Austin schools focus on citizenship during April

By Jean McDermott

Austin Public Schools has implemented a districtwide character education program during the 2007-2008 school year titled Character Counts! This program is a framework based on basic values called the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. This is not a curriculum or add-on, but a powerful means to advance curricular and behavioral goals. During April, the focus will be on citizenship.

As we look at citizenship, we keep the following in mind: Do your share to make your school and community better, cooperate, get involved in community affairs, stay informed, vote, be a good neighbor, obey laws and rules, respect authority and protect the environment.

As parents we can promote citizenship at home:

  • Develop a family mission statement that includes service to others.
  • Encourage extracurricular activities that promote cooperation and good team-work.
  • Encourage volunteerism and service-learning on a consistent and constant basis. Provide opportunities for children to reflect on their service; talk about or draw pictures about what they did, how it felt and why it matters to help others.
  • Allow opportunities for reflection by writing, reading and discussing the importance of social responsibility and global awareness.

Are you a good citizen? These are great questions to start a family discussion about our roles as good citizens in our family, our neighborhood, our school and workplace, our community and our world:


  • Do I do my share in every group to which I belong?
  • Do I volunteer my time to help others?
  • Do I help the environment by reducing, reusing, recycling?
  • Could I plant or care for trees and other growing things?
  • Do I treat others as important members of a group?
  • Is there something I could do to fix a problem in my school or community?
  • Do I follow the rules?
  • Am I a good neighbor?
  • Do I report wrongdoing and support those who do right?
  • Am I proud of one thing I have done to improve the world?

For more information, go to
Character Counts!

Jean McDermott is principal at Neveln Elementary School.

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