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life, communication skills, was selected by most of the respondents. In another report about 21st century skills, respondents noted that there is a need to teach children and youth two very important skills: communication and collaboration. In one sense, these make up a skills curriculum that you and others should be implementing to teach students oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills, including the emotional and social skills that we talked about.

On the FOURTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I do not know where I read this—it was in my notes without a reference. The author suggests ways ‘to help students learn to engage in productive, civil discourse in the classroom.’ You might try this with students in your classroom.”

First, begin with yourself—be the model in your classroom.

Second, monitor your classroom climate.

Third, state your dialogue expectations/boundaries clearly from the start. The author notes that the basic rule of civil discourse is to be respectful and don’t make it personal.

Fourth, start small and build as skills develop.

Fifth, have students watch civil debates and begin classroom debates using non-threating topics.

Sixth, have your students use a “private journaling” strategy in which you provide a debatable statement and have them decide whether or not they strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree and write out the “why” to their selection.

On the FIFTH day of classes my mentor asked me to try this activity::

“When you get a chance, try out this quotation activity with your students. I hope that after this lesson your students will be able to compare and contrast quotations, find information about the author of each quote, determine the meaning and implications of each quote, write and draw how the quote may apply to what they do and say, and, discuss the meaning of the quotes with classmates, friends, family.”

  1. “Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners, as well as a matter of good health.” —P.M. Forni
  2. “I think civility is important to getting things done.” —Amy Klobuchar
  3. “You can disagree without being “—Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  4. “Civility costs nothing, and buys ” —Mary Wortley Montagu
  5. “Civility is the art and act of caring for others.” —Deborah King

On the SIXTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“It’s the holiday season. Take a break. Go see the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Next, watch a couple of episodes of the TV program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Have your students see the movie and a few of the TV programs. Develop a teaching unit and other activities in your classroom that build on a relationship of care (one of FR’s themes). For example, have your students create posters of what Mr. Rogers says to them – followed, of course, by classroom discussion.

“You are loveable.

I like you just the way you are.

There is only one person like you in the world. You are my friend; you are special.”

On the SEVENTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I am a proponent of teaching students the why and how of asking questions. Teaching your students the skills of question-asking helps them clarify what others are saying or doing in a situation. I suggest you access The Right Question Institute and examine their Question Formula Technique, a strategy to teach your students how to formulate their own questions.” (

On the EIGHTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I suggest that you consider being the ‘character education leader’ in your classroom and school. To do that, you should know this about the character development.”

Character is taught to our youth through the media, the Internet, the environment they live in, their peers and role models, and by parents, teachers, schools, youth agencies, and religious institutions.

Character is about strengths and virtues that guide us “to act in an ethical, pro-social manner.” It is about choices—the ones we make daily (good or bad, ethical or unethical); about relationships and social skill; and about “emotional” self-discipline.

On the NINTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I want to tell you a story that I read written by 7th grade language teacher, Justin Parmenter, from Charlotte, N.C. He created an assignment called Undercover Agents of Kindness. He had each student draw a random classmate’s name from a bowl. In pairs, they had two weeks to perform an unexpected act of kindness. Then he had each pair of students write a missions report detailing what they did and how it went. Why don’t you try a similar activity with your students? Maybe call it Mission Civility.”

JP writes: “It was my students’ reflections on the kindness activity that revealed its impact most. Again and again, they acknowledged that it was difficult and felt awkward to approach someone they didn’t know well and do something for them. But almost every time they added that they were proud of themselves for doing it anyway and felt the power in brightening someone else’s day.”

On the TENTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I found an interesting article written by Melissa Benaroya titled How to Teach Civility During Divisive Times, Committee for Children, Feb. 24, 2017.”

She writes: “Civility goes beyond being polite and courteous; it involves listening to others with an open mind, disagreeing respectfully and seeking common ground to start a conversation about differences. Acting with civility requires children to be respectful, reflective and self-aware. Learning the skills of perspective taking, empathy and problem- solving helps children understand that their actions and words affect individuals as well as their entire community, encouraging them to rise up and act with civility in tough situations…. By teaching skills like empathy, problem- solving and perspective taking, we can help nurture civility in our children.”

One the ELEVENTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“Here are four resources to help you teach your students the positive behaviors of being civil and people of good character.”

  • Nine Lessons on Peer Relationships
  • Class Meetings: Creating a Safe School in Your Classroom
  • Behavior Problems in the Classroom: What to know, What to
  • 3 Steps to Civil Discourse in the Classroom


On the TWELFTH day of classes my mentor said to me:

“I have three gifts for the new year for you (no, not gold, frankincense, and myrrh). They are PEACE, HOPE, and LOVE!”

Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES. USD 12-1-19



Student Voice in Character Education: When in Doubt, Ask the Students!

by Christa Tinari, School Climate Consultant

On an early morning school climate team meeting, a group of ten educators crowd around a conference table sipping coffee and crafting a plan. They are discussing a kick-off event for their new character education initiative with the theme “kindness counts.” A buzz of excited chatter ensues as staff discuss various ideas for recognizing students for kind behavior. Then, a teacher raises a concern, “Will students like the idea of being recognized during morning announcements? Perhaps they would prefer to receive a certificate and applause at our monthly assembly?” Another teacher chimes in, “Shy kids might not like that kind of attention. What about giving out kindness wristbands?” The discussion around recognition continues another 10 minutes until the meeting adjourns. As a next step, the Principal requests that team members do some online research about kindness campaigns.

Principle 1 of the 11 Principles promotes core ethical values. We can see this principle evident all over the country as hundreds of educators have conversations just like the one above. They share a noble goal: to ignite the enthusiasm of their students around core values such as kindness, respect, responsibility and service. At some point in the meeting, this question arise:

Will the initiative we have planned excite and engage the students? There is one sure way to get the answer to this question, and it’s not through more research or thoughtful planning on the part of adults. The way to get to the answer is simple: ask the kids. Unfortunately, this obvious solution is all too often overlooked. But I believe that student voice is an essential part of successful character education initiatives.

Student voice matters.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning defines student voice as referring to the “ideas, opinions, attitudes, knowledge and actions of young people.” Student voice provides access to the authentic experiences and wisdom of students. Students have firsthand knowledge of the most pressing problems their peers face. They have ideas about how to address those problems in a way that is cool, not “corny”. Without student voice, adults are left to guess about student thoughts, feelings and reality. When we apply an adult lens to understanding student problems or to crafting a character campaign, we’re likely to miss important pieces of the puzzle that are needed to ensure success.

Student voice needs an invitation.

Students spend most of their day in spaces designed and managed by adults. These spaces prioritize adult voices. They are accustomed to teachers setting the daily conversation agenda. Students are trained to follow rules about when and how to speak. And in some cases, students encounter adults who minimize or criticize their everyday hopes and concerns. Therefore, students may hesitate to speak openly about their ideas. If they have not previously been invited to participate in decision-making about school programs, they may question whether or not their opinions will be taken seriously. To overcome these barriers, we must make a concerted effort to invite student voice and to create a welcoming, nonjudgmental space for their ideas.

Student voice is strengthened when we allow it to guide change from the start.

Be sure students are involved in character education in a way that is respectful and meaningful to them. Recruiting students to carry out an adult-planned initiative is not student voice. Students can and should be included from the very first discussions, during which issues and solutions are discussed. They can help to identify problems, brainstorm solutions, plan campaigns, implement programs, generate interest and participation, communicate with parents, teachers, students and community members, and evaluate the impact of character education efforts in an ongoing way.

I propose three steps for supporting student voice. 1) Ask the students. 2) Listen to what students say. 3) Foster students’ leadership abilities and give them the freedom to act. The creation of a student character committee, made up entirely of students- and advised by an adult- can help educators omplement these three steps. Students of any age can participate on the committee to plan and carry out character education programs that meet student needs.

For example, I observed an elementary school student committee deal with the issue of teasing and rule-breaking on the bus. This was identified by students as a problem of concern on a school climate survey that was given to the entire student body. The results of the survey were presented back- not just to school staff- but to the students themselves. Then, students on the committee brainstormed ways to address this issue. Their ideas included: making posters that illustrated good citizenship on the bus, making morning announcement reminders about respectful bus behavior and making sure that everyone knew how to get help if they were being teased. They also considered the idea of “bus buddies.” These would be older elementary students (in this case, 4th graders) who would be trained to assist the bus drivers in modeling kindness and in recognizing positive behaviors, such as friendly greetings. The students were able to provide meaningful leadership in character education because they had a space to voice their concerns, plan a course of action, and carry it out themselves. The staff to whom the students presented these ideas agreed: the students came up with a more effective and creative solution to the problem that anything adults would have planned themselves.   

So, the next time you find yourself in a room full of adults planning a bullying prevention program, school spirit assembly, or ‘kindness counts’ campaign: Stop. Ask, what are we planning? Is it for the students? Could the students be involved in deciding what to do and how to do it? (Yes!) Character education initiatives will be more successful and sustainable when we let students lead the way. 

