Character Development Issues in Middle School
The issues involved in character development tend to be more dependent on the context of home and community than those in other developmental areas.
Issue #1- Some students grow up in homes that emphasize a very strict moral code while others live in homes where there are few moral guidelines or restrictions
We need to be the first to understand that home life heavily influences the behaviors and attitudes of the kids in our classes. Through conscientiously being positive role models, understanding home influences, and finding ways to gently prod students toward what our communities consider good character, we will be teachers who make a difference. We cannot lose sight of the variability of influences outside the school. Individualizing our approach to character development is essential.
Issue #2- Students are continually faced with contradictions concerning character
We can't erase or deny contradictions. Creating a forum that allows students to candidly discuss their disappointments in adults, in their personal lives, or in the media will help them understand that they are not alone in their feelings. Through discussion comes opportunity for growth. We need to remember, however, that when kids come to us to talk about character, emotional, or social issues, sometimes they simply want to talk and need someone who will listen rather than talk back.
Issue #3- Middle grades students are especially vulnerable to falling into the wrong crowd
Before values are established, being accepted by a group may take precedence. Socialization is a major force during the middle grades years. When socialization leads to the acceptance of values, morals, or ethics that result in undesirable behavior, we have a problem. As middle grades educators, we have the responsibility of exposing kids to all kinds of relationships and groups. We can, in fact, act as engineers in our own classrooms as we build experiences that give our students social and value choices in a context that allows them to question and change their minds.
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