Character Education

The character education program gives students time to process the most meaningful questions for building a happy life for themselves.

Thank you for taking the time to look at this component of our program. The very fact that you are looking at this section of our website demonstrates your child should be here. Yes, we have an amazing academic program, but that is only the beginning of the wonderful environment you’re going to find here at The Nysmith School. You’re after more than just academics, and so are we. We want your child to be happy and we work hard to create an environment and program that will help your child flourish as a person, not just as a scholar.

Most visitors feel a difference the first time they walk into Nysmith.  They see students of all ages talking animatedly about a million different things as they move from class to class.  Students are welcoming and smile at adults and other students. Common courtesies are noticeable — students hold the doors open for classmates and others.  Students thank other students or adults for holding the door for them.  Teachers ask students how they are, and students reply and ask after the teachers.  We do have amazing young people here but we also intentionally develop empathy, respect and kindness.

Our formal character education classes meet once a week for a semester.  Each class meets with a counselor, teacher, or administrator to discuss topics designed to further students’ awareness of the complexities of social relationships and the hard work required of every individual to develop a rich and happy life.  Nysmith teachers use books, videos, all kinds of props, and art supplies to facilitate the discussions, and topics range from perfectionism, bullying, emotional resiliency, the newest research on happiness, personal strengths, and interview strategies.

The character education program gives students time to process the most meaningful questions for building a happy life for themselves.  It is rare for a school to set aside this amount of time for this important internal work, and we see the difference it makes in young people who can use their wonderful cognitive strengths to help them become the best version of themselves.

All Nysmith teachers are committed to this goal, not just those who lead the character education discussions.  Teachers work with students in groups and individually to help them see things from a classmate’s perspective, or understand how their polite and respectful treatment of others is truly a reflection of their own identity.  Teachers in the lower grades directly teach common courtesies, while teachers of older students help students probe the nuances of individual choices in their real lives and in their reading and writing topics.

Nysmith staff also model respect and collegiality. This is an amazing group of educators committed to each student’s future happiness.  Their current students feel this, and alumni invariably share they felt it when they were students. Helping these talented young people develop all the skills they need to flourish, not just their academic ones, is the heart of the Nysmith mission. The result is an environment where students respect one another and themselves.

In the lower school (K – grade 3), topics of discussion include:

  • How to make friends
  • How to treat friends
  • How to communicate in a kind and considerate manner
  • How to read verbal and nonverbal social cues
  • How to be your best self
  • How to react if someone says something unkind
  • How to react if something you say comes out wrong

In the upper school (grades 4 – 8), topics include:

  • How to be your best self
  • How your actions reflect to others who you are
  • How to be a good leader
  • How to do the right thing when it is easier to do the wrong thing
  • How to treat others with kindness and consideration….even when you really don’t want to
  • How to resist social pressure outside Nysmith
  • How to find balance with homework
  • How to define happiness, and tips how to achieve it
  • How to conduct yourself in an interview (high school)