U-234 teaches lessons in character

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The USD 234 school district has been creating characters.

The school district has not been creating cartoon creations, but rather helping the local students to develop positive character-traits.

In accordance with Senate Bill 68, which requires the Kansas Department of Education to develop and assist in character development programs, the school district has chosen to teach each student what it takes to maintain good character traits as children and as adults. Although SB 68 does not require school districts to teach these traits to students, USD 234 Superintendent Rick Werling said that it is a positive step that should help raise children's self-esteem and lessen bullying.

"Building up students' character helps prevent bullying," Werling said.

According to Winfield Scott Elementary Principal Dave Elliot, the character education program that his school is conducting has had positive effects.

"The students just do a better job of how they treat each other," he said.

Winfield Scott Elementary counselor Denise Umphenour has scheduled time to teach each class two or three times each month about developing positive qualities. The students work on one positive character word each month. Umphenhour teaches the students with a lesson and various activities such as coloring pictures. The students can take these pictures home with them to keep their parents informed of that month's character trait, she said.

According to Umphenhour, teaching children these positive character traits will help them to become productive citizens. It helps the children when their parents also teach the character traits at home, she said.

"This is a partnership between home and school," she said.

At Fort Scott Middle School, the students are taught character traits in their homebase classrooms. Each homebase teacher spends time conducting activities with the students to enhance positive behavior and character traits, Fort Scott Middle School counselor Tammy Claypool said.

Although the school district is currently in the process of approving a new school bullying policy in compliance with SB 68, USD 234 has had a character-trait program for several years. According to Werling, the local district is ahead of many other school districts in this area. The current program will be used to enhance the new school bullying policy.

Elliot said that teaching children good character traits along with disciplining incorrect behavior has a greater effect than just disciplining alone.

Parents who wish to partner with the schools in this endeavor can talk with their children about cooperation throughout the month of November, as that will be the month's character topic in the schools. In December, the school district will focus on caring.

Parents can obtain more information about the character program at their children's school by contacting that school's principal or counselor.