Students who struggle with academic, physical, socio-emotional issues, language and visual/audio logical learning difficulties must have instruction and encouragement in building their character and citizenship skills. They are no different from the peers and classmates with whom they are integrated and with whom they will someday become neighbors and perhaps co-workers. The educational staff at our schools plays a role in that development.
Honesty, responsibility, respect and dependability (among other valued personal characteristics) do not evolve by happenstance. These need to be taught, modeled and reinforced at all times. Modeling structured instruction and practice are important in the development of ‘character' in all students. It is part of what is expected to be taught to everyone in the schools, therefore, it should be taught (by everyone) as well - who are in the school setting.
Honesty is incorporated into a student's daily activities in many ways. Acknowledging them for doing their own work, admitting the truth about their inappropriate behavior or following through on correcting their own mistakes will reinforce this character trait.
Responsibility becomes a part of students' lives when they observe it in action, are called to account for their actions, are reinforced for following through with certain assignments in a timely manner and accept reasonable consequences for their inappropriate actions.
Respect becomes a part of a student's social skills set when they display behavior that demonstrates treating others the way they want to be treated. Once they learn how to give respect, they can expect respect from others. Sometimes students with social or behavioral disabilities can verbalize this concept, but it is their actions that confirm their grasp of how to implement this character trait with staff and peers.
Dependability is another part of students' growth that all of the staff in the schools can reinforce. Being on time to class, being in school (except for illness or other important family reasons), completing assignments so they can join in classroom discussions or activities and contributing to cooperative group projects are a part of what is expected and needs to be acknowledged when observed.
All of the staff in the schools demonstrates traits of good citizenship for all the students every minute of the day. We all know that students everywhere are observing staff-to-staff interactions all day long as well. They can see how the adults in their environment handle differences, demonstrate general courtesies, show respect for authority and deal with mistakes. Students are able to see how emotions are controlled, and how these emotions are dealt with in acceptable ways. Nothing is more impressionable than the modeling of desirable behavior. It provides positive personal examples for reference for the staff when addressing student behavior requiring a corrective action.
We all want what is best for the students and being a part of what can influence them for later in life is a privilege as well as a testament to our profession.