For character education and other kinds of prosocial development initiatives to be optimally effective and for it to have the optimal impact on the flourishing of human goodness and academic success, school leaders need to make their own character development a personal priority. In this way, they encourage other adults in the school to commit to their own self-examination and development, in turn, becoming models for students.
There are several ways the following questions can be used:
- Simply answer them for yourself, as a self-reflection activity.
- Rate yourself on each question (here is a downloadable version).
- Circle the items that you rated “Never or almost never” and “Sometimes but not often” and that you would most like to improve.
- Then, choose one or two as top priorities.
- Next, use a goal-setting worksheet to start an Action Plan for improvement on each of these priorities.
- Use the questions to rate another person, either by simply answering them or by using the rating scale.
- Have a group of school leaders engage in a self-rating, and then discuss as a group the insights people gleaned from doing this. If your time is limited, you might choose one quality to focus on at a time.
- Ask staff to rate you using the rating scale, and then compile the results. If you are very brave (courage is a leadership virtue), present the summed results to the staff and discuss them together.
- Do a 360-procedure where you rate yourself, your supervisor rates you, and those you supervise rate you. Then compare the results, and ideally discuss them with others.
- Use the results of any of these procedures to identify strengths and areas for growth. Then create a strategic plan for personal improvement based on the results. What specific characteristics do you want to work on? Create SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely). Consider having an “accountability buddy” to check in periodically to help monitor your progress and keep you on track.
Schools are about learning and growing for both children and adults. One critical way of creating an adult culture that promotes becoming one’s best and most competent professional self is to make the school productively challenging for all, including the adults. Leaders who are also ethical and inspirational can more easily challenge others and push them harder.
- Do you present questions and experiences for others that will challenge them and help them grow?
- Do you see the possibilities in others and act to make them more likely?
- Do you create an environment where people will have to take on new tasks and roles? Do you scaffold such experiences and situations?
- Do you model and support experiential pedagogies for students? Do you do the same for staff?
- Are you okay with failure, and have you created a safe culture where staff and students are not afraid to fail?
- Do you encourage and support staff in earning degrees and certificates and taking on new and challenging roles?
We all need new learning and challenges in life to grow and flourish. It is the leader’s role to model enrichment by providing new opportunities and roles and resources. There is deep truth to feeding the minds and spirits of all stakeholders. Providing quality professional development is a key way to enrich and feed the staff.
- Do you prioritize innovation, especially toward enriching the learning and developmental contexts in the school?
- Do you focus on the professional growth of your staff?
- Do you lead book studies and other study groups with staff?
- Do you seek newer and better methods and structures?
- Do you lead in ways that will contribute to the flourishing of others and the world in which we live?
- Do you strategically bring to the school new ideas that will enrich the culture, methods, and outcomes of the school?
Psychologist K. Warner Schaie once claimed that a hallmark of adult thinking was the capacity to think long term and to monitor progress over time. This is especially relevant for principals. We need leaders who have a long-term vision, for oneself, the individual members of the school community, and for the whole community. They also need to monitor progress of the development of the school along that long timeline.
- Do you care deeply about the future, beyond yourself?
- Are you passionate about, do you advocate for, and do you act to support broad issues such as peace, environmental health, the moral messages we send to children, etc.?
- Do you think and plan about how you will fulfill your responsibility for the long-term flourishing of the school (even after you have left the school)?
- Do you embrace “Tikkun Olam” (to heal the world) by devoting yourself to the long-term improvement of that which you have been given responsibility?
- Do you have a sustainability plan for the school?
- Do you look for future leaders among your staff?
Each school leader is being given the responsibility of all the people in the school, especially the children, and the school itself, now and into the future. Your stewardship for that which is put in your trust should be salient, motivating, and deeply felt. It is a profound and sacred trust, a great responsibility. We all stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us, which is why we can see further than they did. We all create ripples in the pond of life. We need leaders who understand that and take that responsibility very seriously.
- Do you have a strategic plan?
- Is it long-term?
- Do you regularly/periodically monitor progress?
- Do you feel responsible for the long-term well-being of the school?
- Do you have a clear sense of the steps along the journey for your strategic goals?
Adapted from PRIMED for Character Education: Six Design Principles for School Improvement by Marvin W. Berkowitz. Copyright © 2021. Published by Routledge. Excerpted by permission of the publisher.