Christa M. Tinari is a nationally recognized school climate consultant with expertise in bullying prevention, character education and social-emotional learning. She is owner of PeacePraxis Educational consulting and co-author of Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School: 48 Character-Building Lessons to Foster Respect and Prevent Bullying.




Arts Ed Now: Help Lead the Way for Arts Education and SEL!

by Kira Rizzuto, Program Development Manager, Arts Ed NJ 

Research indicates that the benefits of learning in and through the arts are social-emotional as well as cognitive. Arts-based learning has impact upon important outcomes such as improvements in student learning and mastery, student engagement, and positive school culture and climate. As students engage in arts learning they are developing skills they will need to thrive as citizens and as leaders. Participation in the arts fosters collaboration, empathy, and critical thinking.

Arts Ed NJ is committed to making clear the connection between participation in the arts and the goal of a well-rounded education for all students. As the voice of arts education in New Jersey, Arts Ed NJ works together with its many partners to ensure favorable conditions for arts education to take place in schools across the state. At Arts Ed NJ we know that learning in and through the arts is enjoyed by students and valued deeply by parents, educators, and educational leaders. Enthusiasm for arts education is shared by many in New Jersey. In fact, more than 90% of New Jerseyans believe that arts education is an important part of a student’s education. Additionally, 87% of New Jerseyans believe arts education helps students become more creative and imaginative, 81% believe it builds confidence, and 74% believe it improves communication skills.  

In September 2016, a statewide public awareness campaign was launched in New Jersey with an overarching goal of increasing student participation in the arts K-12 by 2020. The campaign website, Arts Ed, provides the resources and tools needed for effective advocacy, so that high quality arts education–the foundation of arts-rich schools and districts–can continue to thrive in New Jersey. The multi-year campaign reflect the realities present in today’s arts education landscape, and is intended to assist parents, educators, administrators and community leaders make a strong case for creative learning and the important role that arts education serves in student development and achievement.

Arts Ed Now Ambassadors are empowered to show public support for the value of arts education, promote policies that encourage more active participation, and are prepared to be effective advocates. The message of the campaign is clear: Active creative learning is good for all students…and good for New Jersey! Stop by campaign central,, for more info, and while you are there order stickers, signs, and other tools that will help you make the case for the arts. Join with other Ambassadors throughout New Jersey who are already leading the way for arts education!

Kira Rizzuto 
Program Development Manager

Arts Ed NJ 
16 Mount Bethel Road
Suite 202
Warren, NJ 07059




10 Ways to Sustain Your Bullying Prevention Month Efforts Through the School Year


by By Christa M. Tinari, coauthor of Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School: 48 Character-Building Lessons to Foster Respect and Prevent Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a nationwide campaign intending to “unite communities around the world to educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention.” Schools across the nation mark this month with poster contests, assemblies, and pledge-signing ceremonies. These activities often involve the whole school community and bring attention to an important issue.

However, in order to implement effective bullying prevention, your efforts must extend beyond October. Here are ten actions you can take to sustain your bullying prevention efforts throughout the year.

Recognize that bullying impacts your schoolSometimes I work with a school administrator who says, “We don’t have a bullying problem here. The kids are basically nice to one another.” Yet according to the National Center for Education Statistics, research shows that approximately 20 percent of students are victimized by bullying. That means that if your school has 500 students, 100 of them have likely been targeted at some point during their schooling. That’s 100 too many.

Ask the students. The best way to find out what kinds of bullying behaviors are happening at school is to ask your students. In order to get clear data on their experiences, administer an anonymous school climate survey. Additionally, you can facilitate focus groups of students to hear their concerns and suggestions. Focus groups should be facilitated by someone who can maintain the confidentiality of the students, such as a school counselor. I also recommend surveying your staff and parents, if possible. It’s interesting and often surprising to see how perceptions of school climate differ among staff, students, and parents. A school climate survey that has been scientifically validated for middle school students is available from PeacePraxis upon request. A compendium of other instruments is available on the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments web page.

Create a plan and take action. Once you have gathered clear data through surveys and focus groups, report the findings to your staff, students, and parents. Use the data to start a conversation on what must be addressed so all students feel safe and connected to school. Then assemble a team of staff and students to set measurable annual goals for improvement. For example, if students report that name-calling is a common issue, brainstorm ideas to reduce it and create a plan to put those ideas in action. Including students in this process ensures that you’ll come up with realistic solutions. This team should also focus on ways to increase safety and positive interactions between all members of the school community. The most effective bullying prevention efforts focus on building a positive school climate rather than simply addressing individual incidents of bullying.

