Thanks to Steve_Brady AND Congratulations to Jim Simon M.Ed

“Describe one positive character trait you can attribute to the person sitting to your left. Who wants to start?” I asked. Tayana’s hand went up and she began.

“Fred is funny.”

“Sandella helps me with my work.” Fred stated, as it was his turn next. Sandella looked pleased, then over to her left to contemplate a character trait that she could describe about her friend, Maria.

“Maria is…” she paused, cocked her head, twisted her hair, “she is pretty.” She blurted.

“Pretty is not a character trait, Sandella,” I said, interrupting the flow of our circle question exercise. “And, you’ve heard me say this before, everyone is beautiful. The only time a person can be ugly is when they speak.”

Sandella rolled her big brown eyes, and twisted her hair some more. Another popular student, Zania, spoke up, “Come on, Sandella, go.” And she went.

We continued until everyone sitting in our circle had gone. As we finished, the students asked could we also answer about the person sitting on our right, which we did. There was some good-natured jeering, and some surprises, too. Mabel and Tony argued meanly almost every program. Today, they were sitting next to one another, and when they spoke about each other’s positive traits, each was sincere.

Next, I asked each student to name a character trait that they were proud of in themselves. In the past, this question was hard to glean an answer for from most. But, today, they went right to it. Three hands went up to go first. I chose Rene and she began. Everyone answered thoughtfully, and with minimal embarrassment.

Next, I asked, “OK, great, now this may be harder to share out loud, but I want you to think about a character trait in yourself, that you think needs improvement.”

Of course, Mabel put her hand up first; Mable talks incessantly bad about herself. “OK, Mabel, what character trait do you think needs improvement and in which direction do you want us to travel around the circle with our answers.” She hesitated a moment while deciding in which direction to go, but once she had decided, she quickly said her answer.

“I could have a better attitude.” She said.

“Not listening,” Brandon, sitting to her right, said next.

Zania was seated to the right of Brandon. “I could fight less,” she said. And so on, until we got around and back to Mabel. When it had been my turn to answer, I said that I could be more accepting of other points of view. Imagine that, a little practice of what I preach…

“Now, lastly,” I facilitated, “ I want you to remember the Goal Setting Pyramid exercise we’ve done before.” This is an exercise for adults and children alike, where the primary goal is written at the top of the pyramid. The next line below it has three or four empty spaces, and under each of those spaces are more empty spaces. The idea is to fill in the empty spaces with the little tasks necessary to complete bigger tasks in order to achieve the Big Goal.

“If you place at the top of your Goal Setting Pyramid, ‘Be more accepting of others,’ what is a little goal you can achieve at the beginning of your improving character process? For example, in my case, I said that I wanted to be more accepting of different points of view. One way that I could practice this: I could intentionally enter into a conversation with someone whose opinion I know differs greatly from my own, and then just really listen. Based upon which character trait you said that you wanted to improve in yourself, what is a way in which you could practice better character?”

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