Dr. Paul Lieblich, Executive Principal at Clarion School in Dubai weighs in on the importance of character development in children and how it benefits them in the long run
30 January 2019| Last updated on 31 January 2019
Question: “Why is it significant to focus on character development along with academics at school?
Answer: Character development and learning in a progressive classroom go hand in hand, in part because a community that values different learning styles also celebrates students unique personalities.
By seeing the perspectives of others, both in academic explorations and in social interactions, students build empathy, understanding and overall moral character.
This is particularly important in today’s culture, when our world increasingly feels like a place where adults and entire cultures are at odds with one another, with no ability to bridge differences for the greater good.
Children who learn that there is more than one way to do things from a young age also learn that there is more than one way to be, and this prepares them for a better education, a greater ability to navigate professional goals, and more balance in their lives.
A progressive classroom starts this foundation early.
Alongside the teaching of skills like basic phonics and handwriting, children are also taught to explore and share their literary interests and listen to those of others. They are taught to tell their personal stories and ask questions about the experiences of their peers.
They practice giving descriptive feedback to one another, demonstrating to their peers that their ideas matter. Students learn to have a voice from a young age, and they learn to use that voice for constructive purposes.
They learn to collaborate and compromise, and to resolve conflicts. Much like reading and writing, these are skills they will use for the rest of their lives.
Character development happens when children begin to internalize a few important concepts.
Along with empathy, children learn to respect one another. This means more than being polite.
It sometimes means that while you may not like everyone in the classroom as much as your close friends, you should treat them the way that you want to be treated.
Respecting each other’s feelings means that students can disagree and learn how to communicate through challenging moments in ways that do not hurt feelings. It means that children learn how to make kind choices about inclusion and act in ways that are sensitive to the feelings of others.
This growth takes time, but over the years, if the social-emotional curriculum is designed to build character, then rich learning happens organically. When children feel safe to share and comfortable learning from differences, a community of true inclusion and diversity can be achieved.
That is the goal at Clarion; In a world that is markedly moving to intolerance, that should be the goal for every child.
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About Dr. Paul Lieblich
Ed.D., Executive Principal, Clarion School (an SIG School).
Dr. Lieblich is the Director of Schools at Scholars International Group spearheading the development of Clarion School, the only progressive school in the Middle East. He is a well-regarded educator having co-authored the International Baccalaureate PYP, recognized as a National Distinguished Principal by the US State Department and has led several leading international schools in Europe and Asia.
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