Train your staff. Your staff needs to be equipped with current, research-based information on bullying prevention and intervention tactics. Be sure your staff training includes a review of your school’s bullying policies and reporting procedures. Staff will also need to know legal requirements that pertain to bullying prevention at school; these requirements are often updated by state law. Educators must also be equipped with concrete steps they can take to prevent bullying and to intervene when needed. The best training includes information on current trends in social media and cyberbullying. Provide opportunities for your staff to attend local and national trainings and conferences to learn about new research and resources that can help your school.

Engage in anti-bias work. Students who are in a perceived minority group may be at an increased risk of being bullied. Students who bully will often use bias-based remarks and actions to increase the social power they have over their target and the harm they inflict. Some studies suggest that bias-based harassment has a more detrimental impact on students’ emotional and mental health than general harassment. Additionally, when educators act on their own unconscious biases, they can harm students, as evidenced in research around disproportionate minority representation in suspensions and expulsions. Educators must therefore be prepared to identify and respond to bias-based bullying, as well as be aware of their own biases. Your staff must know how to create classroom environments that welcome students of any race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, ability, and so on. To ensure that your staff are learning the skills they need to support and educate all students, include anti-bias work as a required part of your bullying prevention efforts. For additional tips on addressing bias-based bullying, see this blog post on creating a culture of respect.

Teach students how to be upstanders. Many students who are not directly targets of bullying are bystanders to bullying behaviors. Although bystanders often want to intervene in a bullying situation, they often do not know what to do. We must go beyond telling our students to “walk away” or to “tell the child who is bullying to stop.” We must teach bystanders how to discourage bullying behaviors among their peers, intervene in safe ways, and support students who are targeted. These upstander strategies can be taught to students through stand-alone lessons or integrated into your social studies, language arts, or health curricula. Create a Culture of Kindness in Middle School includes several lessons on upstander skills. Here is another upstander skills activity for fourth- through twelfth-grade students. Providing opportunities for older students to teach upstander skills to younger students can be particularly effective. Upstander education will help your students develop social-emotional skills that will empower them to create a school culture of empathy, kindness, courage, and respect

Develop a clear system for reporting and investigating bullying. Do your staff, students, and parents know what to do when they become aware of bullying? Do they know how to get help and how to report situations of concern? Provide anonymous ways to report bullying, and be sure to communicate a point person to contact. Include the bullying prevention policy and reporting and investigating procedures on your website and in materials sent home for review. It is incredibly important to take action on reports of bullying and to clearly communicate your findings and the actions taken to address the situation. Finally, be sure to educate yourself and to follow your district’s and state’s requirements on reporting, investigating, and addressing bullying. To access the laws in your state, visit If you’re seeking to improve your policies, ask your state board of education or school board association for examples of a model policy. Policies should include clear definitions, legal requirements, a reporting procedure, and suggestions for prevention and intervention strategies.

Involve parents and the community. Educate your parents about your school’s bullying policies and procedures. Communicate with parents proactively about everything you are doing to prevent bullying at school. Let them know exactly how they can partner with you in your efforts. Reach out to community leaders, such as the mayor, as well as local businesses and social service agencies like the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club. They may want to join your efforts or plan something together that will make an even bigger impact on the community. Be sure to spread the word to get some good press for your school and community’s collaborative efforts!

Plan for the future. Bullying prevention efforts take time, resources, and energy! Implement a sustainability plan to ensure that bullying prevention will continue to get the attention it deserves. Ideally, your bullying prevention efforts should be included in the school district’s annual budget as a regular line item. Human resources are just as important. Is there a staff person whose job description includes the coordination of bullying prevention efforts? If that person retires, are others ready to continue the work? Finally, plan to evaluate your bullying prevention outcomes to demonstrate the impact of your actions. Pre- and post-school climate surveys and other indicators (such as the number of reported incidents of bullying) can be useful in measuring change. Anecdotal evidence, including real stories about positive change, can also make a compelling case for continuing your efforts.

Celebrate and appreciate! Be sure to acknowledge the contributions of everyone—students, staff, parents, community members—who is involved in your ongoing bullying prevention efforts. Those involved are passionate about the cause and work hard (often unpaid) to ensure that your school climate is safe and welcoming to all. People are less likely to burn out when their work is appreciated. Host a thank-you breakfast, dinner, or bowling party. Gift them with small pins or another visible acknowledgment. Write a thank-you letter and submit it to the local paper. Send handwritten cards to each individual. Whatever you do, be sure to celebrate the team effort and acknowledge your collective accomplishments!

