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Responsibility in Action

Ideas for Educators & Students

How do we teach students to act responsibly - doing what they're supposed to do, persevering, doing their best, maintaining self-control, thinking before acting, and being accountable for their choices? Here are two ideas that educators use with their students.

Do Your Best but Accept Your Failings

I am a good role model for my students. This includes modeling the ability to laugh about my mistakes.

          —Diana Loomans & Karen Kohlberg, The Laughing Classroom  (New World Library1993)

Model & Demonstrate What Respect Means

Having worked as a classroom teacher and character development leader, I've found that it's always important that the student be shown what the expected behavior looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Modeling is the key to success. It's not enough to just say what it is.

If you want the children to demonstrate respect, for example, they need to first know what respect is and what it looks like. Often, students will say "I show respect to my friend by being nice." This is not specific enough. A teacher needs to ask, "What does that look like?" Being nice may mean "listening to my friend when he or she talks."

Once the concept of respect is made more explicit, it's up to the teacher to demonstrate what listening looks like, sounds like, and feels like. I often would model examples of what good listeners do (e.g., eyes on speaker, lean toward the speaker, nod, smile). The modeling would include teacher showing through example and student practice during role play. We must take time to lay the groundwork initially, but it pays off in the long run.

Once your targeted behaviors are modeled and demonstrated, create an anchor chart that states, "Good Listeners..." Include in the chart what it looks like (hands in lap, mouths not moving, eyes on speaker, etc.), what it sounds like (all are quiet except the speaker, clapping to acknowledge good ideas when the speaker is done), and what it feels like (calm, comfortable, etc.).

          —Dan Celetti, teacher in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, C

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