So when the Morehouse Elementary principal was mulling over ways to kick-off the 2002-2003 school year and get his young students motivated, he knew exactly what action to take.
He'd have a character rally on their first day back, a celebration of what it means to demonstrate good character.
And according to reports it was a huge success. Nine-year-old August Pritchett said it geared her and her classmates up for a fun-filled year. "It was real fun. We had people go up with signs that said different words and they held them up, then Mr. Williams read them," said the fourth grader.
The festivities were a way of introducing the school's Character Count program to the new students and reviewing it for those already familiar. Through the program educators teach and review skills that will help students be successful.
"The rally was great, the kids seemed to have a lot of fun with it. We have 270 students in grades k-5 and all grades attended it," Williams said. "We started Character Counts last year and decided we wanted to do more. At the rally we introduced new students and made them feel welcome. We played pep music and had students and teachers dance to the Macarena which everyone especially enjoyed. Yesterday's celebration was to kick off the school year and let the students know that everything we do is centered around character. It's not a separate thing that we do but everything we do is an extension of character."
To begin with Williams and his staff introduced the words for the school year. He explained each month will feature certain character word or words such as goal setting and cooperation. Even a character team made up of Williams, the counselor, two teachers, four parents and two support staff members has been formed.
August, who earned several coupons last year for demonstrating good character, likes the idea. "I like Character Counts because it teaches people they need to start being good and to share and do things for others."
Williams reminded students the teaching staff will be watching for those who show good character traits and that those selected will be rewarded with Character Counts coupons which will go into a box in the office and used in a drawing on Fridays.
Each week two students will receive a Morehouse Elementary Where Character Counts T-shirt. At the end of each quarter one student from each grade will receive a T-shirt. Rallies will emphasize the character word of the month and recognize students who were the best examples of the word for the month.
"Overall we want our students to demonstrate good character and feel good about coming to school," said Williams. "As a school community we would like to see fewer behavior problems, higher attendance and better grades and test scores. Having character education makes students happier and more successful. It makes the learning environment easier and more enjoyable. It teaches kids to do the 'right' thing.
"Building character at a young age establishes a good foundation that will help students face the many challenges in today's society and will help them to make good choices," he added. "It builds good self-esteem and respect for others. Hopefully the children of today will have a positive impact on the world."