Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Thoughts on the news article "Character building, not bullying"

The Joongang Daily ran this timely article about one's schools efforts to embed character education into its curriculum.

Character education's something I've long known about through my teaching courses. It goes in and out of fashion every so often because it's a nebulous term. It can mean instilling positive traits into students, for schooling centers on shaping productive minds who can benefit society. Questions remain on exactly how to do this, but it's good to see a school whose focus goes beyond preparing students for tests.

Tests form the foundation of Korean schooling and, to a large extent, society. Getting anywhere hinges upon tests and the ability to take them. With that in mind, readying the students for tests need not involve memorizing interminable facts and dates. The above article spotlights one science teacher who used storytelling to humanize the scientist Faraday and his life's work. In doing so, he not only told the students about Faraday, but showed them what he did and how it contributes to modern science. Until now, I'd never heard of Faraday, but he sounds like someone to learn from. Indeed, in showing how different people overcame problems, we can learn about their character.

In my courses, I've endeavored to use examples from historical figures to emphasize punctuality and preparedness, which are two things students usually struggle with. Part of it comes from adolescent feet-dragging, and the other comes from not having learned it before. Neither the classroom nor society can hardly function if no one shows up on time or, failing that, within a few minutes of on time. Anyone who's spent any time in a classroom's surely seen the perpetual stragglers and slackers, the ones who never have materials and never arrive on time. They don't know it, but they're hindering their peers as much as they're hindering themselves because their lateness always disrupts the class. Their lack of materials makes them depend on others for charity as well. Those two problems will probably never go away, but they can certainly be alleviated. 

It's teachers like those at Yangseo High School who are making school a better place by making lessons blending character education into their curriculum. They're breathing some life into dry or difficult subjects like science and art. In a time when news stories about incompetent and misbehaving teachers are everywhere, it's refreshing to see a positive news story about teachers. I wish them the very best.

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