main content starts here

Character Education

We are fortunate here at the Middle School that so many of our students are kind and respectful to each other. We treat each other with respect because it’s the right thing to do and it adds to the overall positive and safe climate of our school.

Mission Statement

Our school’s Character Education Mission Statement was created in the spring of 2009 by staff and students who serve on the middle school’s Character Education Committee. The Mission reflects goals relating to character and respect we have set for ourselves and our school community. “Bethlehem Central Middle School is a place where we teach and model positive values in all aspects of our learning environment. Students, staff, and parents strive to create an atmosphere of belonging and responsibility where our differences are celebrated. We respect and care for ourselves, each other, and our community.”

Types of Character Awards

Character Award:

This award recognizes students who display good character on a consistent basis throughout the month. Each month focuses on three of the twenty-four character strengths.  Students who are nominated by their team are invited to a special breakfast or lunch where they will receive a certificate from the Principal. 

Eagle Award:

This award is given to students who help to create an atmosphere of belonging, responsibility, and respect in our school community. Any staff member or fellow student may give this award upon observing this positive display of character. Eagle Awards are announced at the end of each week.

About the Character Education Program

The core of the BCMS character education program is designed to bring awareness to individual character strengths of both staff and students.

While BCMS partners with the Mayerson Academy for Character Education, this external partnership makes no assertions on its implementation at our school. The Mayerson Academy works in a supportive and advisory role and BCMS is allowed to innovate and implement the program our own way. The Mayerson Academy offers and provides examples of implementation strategies that have been done by other schools, such as urban schools in Cincinnati, Ohio.

View a copy of written survey for students who choose to participate in research component – October 20, 2014.   Please note: students will not be able to see the 24 Character Traits until after they have completed the survey and review their answers. They are provided here as reference for parents.

At the core of the program is the learning of and internalization of a character language that classifies 24 character strengths.

Wisdom & Knowledge Strengths

    • Creativity
    • Curiosity
    • Critical Thinking
    • Love of Learning
    • Perspective

Courage Strengths

    • Bravery/Valor
    • Persistence
    • Integrity
    • Zest

Humanity Strengths

    • Love
    • Kindness
    • Social Intelligence

Justice Strengths

    • Citizenship
    • Fairness
    • Leadership

Temperance Strengths

    • Forgiveness
    • Humility
    • Prudence
    • Self-Regulation

Transcendence Strengths

    • Appreciation of Excellence & Beauty
    • Gratitude
    • Hope
    • Humor
    • Purpose

The Need for a Character Education Program

The need for this program is not reflective of any reaction to trends in discipline. Upon assessment of our programming by our administrative team, we recognize the need for more proactive messages with students rather than “caught being good” programming. Character Education offers the opportunity to build proactive programming and in an authentic, organic method. The ultimate need for this program speaks to the developmental needs of middle school aged adolescents. On a daily basis we deal with dysfunctional help-seeking behaviors and students who know very little about themselves. We’ve seen that aiding them in understanding themselves helps their success in school. While our curriculum addresses aptitude and cognitive ability, character programming builds a component that, when paired with academic curriculum, will better prepare students to understand themselves. This allows them to see their potential and level of success by not only looking at their work ethic and ability, but also at their character.

The Origins of Character Education

Martin Seligman, former President of the American Psychological Association, convened the heads of his organization more than 10 years ago and made the following assertion: Psychology should be about more than just helping ‘broken’ people get to normal. It should be about helping normal people live more flourishing lives. In another context he later stated that rather than psychology simply take people from -5 to 0, it should take people from 0 to +5. Out of this came the birth of positive psychology and an explosion of research into character and what makes normal people have more productive lives. Nearly 12 years ago the Mayerson Foundation (parent of the Mayerson Academy) provided funding for Seligman, and equally acclaimed psychologist Chris Peterson, to lead a team of over 100 researchers to research character. Specifically, Seligman’s and Peterson’s team set out to identify how cultures all around the world define character in an attempt to create a definition they could use that would resonate with all people. Their team studied things like historical texts, cultural texts, founding documents, tombstones, and cultural fables to identify the values that are shared by peoples consistently. Overall, they found that there were many values that are not consistent around the world (eg: competitive spirit is valued in the United States but not in many other countries). In fact when they distilled their list down to those values that were consistent they found that 24 “character strengths” were consistent no matter where one went (see list above). More than a decade later these strengths have become the source of research and programming that is helping people to understand passion, understand happiness, and develop stronger engagement in life.

Staff Response

Our staff response thus far has been overwhelmingly and unanimously positive. While some caution was clear in staff’s reception to the program during the initial site visit, after the site based training on November 6, 2013 this quickly dissolved. We have subsequently oriented the entirety of our staff and our continuing work (for all of us) is to become stronger in being able to “strengths spot” in each other and our students.

Staff Comments

“Affirming the strengths and positive characteristics we see in our students can have a very powerful impact on how they see themselves and how they view us.” “Teaching to recognize these strengths in themselves and their peers could have a transformative effect on their relationships and our entire school culture.” “The most important take away for me was how good it felt to hear from a colleague what my strengths are. I hope we can translate that to the students.”

What to do about disrespectful treatment

Here at BCMS, everyone has the right to come to school free from the fear of being teased, bullied, or harassed by someone else. If someone is treating you disrespectfully or going out of their way to make you uncomfortable, here are some important tips for you to remember:

  • You can ask the person to stop in a firm, but non-threatening, non-aggressive manner.
  • If the problem persists then there are people here in the building you can turn to for help. Get to a teacher, counselor, administrator, or a staff member for help. You can be confident that we will take the necessary steps to address the situation in a confidential manner.
  • If you are aware that someone you know is being bullied or harassed, be an ally and let us let us know so we can help.

It takes all of us working together to make sure BCMS is a safe place free from bullying and harassment.