But it isn’t new. In 1947, the great Martin Luther King wrote about the purpose of education, stating: “Intelligence plus character – that is the true goal of education.” He said, perhaps “the most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals”.
At St Andrew’s Cathedral School (SACS), a major focus is to equip students with the positive character strengths required to navigate and flourish in an increasingly complex world. But how does a school approach such a challenging goal?
A select team of educators spent years designing a unique character development program as part of its student wellbeing strategy, which is now embedded into every class and subject in the school, starting from Kindergarten.
“The development of character is at the heart of our teaching and pastoral care, taught both explicitly and implicitly through habits and routines, role-modelling, service opportunities, leadership and relationships,” says the Head of Wellbeing and Character Mr Derek Champion. “In a co-educational environment, character education equips boys and girls to grow in wisdom and hope, so they can use their developing knowledge and expertise in ways that positively impact society.
“We aim to embed strong values through our Junior and Middle School years so that in some of those more difficult years of adolescence, our students will be able to make better decisions that direct their lives.”
A series of fun and engaging illustrations were created and launched this year in order to engage students at a deeper level with each of the 15 SACS Character Strengths. These are pictured on walls all around the school and create great conversation starters for students and staff.
The Junior School Wellbeing Coordinator Bronwyn Wake says the illustrations have prompted some great discussions among students. “Students in the Junior School do particularly love the Grateful image,” she says. “It is painted in the stairwell on the way up to the rooftop playground and many students point to all the things in the picture that they are grateful for as they walk past it going off to play. The Persistent image is another one they love. They can relate to the idea of having lots and lots of unsuccessful attempts before they succeed and we work hard to make persistence a normal part of the learning process. We encourage students to not give up, but rather to have a growth mindset and enthusiastically strive for excellence in all that they do.”
A teacher handbook, used in classroom discussions in both the primary and secondary school, explains in greater depth the meaning of each Character Strength and how to guide open conversations with students about growing in character.
“Character growth can develop out of positive conversations that challenge students to re-evaluate their assumptions about themselves, others and the world,” Mr Champion explains. “One area we openly discuss is the source of our Character Strengths, which is the Christian story that offers meaning, hope and life ‘to the full’.”
To find out more about the whole-person education that is offered at St Andrew’s Cathedral School, visit the website or book a school tour at https://www.sacs.nsw.edu.au/book-a-tour/
See the SACS Character Strengths roll-out video below or visit https://youtu.be/kSh7q_Caeb8