Apply these ten steps and you will surely sustain your bullying prevention efforts long after National Bullying Prevention Month has come and gone.

Christa M. Tinari, M.A., is a bullying prevention, social-emotional learning, and school climate specialist. She speaks at educational conferences and provides training and consulting to schools across the country. Visit to learn more about her work.


Author Christa Tinari

Access the original article published by Free Spirit Press HERE!



Tips For Getting You and Your Students Off to a Great Start!

by Edward DeRoche,  Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”                                                                                                                        —Carl Jung

To get ideas for a blog on how new and veteran teachers can successfully prepare for a new school year, I spent an hour on the Internet and discovered a rich source of advice and suggestions for teachers. The range of information includes ideas on how to arrange your classroom, 50 ways of getting through the first week, and 101 ways for handling stress throughout the school year.

So, what is left for me to say? Very little, except some personal observations for what they are worth, and maybe a smile or two because I’ve touched on experiences that you have had or heard about. I begin with a reminder. Your students have had three months off. That means they have lost three months of learning and some people may blame you for this loss.

By now you may have spent some of your own money on school supplies and your own non-paid time getting your classroom ready— arranging the desks, adding decorations, finding out if the equipment works, hanging posters, counting textbooks, and enjoying the quietness of preparation. You probably have the photocopying machine humming because you know—or have heard—that the best way to quiet a classroom of unfocused, talkative students is to give them a packet of worksheets.

You also know that during that first week of school you have to over plan because when kids have nothing to do, things happen. Some educational specialist will tell you to greet each student—shake hands, and look them straight in the eye when doing this. Maybe give a hug or two (careful here, check the school policy on hugging). The experts also suggest that you to get to know your students’ names as soon as possible—no nicknames until the second semester.

All agree that you must review your classroom rules as soon as possible, generally within the first hour. It’s best to post them. Kids have a tendency to forget “rules” at school and at home. The experts also suggest that you “get to it,” start teaching content, impress the students with your knowledge and make it look like they might learn something.

Some specialists recommend that you send a letter or email to parents during the first week of school. There are all kinds of sample letters on the Internet so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Be sure to tell the parents how much you look forward to teaching their son/daughter this year. The rule is: Stop thinking of what could go wrong and start thinking of what could go right. 

Here is something you might consider. I just heard a speaker who talked about having his children sign a “contract” with him and their mother about the use of media in their home—what is expected, what they can and cannot do, how much time they can spend on their media devices.

This might be a good idea for you. Develop a “contract” (or call it an “agreement”) in which you list your expectations for the students in your class. Invite parents to do the same—invite them to send you information about their expectations. It might be interesting to get the students in one this idea as well by having them list their expectations. Thus, a three-way contract to be discussed and used as a guide for the school year.

I was once told that it is a good idea to end a blog with bullet points, so here are a few:

•  Do not go into the teachers’ room during the first month. You may hear things that will destroy your enthusiasm for teaching the rest of the

•  Develop a sense of humor— Your students’ behaviors will contribute to this. Humor is going to help you stay mentally healthy.

•  In many cases, teaching can be and often is stressful. There are days when you will be angry, frustrated, anxious, and emotional. Do something about it. Take a break, write about your feelings in a journal, go to the movies, the theater, etc. Most importantly, do something physical. Try yoga, take a long walk, jog, or work in your yard. Also, be flexible. Set your own comfortable pace and schedule, and work on developing a positive attitude about

•  Teaching can be a lonely experience. Don’t let it be. Collaborate! Cooperate! Be a leader and team player. Get involved in school and community activities. Take a professional development course. Also, go online, there are a number of teacher blogs and forums that offer advice for dealing with stress, for invigorating your teaching, and for inspiring you to keep going. A positive relationship is to your mental health as location is to real estate.


Edward DeRoche,  Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego




The “Kindness” Book


by Ed DeRoche, Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego

Last month, I received a copy of Thomas Lickona’s (TL) new book, How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain (Penguin, 2018).

I’ve read it—twice. The book advises parents, teachers, and caregivers on everything they need to know about “kindness,” and about ten essential virtues that function as a “supporting cast” for kindness – wisdom, justice, fortitude, self-control, love, positive attitude, hard work, integrity, gratitude, and humility.

