Our Opinion: Should school students in NEPA get lessons in good character? Yes, and here’s why

It won’t be long before area schools reopen and students again get walloped by a constant stream of what-should-I-do dilemmas.

Peer pressure – Wanna cigarette … Everyone else will be there … Try this pill – intensifies.

A taunter takes aim during recess.

A bully arises.

To properly cope with these situations, children and teens need character. Isn’t it therefore necessary that, somewhere between math, science and English, we squeeze in conversations about good character and give students the lessons they need to be better people?

It might not be Common Core, but it is common sense. From kindergarten through high school, students will benefit if given clear reminders of right and wrong, an understanding of emotions and an ability to pick the better path.

Ideally, parents are coaching character at home. Ditto for religious leaders and other role models in the community. But some students don’t get the message, and schools in Northeastern Pennsylvania and beyond have a vested interest in reinforcing character.

It comes down to “classroom management,” according to a how-to article on Edutopia. “(Y)ou need to teach students about themselves, about the kind of person they want to be. Then you have fewer management problems, and you can teach the curriculum better.”

To cut down on classroom disruptions, one area principal started last year to put extra emphasis on students’ good behavior. Brian Kelly, of Lackawanna Trail Elementary Center in Factoryville, would visit a classroom, invite a student who had been recognized for his or her kind actions to his office, then place a “positive” phone call to the student’s parents. “That was contagious around the building and teachers were asking me to do it in their rooms,” Kelly said in a recent Abington Journal article. “Then, I asked the teachers to start calling some of the families.”

As school employees in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties get prepped this week for the approaching first day of class, we hope they talk among themselves about character education. Teachers can find online resources and inspiration at sites ranging from the Center for Character and Citizenship to a Pinterest pinboard.

At goodcharacter.com, people can access free content including “the daily dilemma” series – 31 scenarios, each intended to spur classroom discussion. One reads: “Julia’s best friend has turned against her and is now organizing the other girls to bully and isolate her. What can Julia do?”

Separately, character.org, a Washington, D.C.-based organization highlighted this month in a Parade article, urges schools to get involved in its Schools of Character program.

If you know of a local participating school, or of other character-education efforts happening here, let us know. We’d like to put good character in the limelight – where it belongs.