Regardless of where you stand on the presidential candidates this election season, we can all agree that the campaign environment is not setting the standard for how we want our children to behave. Our children are watching disrespect, a lack of empathy, and dishonesty– and they are emulating behaviors that are unacceptable in our schools and on our playgrounds.
Disrespect among children has increased
Recently a group of students at a high school sporting event taunted the opposing team (who were from a school with a large Hispanic population) with signs and chants like “Build a wall” and “Speak English.” Coining the term “The Trump Effect”, a recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) showed that “students have been emboldened by the divisive, often juvenile rhetoric in the campaign. Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.”
Teachers hesitate to intervene
In the midst of children treating each other with disrespect, teachers are reluctant to discuss the election because it is fraught with controversy and makes students so uncomfortable. Yet many teachers feel compelled to say something since the disrespectful behaviors they are seeing are so counter to the character education lessons in honesty, respect, empathy, and kindness they’ve been teaching children since elementary school.
So how can a teacher address poor character in the classroom?
The simple fact is, no matter what the politicians are doing, there are basic values and ways of interacting with each other that we want our children to demonstrate. We can remind children what our standards are for acting with good character traits, without discussing the presidential candidates. No matter their political views, or the behaviors the candidates are demonstrating, children need to act in a way that they have learned is morally right.
you can’t control what someone else does, but you can control what you do
As I tell my kids, “you can’t control what someone else does, but you can control what you do.” It’s time to remind children how a person with good moral character behaves– to reestablish the standard that we would like kids to live up to.
Resources for teaching kids about good character
Books, worksheets, lesson plans on good character
1. Talking with Trees series
These books and free printable teaching resources teach kids about good character traits like respect, honesty, responsibility, and caring. The resources define good traits in terms kids can understand and use examples from their daily lives.
What is respect?, a definition for kids – A definition of respect with links to free printable Respect Worksheets and Respect Lesson Plans
What is honesty? a definition for kids – Honesty defined with examples elementary grade students can relate to. Includes links to related Honesty Worksheets for elementary grade students and special picture based activities for pre-readers.
2. List of some of the Best Character Education Resources
This list includes tons of great free resources, like videos, songs, lesson plans, and books from groups like Tolerance.org, Character.org, and Scholastic Books that help parents, teachers, and counselors show children the importance o good traits like respect, fairness, and kindness.
3. Ideas and resources from teachers
Find lots more character education resources and activities at our pinterest board.
Establishing a Respectful Classroom
1. Watch this video from the Teaching Channel showing a teacher who is teaching kids how to conduct themselves respectfully with each other, with their teacher, and is preparing them to be respectful to the world around them.
2. Teaching Tolerance offers some free resources for creating a classroom culture of respect and civility.
1. Civility Contract – A classroom or school wide approach to defining how to treat each other with respect
2. Speaking Kindness in Democratic Classrooms Lesson Plan – Children discuss ways they want people to interact with them, identifying respectful and kind approaches
3. Guide and printable pocket reminder card- This detailed guide shows you scenarios of people encountering intolerance and offers tips on how to politely but constructively address it.
How are you dealing with the election in your classroom?