Monday, January 9, 2012

Character Education Is a Hot Topic. And You Can Quote Me!

Book Review: Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time by Steve Reifman
Santa Monica grammar school teacher Steve Reifman is ahead of the curve on the topic of character education. While some educators are increasingly obsessed with standardized test scores, Reifman champions a more holistic educational approach, “I have always wanted kids to become great students, but it’s more important to me that they become great people.”

Fifteen years in the making, his book, Changing Kids' Lives One Quote at a Time: 121 Inspirational Sayings to Build Character in Children is part conversation starter, part class project, and part writing prompt. He utilizes a system that is very familiar to anyone who uses Twitter: he employs inspirational quotations to open discussions on any number of ethical and philosophical issues including the concepts of courage, fairness, honesty, and perseverance.

In his own way, Reifman addresses issues like bullying, cheating, and self-esteem by opening up important conversations about how we choose to live our lives. In our success-at-any-price culture, Reifman nudges students to confront the basic question of their lives: what kind of person do you want to be?

This book offers separate strategies for parents and teachers, and includes prompts to get students journaling as well as strategies on how to incorporate song lyrics into a character education curriculum. For example, this quotation from Ben Ames Williams, “Life is the acceptance of responsibilities or their evasion; it is a business of meeting obligations or avoiding them. To every man the choice is continually being offered,” is followed by three different conversation starters on the topic of responsibility.

He’s obviously been around kids in an educational environment for a long time and the book is a concise, usable manual that speaks to kids, tweens, and teens. We often forget that students are people. Granted, they are young people, and we’re still wholly responsible for them, yet they make their own ethical choices every day. Reifman’s book adds thought and profundity to that equation.

His website is a terrific resource for teachers, filled with tips and strategies.

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