ASK NECA: A series of questions about classical education

Today's topic: Character Development

"NECA, how do you develop character on a daily basis?"

“Character education is not old-fashioned, and it's not about bringing religion into the classroom. Character education teaches children how to make wise decisions and act on them. Character is the "X factor" that experts in parenting and education have deemed integral to success, both in school and in life….That's what parents don't seem to get, the hidden values of character traits for success. They see character education as fluff, because that's often how it's taught -- posters and worksheets. Character education needs to be relevant. It needs to be woven in curriculum, not tacked on.” 

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From “The Benefits of Character Education
What I learned from teaching at a "core virtues" school” The Atlantic, Jessica Lahey
MAY 6, 2013

What a perfect way to start 13 Days of “Ask NECA!” There are numerous ways that we provide character development, from Virtue of the Month, to Academic House System to the great books we read. Let’s start with Virtue of the Month as it is Feb. 1 and today we begin a month long study of the virtue of HONESTY.

On this frosty first day of February, students in grades K-6 are having their morning meeting and talking about the virtue of honesty. What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we use it every day? The conversations about virtues are as important as any subject taught here. The Virtue of the Month and it’s definition will go up on bulletin boards and examples will be worked into every topic possible. In the Upper school, grades 7-12, teachers will look for the connections in their curriculum and encourage the practice of honesty in the students interactions with each other. 

The culture of NECA is one that actively practices the virtues of respect, generosity, responsibility, gratitude, service, justice, and more. At each monthly assembly, called Declamations, a teacher speaks about the virtue of the month and often a house will do a short skit or presentation on it. Students are constantly encouraged to practice kindness, to be respectful of others and their environment, to be responsible with their tasks, to show gratitude and offer service to others. When a student does a particularly good job, they are often awarded house points.

House points are part of the Academic house system that NECA employs to also build character and to encourage team work. The model of academic “houses” has been used for centuries in schools and again, brings character development into daily use. There are four houses at NECA: DaVinci, St. John Paul II, Galileo and St. Maximillian Kolbe. Students are assigned to a house when they first enroll at NECA and the oldest students are Prefects and Vice Prefects, learning leadership skills. Besides house challenges for academics, sports and fun, the houses also work on service projects throughout the year, such as visits to senior homes, food and clothing drives, helping with school needs and fundraising. House points are awarded to students for excellent grades, demonstrating good behavior and virtues and special achievements…and points can be taken away as well for disruptive behavior, infractions in dress code or showing disrespect. At the end of the year, a House Cup is awarded to the House that earned the most points. 

The real reward though, is seeing the seeds of those virtues grow into students that visibly embody virtuous behavior….and the impact is tangible and wonderful to behold. Visitors to NECA events and classes consistently comment on how kind and helpful the students are, how they look out for each other and encourage each other, and what a difference it makes both in school and at home, not to mention the hope it brings for their future success.

We couldn’t agree more.


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