Practicing Character Skills

One of the great things about Colorado Academy is our belief that good character is not something that one is born with, but something that can be taught and practiced over time. Too often, character skills are confused with traits, something you either have or you don’t. A trait like eye color is unchanging. The qualities of character we value, on the other hand, are skills that can be cultivated and practiced.

Equally important, these skills are NOT like on and off switches, something you either have or don’t have. We all have moments when we are at our best and other times when our behavior is less than stellar. This is part of being human. Can any of us claim that we have never told a lie or been unkind? I sure can’t. Still, like you, I continue to strive to be the best person I can be by trying to learn from my mistakes and addressing my shortcomings. Falling short at times reminds us of why practicing these skills is so important for ourselves and young people alike.

At school, we prioritize helping students be kind, courageous, inclusive, responsible, gritty, and grateful. I love that CA is the only school I know that has kindness in the mission statement! This, of course, does not mean that our students (or faculty or parents) are kind 24/7, but it does mean that this is our aspiration and something that we keep working towards.

Helping young people learn to be courageous when it would be easier to be passive, to be inclusive when it has cost, to be responsible when one would rather take the easy path, to be gritty when surrender is an option, and to be grateful when things are not going your way—these are not easy. We know this as parents and teachers, too. It is important work, though. Arguably, if the research on character skills is remotely correct, doing this work with young people is as important to the long-term success of young people as our efforts to teach math, English, science, social studies, and world language.  

In this sense, good schools are partners with parents in helping children learn these skills through trial and error, giving feedback and support, correction when needed, and occasional consequences when they have strayed too far off the mark. This is caring in action. We jump into these situations with the best of intentions, and are always hopeful that over time our efforts will prepare young people to rise to the occasion when the chips are down and do the right, if not easy, thing.  

Because we just enjoyed our Thanksgiving vacation, I would like to close by sharing just a few things for which I am grateful. I am grateful for this community, the trust of our parents, the wonderful colleagueship of this faculty, the support of the administrative team, and of course, for our students who keep me young of heart and smiling an unusually large percentage of my day. How lucky we are to be in a school that tries to balance the importance of academic skill development with the development of important qualities of character!