Nysmith Blog

Character Building at Nysmith School

Character building is an essential part of human growth and development, which is why at Nysmith School we find it imperative to teach our students the importance of developing self-awareness, intrapersonal skills, resilience, and social intelligence. Our character building class is taught to students from Kindergarten through Eighth Grade once a week for a semester by one of our guidance counselors, administrators or teachers. We teach our students to develop compassion, integrity, and respect through a unique character building program designed with each individual age group in mind, where we are able to target what developmental skills should be emphasized in each grade group.

Although we encourage a common theme of unity and respect throughout our school we find that emphasizing certain topics for students by age group is more effective because certain themes affect different age groups more than others. For example, the Fourth Grade students are nine and ten years old which is a very exciting age that comes with big changes and responsibilities. At the ages of nine and ten, kids begin using language to predict and draw conclusions, they’re able to keep a conversation going by giving reasons and explaining choices, and they’re more aware of their facial expressions in relation to their verbal communication skills. A few of the lessons taught to the Fourth Grade class are friendship issues, leadership, using language in positive ways, and tone of voice.

With a big diagram drawn on the whiteboard, Mrs. Caviness one of our character building teachers asks the Fourth Grade students  “what are some of the different ways you communicate with others?” The students share answers such as; texting, sending emails, sending videos, telephone calls, facial expressions, mailing letters, body language, and more. The diagram on the board created a visual for the students to see that a majority of their lives are spent communicating with others whether they’re aware of it or not, which is why teaching the importance of using verbal skills and facial expressions to convey how they truly feel is an essential part of developing positive communication skills.  “When dealing with children that are gifted we need to be mindful of the fact that sometimes we as a society place such a high value on their intelligence that sometimes their feelings are undermined. Here at Nysmith we teach the students that not everything is black and white, and that it’s okay to be vulnerable and have feelings,” said Mrs. Amberly.

The course itself is taught in different ways that encourages students to engage with one another and their instructor through a series of different exercises. “One of the exercises that I do with the Second Grade class involves reading a book about friendship issues. When we’re finished with the book I ask the students how the main characters in the story could have resolved their issues and then we’ll act out their conflict resolution,” said Mrs. Caviness. Reading and acting are not the only exercises that we do, we do a lot of hands-on exercises especially with the younger students. “One of the lessons I teach is situational outcome. We use a pop-up toy that has four different colored buttons and four different pop-up characters. When you press the red button Minnie Mouse pops up every time even if you want Mickey Mouse to pop up. I relate the buttons to a situation in life. For example, I’ll ask the students if they’ve ever interrupted mom or dad while they’re talking on the phone to ask them a question and I’ll ask the students if asking mom and dad the same questions over and over again while they’re on the phone produces a different outcome. Most of the time the parent will usually be a bit bothered, and the kid expects a different reaction just like pressing the red button and expecting Mickey Mouse to pop up like the child had hoped for. The lesson shows students that taking the same approach and expecting a different reaction will never work. If you want a different reaction you must take a different approach, just like if you want Mickey Mouse to pop up you must press a different button,” said Mrs. Amberly.

We don’t just encourage positive behavior within the character building class, but we encourage positivity throughout our entire school. Our staff members are exemplary role models for kindness and respect and the students inevitably follow by their example. Our wonderful staff is dedicated to our students’ happiness and success and the students feel that throughout our community. Although a majority of our students grow up to lead very successful lives we want to teach them that happiness and their quality of life isn’t solely measured by how successful they are, but by how they are as a person and how the treat and engage with others.