LEARNING CHARACTER

It should come as no surprise that, in an urban school like Children’s Community School, the presence and prominence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is both powerful and profound.  The iconic Civil Rights leader had a lot to say about education, and one of his statements resonates deeply with the heartbeat of CCS:

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

At CCS, our students’ families count on us to partner with them in educating not only our students’ minds, but their hearts as well.  To quote another great thinker, Aristotle once said,

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

A Message from the DirectorI was privileged last month to have a few moments to join our teaching faculty as they gathered for a professional development meeting.  I was particularly thrilled to have the opportunity to observe a few of our teachers share work that they had been doing with our students during our fully remote learning period between Thanksgiving and the MLK holiday.

While I was impressed and inspired by everything I saw, I was particularly enamored with some videos of our fifth grade students talking about how their engagement with Second Step, our Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, had impacted them.

While relatively self-explanatory, Second Step states, “SEL concepts provide an extra dimension to education, focusing on improving cooperation, communication, and decision making. In a world where emotional intelligence is critical for lifelong happiness, successful careers, and healthier relationships, SEL gives students a framework for developing these skills.”

In other words, SEL helps to “educate the heart” and synergize both “intelligence plus character.”
Learn more about SEL at the Second Step website.

What really stood out to me, and moved me profoundly, was hearing the young men in our fifth grade class talk about how they were employing their new SEL skills and knowledge.  Phrases like, “I have things I can do to calm my anger” and “I talk more openly about how I am feeling” flowed from these students’ mouths with an ease and earnestness that spoke to my heart.

Understand that I am not negating the work of our young ladies, but as the youngest of three boys, the father of a son, and a former all-boys school leader, I know firsthand how difficult it is for young men to develop emotional awareness, intelligence, and strength in a society and culture that tends to value the rugged, stoic man.  Add to that the harsh realities faced by men of color, and you will see that social-emotional learning is, indeed, core curriculum.

CCS does many things well, and finding the “sweet spot” of academic and character-based learning is just one of our strengths.  Not unlike the civil unrest of Dr. King’s era, the challenges facing our young people — of all genders and gender identities — are very real and require an education that extends beyond intellect.

Based on what I am seeing everyday at CCS, we are getting ever closer to one of MLK’s many ideals:

“The ultimate measure of a [wo]man is not where [s]he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where [s]he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

– Jeff Martin, Executive Director at Children’s Community School