Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Parents' Night Comments on Honor 2009

Below are my comments for Middle School Parents' Night:


My name is David Skeen and this is my third year as Dean of Students at Calvert. I’d like to thank you in advance for your time tonight as I lay out the foundation of character development in the middle school.

Calvert believes that character development is an integral part of a student’s education. We dedicate significant time and resources to the development of a robust ethics program. Last year at this meeting I laid out the three levels of character education at Calvert: the Calvert Canon, the schedule, and the Dean’s Office.

Each of these areas is interconnected and includes multifaceted approaches to character.

The Calvert Canon, or those writings at Calvert which elucidate our core values, sets the context for character development. Our mission statement, philosophy, and various faculty- and student-derived documents are all products of discussions about our core values.

The schedule is the structure (or framework) through which we employ our most valuable resource, time, to character education. We have opportunities every day to meet in advisories, small groups, or as a middle school to touch on honor.

Finally, the Dean’s office oversees the implementation of the character development programs such as teachable moments, Points’ raffles and auctions, Monday Ponderances, discipline, outreach, and communicating a clear vision of the Honor Code at Calvert.

Last year, I introduced the Honor Code, which had three pillars: Selfless Servants, Moral Courage, and Commitment. I challenged (and continue to challenge) the students each day to live up to these ideas.

We’ve made progress. In fact, just the other day a student came to the Middle School office to return a key a fellow student had borrowed. After this student had returned the key to Mrs. Conkling, he hovered around her desk, like a bell hop awaiting a tip.

Mrs. Conkling asked, “Are you waiting for a reward or Points?”

The boy responded, “Absolutely not, Mrs. Conkling. I was merely being a civil servant.”

So, while the words are seeping into the subconscious (partly!) there is still work to be done to clarify the meaning of Selfless Servant, Moral Courage, and Commitment.

These first steps established our goal, but we need to know how to get there. I mentioned last year that we would be having conversations throughout the year with the goal being to outline what it would take to be selfless servants demonstrating moral courage and commitment.

The result of our conversations is our updated Honor Code, which includes the three pillars plus five characteristics meant to explain the meaning of the three pillars. The Honor Code now reads:

We strive each day to be selfless servants demonstrating moral courage and commitment.

We aim to accomplish this by respecting all people and things, being honest with ourselves and others, taking responsibility for ourselves and others, putting forth maximum effort at all times, and seeking ways to reach out to the community.

While we continue to challenge our students to live up to the Honor Code, we have now given them a road map to help them navigate their way through the windy roads of middle school life. We know students strive to meet the code but will fall short during their time with us. However, we believe this is the place to learn from the journey.

As Coach John Wooden said,

I am not what I ought to be,
Not what I want to be,
Not what I am going to be,
But I am thankful thatI am better than I used to be.

The constant and vigilant pursuit of the Honor Code is a lifetime goal we hope our Calvert students will take with them to their next school and beyond.

Thank you.

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