Welcome back to school!
Martin Luther King Jr. once observed that, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of education.”
As King implies, intelligence without character is limited. However, when the two are combined, students are prepared to make valuable contributions to their school and community. This is why we established a set of expectations that reflect both intelligence and character. This list gives students a set of traits to which to aspire, which go beyond merely obeying school rules.
In short, they ask students to work hard, set goals, arrive to class prepared and dressed appropriately, and to reach out to others to help build a productive community. They balance the traits required to be successful in the classroom and to work well with others beyond it.
Beyond these expectations, we have also created a Periodic Table of 24 Character Strengths, and identified students whose intelligence and character embody five of the 24 strengths. These traits are: courage, creativity, curiosity, perseverance and social responsibility. When students return to school this year, they will see the students whose intelligence and character reveal these traits displayed on posters in the hallway.
Like the expectations, the character strengths are meant to be aspirational and set expectations beyond merely following the rules. They are also helpful as a tool to reflect on personal strengths and weaknesses and to identify areas where additional work is needed. More resources are available at: http://www.letitripple.org/character
We believe that setting positive expectations beyond the minimum and striving for them will enable us all to be part of a learning community, which cultivates excellence, and earns the respect of others.
Perhaps Albert Einstein summed up this idea best when he entreated us to “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” The value of which Einstein speaks arises when we help students become individuals whose successes will contribute value to causes beyond themselves.