TL notes that his long career has focused on character education and teacher training. A long-time proponent of character education, one of his earliest books, Character Matters–Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility (Bantam, 1991), was a major resource when Professor Mary Williams and I started writing and speaking about the topic, and when creating the Center here at USD.

I want to focus this blog on what I see as the framework that TL uses to develop the “important principles and practices” that can guide parents, teachers, and caregivers in helping children and youth on the road to good character; that is, character, character education, and character coaches.

He suggests that there are two types of character—moral character and performance character. Moral character “inspires us to be good and performance character enable us to do good well.” He reminds us that the good side of one’s character consists of our virtues, our good habits, and that the bad side of character involves our bad habits. He notes that “in a very real sense, we become our habits. Our responsibility as parents and teachers is to help kids develop good habits…Character, good or bad, is composed of learned habits and behaviors.”

The way I see it is that:

  1. The word CHARACTER has two Cs in it; one stands for CHOICES and the other for CONSEQUENCES.
  2. Living a life of good character doesn’t happen by CHANCE, nor does it happen by CIRCUMSTANCES.
  3. It happens by CHOICE and is influenced, most times by CIRCUMSTANCES and CULTURE.

Given today’s situations, we should underline TL’s observation that: “Human behavior has always been influenced by the interaction of character and culture. Think of character as what’s on the inside—the capacities and dispositions that influence how we act and react.

Culture is what’s on the outside—all of the factors in our environment…and then in any given situation, the outside influences bring out either the best or the worst of our character.”

“We know,” he says, “that good character involves knowing what’s right, and doing what’s right—and that doing is the hardest part. We become good by doing good.”

In regards to character education, TL writes schools that have effective character education initiatives ensure that students have voice (an opportunity to shape the culture of their school) and are engage in “high quality” cooperative learning. Character education “trains the heart as well as the mind.” It helps children “not just to know that something is wrong, but to feel that it is wrong.”

From the perspective of character education, TJ writes, every moment of the school day is a “character moment.” “To a large degree, our children create their character by the choices they make every day.”

Not in the book, but something that educators and the parents should know: Researchers at UC-Berkeley surveyed 400 students ages 12-14 in which they found that students “who were more likely to be grateful to others [I am adding “kindness” here] showed higher academic interest, grades, and extracurricular involvement, and had lower interest in risky behaviors.” Positive parent relationships was also associated with gratitude (and probably with many habits of the heart including “kindness”).

TL urges parents, teachers, and caregivers to become what he calls character coaches.

  1. Being a character coach means “teaching children character skills like self-control and kindness in very deliberate ways and then helping kids practice them again and …”
  2. Becoming a character coach “means giving your child/children opportunities for moral action in family life (and I would say in schools as well) and…the toughest part…is doing so in the heat of the moment….”
  3. Character coaches know that the “family is a child’s first school of virtue and that the qualities that make up good character…grow in a family ”
  4. “Character coaches do all they can to help children and to stay on the road to good ”

Research, TL tells us, finds that children’s character development is best supported by “a stable and loving family environment where they teach respect for legitimate authority, where children are held accountable for their actions and behaviors [and] where children have meaningful responsibilities in family life.”

The book is filled with advice, examples, stories, research, and resources for home (parents/caregivers) and school (teachers/administrators).

Here are a few – by the numbers:

3 Ways that family meetings foster character development

6 Principles that can guide our efforts to raise kind children

15 Character-based tools and strategies for your discipline toolbox

10 Tips for holding good family meetings (and I might add for good classroom meetings)

7 Guidelines for children’s TV watching

4 Steps to making good decisions

10 Ways to teach and practice gratitude

20 Questions using the “True-Love Character Test”


“Every child deserves a home and school where children and youth are learning to be smart and good.”

 My advice as a parent and teacher:

Buy the book! Read it! Use it! Share it!


Ed DeRoche, Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego



The Principal: Character, Collaboration, Commitment

by Ed DeRoche, Character Education Resource Center, Director, University of San Diego

This blog was written as a direct result of reading David Brooks’s column, “Good Leaders Make Good Schools which I will summarize below. The column topic reminded me of previous notes and publications that I wrote about school leadership.

For example, several years ago, I published an article in the Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education, and Development (September 2000, Vol. 39, Issue 1) titled, “Leadership for Character Education Programs.” I suggested school principals and program leaders should be visionaries, missionaries, consensus builders, knowledge sources, standard bearers, architects, role models, communicators, collaborators, resource providers, and evaluators. For each responsibility, I offered commentary about the “what and why.”

