THE CHARACTER OF EDUCATION:
PROMISES TO KEEP

Chip Wood, co-creator of the Responsive Class-room gave the June 25, 1996 keynote at the Center's Second Annual Summer Institute in Character Education at SUNY Cortland. In his concluding remarks, he outlined seven promises he believes we must make to our children, schools, and each other if we are to move our beliefs about Character Education into sound daily practice.


  1. Let us promise not to ignore the behavior of boys when it is deliberately mean and cruel and physically or verbally abusive to girls. In order to stem the tide of abusive treatment of women in our society, we must promise not to look the other way in the halls of our elementary, middle and high schools. We must teach young boys to express empathy and make it normative to be respectful and caring in our schools. This is the promise of respect -- to the boy on the bicycle and the girl in the schoolyard. (Wood had recounted a disturbing newspaper report of a 10-year-old boy's assault on an 8-year-old girl with broken glass in a schoolyard after school.)

  2. Let us promise to ask parents what they want their children to learn in school this year. At the very least, send a letter home before school starts that asks this question. If possible, move the first parent conference to the beginning of the school year and make it a goal-setting conference. This is the promise of parental involvement for all moms and dads.

  3. Promise your students real responsibility in the classroom and school by generating classroom rules that begin with their hopes and dreams, aspirations and goals. Then give them real jobs to do. This is the promise of responsibility in action.

  4. Promise yourself, your administration, parents and students, a clear set of school-wide rules and procedures that let everyone know that the vast majority of students the ones who follow the rules will, from this point forward, be the ones who get most of the teacherís attention, rather than the other way around. Make sure the school board approves this policy. This is the promise to recognize responsibility.

  5. Promise yourselves that you will work together to create classroom and school ceremonies, rituals, structures and routines that provide for teaching and practicing the internalization of rules and for the building of greater trust among all members of the school community. To accomplish this, find as many ways as possible to increase meaningful, prosocial contact between younger and older students in the school, such as cross-age tutoring and "buddies" programs. This is the promise of apprenticeship.

  6. Promise to teach recess and lunch with the same intentionality as reading and math. Share the lunchroom and playground with your students as often as possible. This is the promise of safety and civility.

  7. Promise to use every available avenue to strengthen and support your adult community in its work together and with children, especially through the provision of time to meet, dialogue and create stronger bonds among adults. I recommend the notion that every teacher needs a "buddy teacher." In order to model good character for children, they must see us interact with each other, not just with them. We must be in each otherís rooms, on the playground together modeling for children. This is the promise to "raise the village" the community of adults.

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Reprinted from Volume 2 Issue 2 Fall 1996 Newsletter of The Fourth and Fifth R's - Respect and Responsibility. Reprint permission granted at site.

For more information on Character Education visit the
Center For the Fourth and Fifth Rs.


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