I am taking a Coursera course with David Levin of the KIPP schools and our final assignment is to create a Macro Structure project, which is defined as "any structure, system or routine that is designed to teach character." There are four attributes contained within a macro structure, which are: recurring, proactively planned, active, and aligned with character strengths.
My school has a set of values which are central to our philosophy and each play a part in helping students develop character in various ways. These include confidence, creativity, global citizenship, independence, peace, leadership, respect, and trust. Routines to teach character are extremely important in elementary school, as the habits and attitudes developed here have the potential to become lifelong, and character education is a passion and focus of mine.
A macro structure that I have designed for is reflective journaling based on powerful quotes. Our classroom is an inclusive environment at an independent school, with 16 students, our classroom aide and myself. In our model of inclusive education, we do not test for admission to our school, but rather accept a wide variety of students with a variety of exceptionalities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger's, ADHD, and learning disabilities. We have three streams at our school, including Montessori, Progressive, and Arrowsmith education.
Each Tuesday, a member of our classroom (myself, our classroom aide, or a student) chooses a meaningful quote for the class to reflect upon and write about in a journal. In this journal, the children are asked to answer the following questions:
1) What does this quote mean to you?
2) Why is it important?
3) Write about a related example from your own life
4) How can this quote help you in the future?
We follow this writing time with an in-depth discussion of our thoughts, experiences, and ideas. We connect it to situations in our classroom, playground, school, and life. We refer to these quotes later to help us remember those character strengths such as grit and zest that are important for learning and for life.
Some of the quotes that we have chosen over the year have included:
"Comparison is the thief of joy" - Theodore Roosevelt
"A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new" - Albert Einstein
As Carol Dweck says, it is important to focus on opportunities for growth and the importance of the ability to make mistakes in order to learn and develop.