Teaching character traits at home and in the classroom

It’s a given that most parents want their children to grow up with good values and character traits. Kindness, compassion, perseverance and honesty are just some of the traits we want to instill in our kids. But how are character traits developed?


Charles Starkey, Associate Professor of Philosophy studies emotion theory and moral psychology. He says that character traits are determined by our values but that emotions also play a huge role. In short, kids need emotional intelligence and to see positive character traits in others to adopt them.

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Students who are loved at home

I substituted in first grade today. I taught it the first two years of my 35 year teaching career and realized I was an older kid teacher. But I go where I must these days.

There was one li’l boy who was ferocious and obstinate. I called on every strategy I knew from being a teacher-mom-of-sons, but to no avail. Finally and futilely as I sat next to him as he sobbed because I’d removed him from kicking people in the center and I blurted out what popped into my head. “Riley, may I give you a hug?” I asked. He bolted into my arms, snot and all, and held on for dear….something. read more →

Be-someone-who-makes-everyone-feel-important---poster-by-Ripple-Kindness-Project

Today I heard a beautiful story about students showing pure kindness towards a peer with disabilities and I believe that sharing it will bring as much joy to you as it did to me.

There was a student at a high school level who was not only having a rough home life but also had autism. Despite his hardships, he came to school every day with a huge smile on his face and did his best to try to impress his teachers.

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Experts advocate for teaching kindness and empathy in schools to reduce bullying. Why? Because kindness is the antithesis of bullying and empathy is the foundation of kindness.  

Being kind means that you consider the needs, feelings and concerns of others to ensure you act appropriately. Having empathy means you're able to put yourself in someone's shoes to understand their needs, feelings and concerns. 

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Image of a kindness tree and positive note in the playground. Tips to help you nurture a culture of kindness at your school.

We're so fortunate to have several kindness days and weeks throughout the year that help highlight the importance of teaching kindness in schools. While these days are amazing for prompting educators, kindness and giving are values that should be integrated into the culture of every school, every day!

To help you instill kindness as a natural and instinctive trait, we asked educators, who have very successfully made kindness the norm in their schools, to share their top tips.

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Book cover with a girl looking triumphant with her dog. The words reflections and video reading by the authors Rose and Hope McCallum.

Book Title:  The Watermelon Shield

Authors:  Rose and Hope McCallum

Illustrator:  mikemotz.com

For ages:  6-10 years (a good read for all ages)

Topics:  bullying, kindness, compassion, empathy, character development, juvenile self-help

Related learning areas:  social and emotional learning (SEL), well-being/self-confidence, communication/healthy boundaries

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Five children lying together on the ground with text next to image saying tracking student relationships to improve well-being and reduce bullying.

How important are relationships in education? 

Rita Pierson, in her classic TEDTalk, says “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” I thoroughly agree and I would like it mandated that every teacher watches her talk every year!

I want to expand her sentiment to include student to student relationships.

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Phrases like "random acts of kindness" and "pay it forward" have become popular terms in modern society. There are even special days dedicated to performing good deeds and organisations who specialise in altruism.

But why has kindness become so popular? Perhaps it's best explained by those who have identified a deficit in their lives that can only be filled by giving.

Science proves there are good reasons why so many of us can't get enough of those addictive, feel-good emotions and explains why kindness is important with evidence of many physical, emotional, and mental health benefits. But of great significance for schools, it's a powerful and free resource to reduce anti-social and bullying behaviour.

"Unlike previous generations, today's adolescents are victimizing each other at alarming rates leading adults to ask why."
Shanetia Clark and Barbara Marinak

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The power of classroom circles for fostering emotional intelligence, improving well-being and creating a culture of kindness is well documented. Circles are important tools for nurturing relationships and feelings of community and can be used in any classroom.

Schools with a focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) often use circles to help build a positive culture to reduce bullying. Circles work because they help all children to feel loved and encouraged while creating bonds between peers. They are especially important for nurturing feelings of belonging, acceptance and stability in troubled children.

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My daughter (now 17) completely went against a whole class of girls in junior school that had fallen out with one girl. She would have been on her own if my daughter hadn’t remained friends with her, even though this girl had ganged up on her in the past. I thought it showed a great strength of character and the girls mum even rang to thank her. – Zara x

When I was in second grade I often dealt with a bully from another class. The next year he apologized and said it was because he was jealous of my ‘boyfriend’ who by then had moved on. read more →

I know a young lady in year 10 this year who wasn’t planning on going to the year 10 debutante ball. Instead, she was focused on her year 12 graduation as her parents were paying for it and she would not have to stress.

At the start of this year, she noticed a friend of hers being bullied and that no one else wanted to hang around with him. He confided in her that he wanted to go to the Deb ball but that no one would ever ask him (the girls have to ask the boys). read more →