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Teaching Character Education – Theory and Practice

Picture of street sign featuring the word character

You’ve probably seen my recent blog post about “Character All Stars“.

I want to talk a little bit about the thinking that went into the show. This post is deep on theory, but I think you’ll find it both worthwhile and enlightening at the same time.

Teaching character education is a unique challenge. With subjects like reading and science there’s hard information. Once you get a student to retain that information, you can move on to new material.

Character education is different. On an intellectual level it’s pretty simple to grasp. If you ask anyone whether we should respect others or be trustworthy, they’ll automatically say yes. It’s a no-brainer.

Even if you ask someone what being respectful or trustworthy means, they’ll probably give you some solid answers. Society teaches us those things from an early age.

So Why Doesn’t Any of This Translate
into the Way We Behave?

Simple. We don’t make decisions using our intellect. We make them using our emotions.

Every good sales person worth their salt understands this. People don’t buy things based on practicality. They buy them based on how they feel.

Here’s a great quote from a Harley Davidson exec:

“What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.”

Harley’s aren’t the most sophisticated bikes on the market. People don’t buy them for that. They made their decision based on how the Harley makes them feel.

Teaching Character Education is More Than Sharing Facts.
It’s Diving into How People Feel!

Once I came to this realization I got really excited.

You see, one of my first mandates as an entertainer is to make you feel something.

So we started asking questions.

What does “fairness” feel like? How does it feel when we’re not treated fairly?

What does responsibility feel like? How does being responsible to others make us feel? How does it feel when they’re responsible to us?

We did that for each of the six traits we cover in the show.

Then We Took It One Step Further.

Film makers know a lot about engaging our feelings. After all, if a movie doesn’t connect emotionally to us it’s not a good movie!

There’s a saying I learned back when I thought I wanted to be a film maker:

“Never Tell What You Can Show”

A great example would be if someone’s beloved pet died. You wouldn’t say “Timmy’s dog passed away”. You would show exactly what happened, complete with the emotional reactions involved.

The art of magic affords us an incredible opportunity here…

We Don’t Talk About Feelings.
We Make Students FEEL Those Feelings.

That’s the power of our art and being born entertainers. Engaging people’s feelings is what we’re best at.

It’s not just a magic trick that “demonstrates” what a character trait looks like. It’s an opportunity to make kids FEEL the results of that character trait, or FEEL the absence of that character trait.

When we make emotional decisions, we rely on our experiences with previous emotions. In our fast paced 45 minute assembly we’re able to make six deposits into the student’s emotional bank accounts.

Next time a student encounters a decision that calls upon their character, the experiences from our assembly will be part of their decision making process.

This one simple difference, focusing on emotions over preaching on facts, is what we believe makes all the difference when teaching character education.

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ShizDiz is a Mission, Not a Magic Show.