Laura Sarmiento, MSc in Psychology, Student Support and Psychology Department, Colegio Alberto Einstein
Images by Mauricio Vega, Graphic Designer, Colegio Alberto Einstein
Colegio Alberto Einstein is currently implementing Character Counts! with the aim of providing a coherent structure to the values aspect of our school culture. When asked to coordinate the implementation of this program, I knew it would be an exciting adventure with many challenges and opportunities for growth. Today marks six months since the beginning of the implementation and our school is proud of what we have achieved together so far. The following reflection seeks to share our experience in the first steps of implementing Character Counts!.
About Character Counts!
Character Counts! is a program that provides a framework of practical strategies to foster a positive school climate by infusing six core ethical and performance values. These values are promoted through a designated color and (especially for younger students) animal mascot. The program ultimately seeks the development of social, emotional and character skills in students, and indeed in the whole school community. Character Counts! materials are available in Spanish as well as in English.
In order to become an official Character Counts! school, a two year implementation process that includes training and structuring of the program is required.
Training and certification
To best prepare for Character Counts!, we chose to train as many of our educators as possible by having two Character Counts! trainers come to our school to deliver a three-day workshop. We were able to offer extensive training to all principals/section heads, all homeroom teachers, and at least one teacher from each academic department. By the end of the workshop, we had trained over 40 staff members and were officially certified as a Character Counts! school.
Structuring the Program’s Implementation
Following certification, we developed a structure to best implement Character Counts!. Knowing that the program would take years to be fully integrated, we decided that our main objective during Year One was for the school community to become familiar with the values and empathize with the program. With this in mind, we chose to divide the school year into six segments, each corresponding to one of the six values. During each segment, we focus on the benefits of the chosen value by performing dynamic activities with students and by keeping school members informed. Our goal in Year Two is to focus more on integrating Character Counts! into the school’s curriculum.
Visually Transforming the School
Emphasizing aesthetics helped make the early stages of the program more noticeable. We wanted to create an exciting and easily identifiable environment that promoted the program. Therefore, we strategically chose areas throughout the school to paint with Character Counts! colors. Our graphic designer created our own logo that is included in our agendas, classroom decorations, and yearbooks along with the program’s colors and animal mascots.
Involving the School Community
While Character Counts! ultimately seeks the development of values in students, the main path to achieve this is through adults modeling these values in their daily lives. With Kotter and Cohen’s (2002) “see-feel-change” model in mind, our aspiration is to move people emotionally in order for them to view the program as a positive change and to participate actively. In order to accomplish this, we conduct motivational workshops addressed at different community members and we hold fun and exciting events, such as our launch party.
Character Counts! in Action
Keeping both students and teachers motivated, in my opinion, is the biggest challenge to a successful implementation. This is why the program needs to be viewed as a team project that is flexible, dynamic, and co-created with all school members. We have worked to achieve this by involving students and teachers in the participation of different activities such as:
Acting out plays for preschoolers
Performing dance sequences for the launching of new values
Creating photo booths and documenting events
Spreading information about the program through social media
Reflecting through stories, videos, quotes and readings
The past six months have been an exciting and productive time at Colegio Alberto Einstein. While we have successfully addressed important parts of Character Counts!, we still have a lot to achieve in the coming years.
We hope you have found this reflection useful and we welcome any suggestions. Feel free to contact us at: email@example.com.
Character Counts website https://charactercounts.org/
Kotter, J. and Cohen, D. (2002) The heart of Change – summary. Soundview Executive Book Summaries, vol. 24, no.11, Pennsylvania 19331 USA