A Cleveland, NY Elementary School Finds Building Character Boosts Performance

Sep 6, 2013

Cleveland Elem Students get a healthy dose of character education as school starts.
Cleveland Elem Students get a healthy dose of character education as school starts.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Public Schools started this week…and one Central New York school is trying to pack in much more than the Core Curriculum.  Cleveland Elementary in Oswego County has a commitment to “Character Education.”

Diane Maw’s first grade students started the day Thursday with a story about a turtle who couldn’t keep quiet.

“In the end, the turtle, Snappy cannot keep his mouth shut and he falls.”

Which leads to a lesson on self control.

 

 

Teacher Diane Maw and her first grade class use a story to discuss issues of self-control.
Teacher Diane Maw and her first grade class use a story to discuss issues of self-control.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

  “Most of them related it to riding a bicycle, trying to ride with no hands, riding a skateboard.”

And that little bit of six-year-old introspection Maw says, can set a foundation.

“It lends itself to further discussions, where I will relate back to Snappy. And Say ‘remember when he lost control.’”

CHARACTER EDUCATION MATERIALS HELP

The story comes from the Wisdom Thinkers Network’s Stories to Light Our Way.”   Fourth grade teacher Helen Bolen finds the discussions can engage students for other parts of the curriculum.

“At this age, 9- or 10-years-old, they appreciate that I am interested in what they think.  There’s a lot of power in that.  I’m not just giving them information; I’m forcing them to think about the information.”

The simple messages teach tolerance, compassion, problem solving…and might include diversity of cultures and religions.

“I think they’re starting to realize that there’s something out there bigger than they are, their little community.  And this is great because it’s multicultural and we don’t have the diversity here.”

Principal Michael Smolnik (right) uses character education materials from Ralph Singh's Wisdom Thinkers at Cleveland Elementary, where values and expectations are very public.
Principal Michael Smolnik (right) uses character education materials from Ralph Singh's Wisdom Thinkers at Cleveland Elementary, where values and expectations are very public.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

Cleveland elementary principal Michael Smolnik talks about creating citizens…that benefit the community…which he says has brought support and pride from the residents.

“I know there’s tremendous pressure there in terms of graduation rate and getting kids college and career ready.  But a lot of these things have provided us with that foundation of caring and trust and school connectedness, which again, in turn, allow us to push the limits academically.”

Smolnik says it all can also make students more connected to their schools and education…and he believes character education is a national movement. 

NATIONAL RECOGNITION

Cleveland Elementary’s success was rewarded as a 2010 national Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education for academics…and named a 2013 National School of Character by the Character Education Partnership.