Building Character – It Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Parents, schools, universities and corporations want individuals that have strong character. When talking with admissions officers this past summer I was somewhat surprised when asked, “What are you recruiting for?”, admissions officers replied, “Students with strong character.” When asked what this specifically looked like, the admission officers replied, “Students with integrity, grit, self-discipline and who are respectful”. I then went on to ask questions around how they determine an applicant’s character and if they look for a specific curriculum at the secondary school level. Insightful information was gleaned for me through those conversations. I was pleased to know that a strong character is sought after at the university level and something at Clariden that we work with our students on daily. At Clariden, we value developing students with strong character.
When I speak with students outside of Clariden I’m amazed by how many speak openly about cheating on tests, quizzes and homework. Cheating has become so prevalent within secondary school academic environments that it is openly discussed. So how bad is it? In a survey of 24,000 students at 70 high schools, Rutgers University found that “64 percent of students admitted to cheating on a test, 58 percent admitted to plagiarism and 95 percent said they participated in some form of cheating, whether it was on a test, plagiarism or copying homework.” ( June 7, 2017)
For those of you that may not know, Clariden has a character curriculum/program that supports our students in learning how to be individuals with strong character. Part of this curriculum is our Cougar PRIDE program. Students learn politeness (P), respect (R), integrity (I), self-discipline (D), and embracing opportunity (E). Clariden’s teachers and administrators work closely with students to teach them what it means to be a person with strong character. We set the expectations within the Clariden learning environment high and work with our students to meet those expectations. We actively work to give positive reinforcement for behavior that aligns with Cougar PRIDE and actively work to support and guide students that need additional practice and assistance, as building character is a process. At the end of each school year, we award our highest award, the Cougar PRIDE award, to the student from each class that demonstrates the highest level of Cougar PRIDE throughout the school year.
Having a strong character is not built overnight. Building a strong character is built through experiences over time, through constructive, active correction, positive reinforcement, and through the modeling of strong character traits. It takes intentional effort. As John Rohn stated, “You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.”
This is true for learning environments. Your children will become like who they associate with and will model their character and behavior after those who influence and guide them. A learning environment that promotes a culture that builds strong character does indeed have an impact on how your child develops and their readiness for future success. Having a strong character is not only marketable but essential for a life well lived.
Go Cougars!
Sallie Wells, Head of School