Parents are expressing significant concerns regarding the negative behavior displayed by children in today’s school-age group and are turning to schools for assistance in fostering better character traits. A recent survey conducted by market research company Ipsos, with a nationally representative sample of 1,034 parents of children aged 6-18 between August 31 and September 16, revealed that a majority of parents believe that children today generally lack respect for others, are dishonest, ungrateful, and lazy. The nonprofit Character.org commissioned this survey.
Although nearly 90 percent of parents recognize their influential role in their children’s character development, 69 percent of parents rely on teachers to reinforce the core values that they teach at home, according to the survey.
These survey results coincide with schools increasingly prioritizing social-emotional learning as a key aspect of their strategy to help students recover from the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Social-emotional learning focuses on developing skills like resilience, emotional regulation, empathy, and collaboration. Arthur Schwartz, the president of Character.org, emphasizes the importance of social-emotional skills, stating that understanding and managing emotions, as well as interpersonal skills, are essential building blocks for becoming a good person.
Some pockets of the country have seen resistance to teaching social-emotional learning skills in schools due to conflicting values with parents. However, the survey results indicate that there is more common ground between parents and educators than is sometimes realized in the current political climate, says Kristy Rauch, manager of educational partnerships for the Center for the Collaborative Classroom, a nonprofit organization that develops literacy and social-emotional learning programs. Rauch highlights that whether it is called character education or social-emotional learning, these findings demonstrate that this work is important, not only within the school day but also with the support of parents.
Although 75 percent of parents surveyed believe that character building is less emphasized today in schools and at home compared to when they were growing up, experts suggest that many schools are already fostering these skills in students. Rauch suggests that more intentional communication between parents and schools could alleviate this disconnect.
So, what can schools do to foster these skills in students? Philip Rossetti, assistant principal at Windham High School in Windham, Maine, states that one crucial action schools can take is to clearly articulate their expectations. Educators need to work with students to learn and practice these skills, which can be facilitated through a dedicated advisory class where students have time to develop the necessary social-emotional learning skills that support the school culture. Another approach is to bring in adults who can model these skills in their workplaces. Furthermore, schools can incorporate social-emotional learning skills as part of their "portrait of a graduate" framework, outlining the skills students should possess before graduating high school to succeed in college, careers, and life, according to Schwartz.
To further support students, schools can actively seek feedback from students and staff to understand what is working well and what additional measures the school needs to implement. Rauch suggests that this feedback can aid in creating a supportive environment.
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