Telesis Preparatory Academy initiated a Character Education program 5 years ago when a grant-in-kind was obtained from a Character First! trainer, David Petersen. Since then, the program has grown and grown with the addition of a student-driven Character Council with representatives from every classroom. Teachers emphasize and integrate the 49 Character First! Qualities focusing on the “Character Quality of the Month” each month. Every month the character quality is posted in front of our school. The Telesis Character Council consists of student representatives from every classroom, Kindergarten through Academy (K-12). The council meets twice monthly to provide student ideas to encourage good character on our campus.
At Telesis Preparatory Academy, we have also made a concerted effort to deliver this message to the parents by providing Character First! and Character Council information on our website listing us as a Character First! School and notes home to parents on a regular basis explaining our character education goals. The Character First! logo graces our home page of our website encouraging visitors, parents and students to click on the link and check out Character First!
Our Character Council voted to begin a Silent Witness website which gives students an anonymous way to report wrong-doing that may occur on our campus. The Silent Witness website was activated to help keep good character first on our campus. Character Council members are using it and are now ready to help teach their classmates how to use it. It is already paying off as some recent vandalism was halted and a student threat was prevented from becoming reality because of the new Silent Witness website.
Character Council members have volunteered to take the good character message into the classrooms by performing short skits and demonstrations. One such demonstration is the one described in the book, First Things First (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1994). Character Council members practiced first and then when ready scheduled planned visits into each classroom to show the following demonstration from First Things First:
Set one wide-mouth gallon jar on the table then next to the table set some fist-sized rocks. Ask “How many of these rocks do you think we can get into the jar?” Have a volunteer place the rocks into the jar. Now take out the rocks and pour gravel from another container into the jar. Ask a volunteer to come up and try to put the rocks in now. It is much more difficult. So “What should go in first?” The rocks of course! The rocks represent the goals in your life including goals such as responsibility, punctuality, self-control, and flexibility to name a few. Just like the big rocks in the jar, you want to put these things into your life first. Pour the gravel from the jar back into the container and put the rocks back in the jar. Now pour the gravel back in the jar. Both the rocks and the gravel fit easily when the rocks go in first.
All students from kindergarten to high school enjoyed this demonstration and they all “got it!”
Our Character Council has also sponsored two successful Family Movie Nights. Two full feature movies of good character in action are shown, one for younger children and one for older children. Families come together and select the movie of their choice to watch together. The movies are free to all Telesis families. Students must bring a parent; they cannot come alone because the purpose of the movie is to discuss it with your family members at the intermission and at the end. Character Council members plan and serve refreshments at a concession stand which they sell to earn money for Council projects.
At Telesis Preparatory Academy, we have collaborated with organizations in the community to fund and assist our ongoing character education efforts. One such endeavor is the Sister to Sister Project (sponsored by the American Association of University Women) held for high school girls at Telesis Preparatory Academy and Lake Havasu High School. Guest speakers impart to the girls in many ways why good character is so important.
The overall progression of our Character Education Program is as the following steps indicate:
- The Classroom
- The Campus
- The Parents
- Collaboration with Community Organizations
- Collaboration with other similar efforts that are currently in place
- Collaboration with the Community to become a Character First! Community
We have reached the beginning of step 4, but we need to continue to strengthen these 4 steps and strive for steps 5 and 6.