Recently, I met with an exceptional young man. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to improve the educational experience for students. Since he requested the meeting, I let him lead the discussion.
As he moved through his prepared agenda, I was impressed with the depth of his thinking and preparation. When we concluded our meeting, he thanked me for listening and for providing an exceptional educational experience.
When the young man left my office, my assistant remarked “what a nice young man. He will be very successful.” As I reflected on her comments, I thought, why would she make that statement about him? Was it because he was extremely bright? After all he was the valedictorian of his class. Was it because he modeled a level of maturity not often seen in someone his age? Not only did he contact me to schedule the meeting, he came prepared with an agenda and specific recommendations to improve our processes.
How you accomplish your goals is more important in the long run than merely getting to the top by any means possible…people are coming to the conclusion that character has to be part of our evaluation of performance”
– Dungy & Whitaker, 2010, p. 215
While intelligence and maturity is important, they weren’t the reasons driving her comments. It was his character that impressed her. This young man is always polite and well-mannered. He is considered as a leader by his peers, faculty and staff. No matter the environment or situation, his conduct is consistent. His has built a reputation based on a foundation of integrity. The young man embodies the traits of good character.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree.” How many times have you heard some say “she or he is a person of good character?” What does that statement mean? What is good character as a opposed to bad character? Before we can distinguish between good or bad character we have to first define character.
So what is character?
According to Merriam-Webster character is the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves: someone’s personality. Another definition states character is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. A better definition for character is “who we are even when no one is watching” (Roach, 2016).
How can we help our youth develop good character? Character Counts! offers a framework to help young people develop good character called the Six Pillars of Character. The pillars are:
Thomas Babington Macauley said, “The measure of a man’s character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.”
What steps are you taking to help your child develop good character?