Elsewhere, I wrote described two views about character and leadership.

One was that of Zenger and Folkman (The Extraordinary Leader) who made a clear case that “Character is the center pole, the core of leadership effectiveness.”

The other was a summary of the Turknett Leadership Group’s “Leadership Character Model.” Their view is that “Leadership is about character – who you are not, what you do.” Their model includes three core qualities as the keys of leadership character:

  1. Integrity [honesty, credibility, trustworthy];
  2. Respect (empathy, lack of blame, motivational mastery, humility); and
  3. Responsibility (self-confidence, accountability, focus on the whole, courage).


Current research about school principals is exciting and informative. The Knowledge Center at contains more than 70 publications about school leadership. In my readings of a few of the reports, I found evidence that effective principals establish leadership teams, led by the principal, assistant principals, and teacher leaders. Team members shared responsibility for student progress.

Another discovery (at least for me) was that effective principals encourage collaboration “paying special attention to how school time is allocated.” Another study reported that, coupled with collaboration, “principals who rated highly for the strength of their actions (commitment) to improve instruction were also more apt to encourage the staff to work collaboratively.” Note this important finding, “When principals and teachers share leadership, teachers’ working relationships with one another are stronger and student achievement is higher.”

Now, all of this information is what I call “in-house stuff.” My point—the public knows little about these significant findings.

Thus, it is left to journalists and the media to bring this important information to the public, especially parents, board members, and community leaders. David Brooks did this in his column, “Good Leaders Make Good Schools” (NYT, 3-12, 2018).

In brief, here is what he wrote.

     If you want to learn how to improve city schools, look how Washington D.C.,

     New Orleans, and Chicago are already doing it.

     Restructuring schools and increasing teacher quality don’t get you very far without a strong principal.

How do they do this he asks? His answer, “They build a culture…set by their behavior (character).”  

He also notes that “it takes five to seven years for a principal to have full impact on a school….When you learn about successful principals, you keep coming back to character traits they embody and spread: energy, trustworthiness, honesty, optimism, determination, and promotes a collaborative power structure.”

In bold type he writes a key finding from researchers who studied principals in 180 schools across nine states and concluded, “We have not found a single case of a school improving its student achievement record in absence of talented leadership.”

Brooks concludes, “We went through a period when we believed you could change institutions without first changing the character of the people in them. But we were wrong. Social transformation follows personal transformation.”

The question for current school principals posed by Baruti K. Kafele, an award-winning former urban principal in New Jersey: “Is my school a better school because I lead it?”

His answer:

“It’s my strong belief that to lead your school forward, you must consider this question daily. To answer this question affirmatively, you must be absolutely clear about who you are as the school leader, what your mission is, what purpose drives your work, and how you envision the future of your leadership and school. These characteristics determine who you are, what you’re about, why you’re about it, and where you are going. They serve as a mirror for why you do this work in the first place. You must lead your school with the confidence to say, ‘Yes, my school is, in fact, a better school because I lead it.’ And when you do, students win.”

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.

Character Education Resource Center, Director

University of San Diego

5998 Alcala Park

San Diego, CA 92110



Ajudando os Alunos a Identificar os seus Valores (Spanish)

This Article is the translation, with the kind permission of the author, Maurice J. Eliasof the post Helping your Students Identify Their Values that has been published in Edutopia, the third July 2017.

Este artigo é a tradução, amavelmente autorizada pelo autor, Maurice J. Eliasdo artigo publicado em Edutopia a 3 de Julho de 2017. Devido à sua extensão, será publicado em 3 partes.

Convide os seus alunos a escrever sobre os princípios orientadores segundo os quais eles querem viver, usando estes tópicos motivadores para os ajudar a começar.

By Maurice J. Elias

     O início do ano escolar é uma ocasião propícia para pedir aos alunos que reflitam sobre aquilo que traz um sentido orientador às suas vidas. E colocar por escrito os seus princípios orientadores de vida é uma tarefa perfeita para esta reflexão.

Os professores de alunos a partir do 5º ano podem pedir-lhes que descrevam os princípios segundo os quais desejam viver as suas vidas. Para os ajudar a sintonizar a ideia, podem conversar sobre biografias que eles tenham lido ou visto em filmes (Também podem ver juntos extratos de vídeos ou lerem juntos excertos de livros); depois organizem um diálogo ou enumerem um resumo das regras pelas quais essas pessoas parecem ter pautado as suas vidas. Também podem colocar aos alunos a mesma questão sobre personagens de romances, adultos presentes nas suas vidas ou figuras históricas.

