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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Elementary school program encourages responsibility, citizenship among students

Friday, August 31, 2001

MOREHOUSE - How a person handles personal relationships in school, at work and in life stems from character, something experts say must be consciously developed by example and demand.

Morehouse Elementary has set out to play a supporting role in building character in youngsters and in turn, explains Jeff Williams, the venture will help form future adults who can live healthy, happy lives of purpose using principled reasoning and ethical decision making.

Character Counts, builds on what is referred to as the "Six Pillars of Character" which are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

"I've been researching character education for the last year, it was the topic of my graduate paper," said Williams, Morehouse Elementary principal. "During the course of my research I discovered that character education is a hot topic with our nation's schools and communities. Many school districts have implemented character education into the regular education curriculum. The thing that really impressed me was that these schools have reported three major changes: attendance and achievement results have increased while at the same time discipline problems have declined.

"I thought wouldn't it be great to try some type of character program at Morehouse, so over the summer I came up with the Character Counts idea. I went over the idea with the staff and we decided to begin with the program the first day of school."

Williams and his staff are looking for students displaying good character traits, such as responsibility, respect, cooperation, honesty and kindness. When a staff person sees a student illustrating good character, he is presented with a Character Counts coupon which the student turns into the office. The coupons, which have a space for the students' name and reason for receiving it, are then collected and placed in a box in the main office.

On Fridays there is a drawing for a T-shirt and two coupons are pulled from those collected that week. There is a student winner from grades K-2 and another for grades 3-5. Their names and reason for receiving the coupon are read over the intercom. The front of the T-shirt says "Morehouse Elementary Where Character Counts" and the back lists positive character traits.

"Mrs. (Marti) Koch, the counselor, and myself took some time at the beginning of the school year visiting the classrooms," explained Williams. "We talked about the Character Counts program and what it means to be a person of good character. We discussed how it's nice to win a T-shirt but the most important reason that we are doing this is to learn how to do the right thing. We want Morehouse Elementary to be a safe and caring place where students feel accepted. This will lead to a more positive learning environment."

Michael Bentley and Kristin King say they believe having good character is crucial in everything a person does.

"It's very important because if you don't have good character, when you go out and try to get a job it's hard," said Michael, a fifth grader at Morehouse. "Also, people without character don't have many friends, I don't think I'd want to be friends with someone who doesn't have good character."

Kristin, who was one of last Friday's winners, said she would try to help those lacking good character. "It's very important to have good character and it makes me feel bad when I see someone who's not showing it," said the second grader. "It makes me sort of angry, but I think I would try to teach them how to have good character."

At this point, Morehouse Elementary is the only school in the Sikeston R-6 District using the Character Counts program. "We have a great bunch of kids and our school is a positive place to learn," Williams said, praising the two students for illustrating such good character the first two weeks of school.

"But I believe this will make our students even more aware of the need to do what is right. Hopefully this is building on the values that they have been taught at home. We are in no way trying to take that responsibility away from the family. It is a team approach. We hope to strengthen individuals, families and communities through character education. We are looking at being more proactive rather than reactive. By instilling in children a strong sense of values, we are better preparing them for success as adults. Today more than ever students need to learn more than the three R's to become productive citizens of the future."