A special social-emotional learning (SEL) program first sprouted from a tree-like “superhero.” Oxford Central School’s program sprouted from the “superhero” called Rootman, who showcased the values developed by the New Jersey district’s K8 students and staff.
Over time, Rootman evolved into seven characters known as the CORRECT Crusaders, each representing an important trait: Courage, Optimism, Respect, Responsibility, Empathy, Citizenship and Trustworthiness. The program is part of the district’s effort to implement state policies aimed at preventing harassment and bullying in schools.
SEL lessons and programs often revolve around the seven traits. And the discipline model has shifted from primarily punitive to creating a safer environment for learning. The district also started an “Above the Influence” club in which students in grades 6 through 8 work to prevent classmates from making bad choices about drugs and alcohol.
The district has no cases of harassment or bullying to investigate now—compared to the eight to 10 reports per month that occurred in the 2007-08 year.
To start your own program:
- Begin with students and parents. Ask them to decide what values and standards a character education plan should include.
- Own it. It is easy to “buy” a program, but without a sense of ownership, it will lack the same level of engagement as one developed by students and staff.