Para Começar:

Algumas questões motivadoras podem ajudar os alunos a começar a pensar mais profundamente sobre os seus próprios valores ou princípios.

  1. Quem admiras? Enumera três qualidades admiráveis dessa pessoa.
  2. Descreve um incidente ou um evento em que tenhas aprendido uma lição da forma mais dura.
  3. O que poderias mudar em ti próprio para te tornares uma pessoa melhor?
  4. Quais são as três qualidades que valorizas num amigo? Num Professor? No Pai ou na Mãe?
  5. Quem foi mais importante na tua vida em ajudar-te a estabelecer os teus valores? Por favor explica.
  6. Quais são os três valores mais importantes que pensas serem essenciais para encorajar os teus próprios filhos, um dia mais tarde?
  7. Qual é a regra única que tu crês ser a essencial para orientar a tua vida?
  8. Se nós vivêssemos num mundo perfeito, como é que as pessoas poderiam proceder de forma diferente do que fazem agora?


Para Desenvolver:

Pode achar útil pedir a cada aluno que escreva as suas próprias respostas a algumas das questões motivadoras, em primeiro lugar; em seguida, pode pedir aos alunos para partilharem essas respostas a pares, depois com uma parte da turma ou mesmo em grupo-turma.  

Os professores devem acompanhar a partilha dos alunos com perguntas para ajudá-los a pensar mais profundamente sobre as suas respostas. Por exemplo,

  1. O que torna estas qualidades merecedoras de admiração e de seguimento?
  2. Como é que escolheste este ou aquele incidente, exemplo ou pessoa?
  3. Por que motivo estas qualidades ou valores são tão importantes para ti?


Elaboração de um Texto Reflexivo

Depois de os alunos terem tido uma oportunidade de pensar sobre e de discutir as respostas às questões, estarão prontos para começar a escrever. Um texto reflexivo deste género pode estar relacionado, no seu formato, com os critérios e objetivos adequados ao ano de escolaridade dos alunos. Eles devem receber instrução para refletir sobre o ano letivo transacto, tanto dentro como fora da escola, e escrever sobre o que eles consideram serem os valores ou princípios pelos quais querem pautar as suas vidas e porquê.

No meu trabalho com professores que orientaram alunos ao longo desta tarefa, os textos resultantes foram comovedores, reveladores e inspiradores. Muitas vezes, os alunos contaram histórias sobre membros da sua família e acontecimentos que foram importantes nas suas vidas. Trataran temas como o amor, responsabilidade, respeito, relacão humana, perseverança, auto-disciplina, coragem, honestidade e gentileza – muitas vezes combinados entre si.

Um aluno, ao escrever sobre como ele e os seus irmãos estavam em vias de ser retirados de casa pelos serviços de proteção á infância após a sua mãe ter sido presa, descreveu como um amigo da mãe, que eles nunca tinham chegado a conhecer, lutou por conseguir a sua custódia, quando nenhum membro da família apareceu. A sua regra de vida tornou-se a importância de dar amor mesmo a pessoas que não conhece.

Outro aluno escreveu, “penso que amar os outros é o mais importante. Uma pessoa precisa de ter amor na sua vida. O Amor faz com que a pessoa sinta que tem importância.”

Eis um excerto de uma reflexão de um aluno do oitavo ano sobre a perseverança:

A chave do sucesso na minha vida é a perseverança. O meu fim último é continuar a alcançar os meus objetivos, apesar das dificuldades que possa ter de enfrentar. A minha bisavó foi uma pessoa que lutou para garantir que a sua família fosse bem sucedida. Nascida em 1902, era uma empregada de limpezas que trabalhou arduamente só para conseguir sobreviver. Andava quilómetros a pé para chegar ao trabalho, porque não tinha dinheiro para os transportes. Depois de trabalhar na cozinha de alguém o dia inteiro, voltava a casa e ainda lavava roupa para fora. O seu desejo orientador de tornar sempre melhor a vida dos seus filhos e netos motivou-a a perseverar numa época em que ser negro significava ser considerado menos do que nada. (Extraído de Urban Dreams: Stories of Hope, Resilience, and Character.)


Da Reflexão à Aplicação

Peçam aos alunos, na abertura do ano letivo, para se comprometerem a viver segundo os seus princípios ou regras desde o início. Ao longo do ano, podem convidá-los a refletir sobre o que escreveram e a que se comprometeram, a verificar com os colegas como é que eles estão a consegui-lo e a rever as suas próprias leis, se necessário.


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