Character Education

The RCDSB Character Wheel

A diagram of the RCDSB character wheel

RCDSB Character Development Framework Description   

 A. Background Information

The 2006 Ministry document, Finding Common Ground, defines Character Development as "the deliberate effort to nurture the universal attributes upon which communities agree." Capacity with virtues contributes significantly to students' reaching their potential. In consultation with school staffs, student groups, school councils and community organizations, the Board's Ad Hoc Committee for Character Development has identified eight virtues that are particularly important to the communities served by the Renfrew County District School Board. After two years of work in system schools and at the committee level, a framework has emerged that can be used along with the set of common virtues, to guide the important work of character development in our district.

B. The Framework Overview

The common list of virtues includes respect, responsibility, perseverance, initiative, caring, honesty, courage and optimism. A visual model has been developed to highlight key components that guide the important work of character development in the Renfrew County District School Board.  Modeling of the virtues, a positive climate and having welcoming physical places in which to work are all major pieces of the framework. Key tools to help with character development include curriculum connections, quality resources, community and civic engagement, character champions, and positive behaviours. The model illustrates both the core role of character development in supporting the Board's key outcome of a safe, caring and respectful learning environment as well as the importance of the Board's key outcome in supporting character development. The list of common virtues and the framework both provide meaningful system-level pieces in our efforts with character development.

C. Major Framework Pieces

Safe, caring and respectful learning environment

The work with character development is the core upon which all other safe schools initiatives and procedures can be sustained. Character development is essential to the Board's second key outcome of creating safe, caring and respectful learning environments. When character development is working well, our students will have enhanced interpersonal skills that will result in fewer behaviour problems and safer schools. Conversely, in a safe, caring and respectful learning environment it is easier for staff to have success in helping students develop in the area of good character.

 Further, our character development initiatives impacts positively on our other two key system outcomes: excellence in teaching and learning and wise use of resources. Similarly, our work on these key system outcomes also supports our character development efforts!

Common virtues

Developing capacity with the common virtues listed below is seen as essential in helping each student develop to their full potential. A focus on educating both the heart and mind is needed to have development of the whole student.  Students need to know the language of virtues and know what it looks like in action. A systematic focus on developing capacity with these virtues will ensure that our graduating young people are caring and responsible citizens in addition to being literate.

RCDSB Common Virtue List

Respect (honour, consideration)

We respect ourselves and treat others with courtesy, fairness, dignity, and positive regard. We treat others as we wish to be treated. We interact with others without stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination. We honour the rights of others and value our differences. We respect others' belongings, the environment and the world around us. We are respectful of the rules wherever we are.

Responsibility (accountability, trustworthiness)

We are accountable for all our actions.  We exercise self-discipline and self-control in every situation. We work cooperatively with others. We are gracious when things do not go our way. We follow through on our commitments. We complete all tasks and assignments to the best of our ability.

Perseverance (purposefulness, determination)

We do not give up when things are difficult. We are patient, purposeful and goal oriented.

Initiative (leadership, resourcefulness)

We act without being prompted by others. We are eager to do what needs to be done without having to be told to do it. We take the first step towards the achievement of a goal.

Caring (empathy, compassion)

We have empathy and compassion for others. With both our words and actions, we show that we care about the feelings and needs of others. We practice kindness and generosity.

Honesty (truthfulness, integrity)

We always tell the truth, keep our word, and do what we say we will do. We have integrity.

Courage (bravery, conviction)

We face challenges directly. We seek help from others when necessary. We do the right thing even when it may be unpopular. We are able to recognize risks and danger and do not take unwise risks to gain the approval of those around us.

Optimism (hopefulness, joyfulness)

We maintain a positive attitude and always keep hope alive. We look on the brighter side of situations, and see opportunities when faced with challenges.

We model

Modeling is a very important tool to teach or inspire others to be people of character. Modeling works best when there is total consistency in what is being modelled. It is important that all staff at all levels of the organization be always mindful of the modelling they are doing. A concerted effort by all staff, parents, trustees and student leaders to model the virtues each day will significantly advance the goal of character development in the district. Our actions speak louder than words!

We create welcoming physical places

The way we keep our buildings and learning places also speak volumes about what we value. The physical space can communicate coldness, neglect or caring and warmth. Keeping our bulletin boards neat and colourful and keeping the garbage off the floors makes the environment inviting and communicates caring, responsibility and respect.  If we want people to know what virtues we value, we need to have our virtues on display so folks can see what we are about as soon as they enter our foyers! School web pages and exterior signs are also places where we can draw attention to our character emphasis!

We create positive climates 

Every school or workplace has a climate and tone. Researchers have found that school climate is a major factor in the amount of bullying that occurs in a school. Capacity and practice with the virtues will result in a more positive climate in the school or workplace. The modelling and physical spaces will help or hinder having a positive climate. School policies, programs, quality resources, extra-curricular programs, civic and community engagement, parent involvement and parent, student and staff champions can all be instrumental in helping create a positive climate.

D. Some Key Tools

In addition to the common virtues list, modelling, creating welcoming physical places and positive climates, there are a number of other important tools that help us develop these key pieces and support character development.

Curriculum connections

While many schools will have some specific programs that are designed to create capacity with particular virtues, all staff will have opportunities to make strong connections with the existing curriculum. An English teacher might select a novel that would lend its self to rich discussion and activities that support building capacity with one of the virtues. A science class may be dealing with respect for the environment or ethical issues surrounding the use of animals for research. Math teachers might have students graph particular food consumption or particular energy consumption by country. Character development can be greatly enhanced when strong connections are made across the existing curriculum.

Quality resources

Some examples of quality resources could include the following: 

  • Novels
  • Specific programs like Kelso's Choice, Tribes, Respect, Character Abound, Character Counts, Play it Forward, Second Steps, and Peace Makers
  • Videos
  • Websites
  • Subject specific lessons


Community and civic engagement

Some examples of community or civic engagement could include the following: 

  • Participation in student council
  • Participation in school teams, bands and clubs
  • Helping with community projects like Relay for Life, MS Read-a-thon, Heart and Stroke, Sunshine Coach, Food Bank, Angel Tree, etc.
  • Cleaning up garbage along streets or in community parks
  • Helping with breakfast programs
  • Class visits to seniors' homes
  • Co-op programs and the Specialist High Skills Major programs
  • Experiential learning opportunities
  • Community hours


Positive behaviours

There are many initiatives in the schools that could fall under the banner of positive behaviour interventions. These would include any of the special programs that build capacity with particular virtues and help promote positive student behaviours. Both proactive strategies that promote pro-social behaviours as well as corrective and supportive strategies to deal with inappropriate behaviours would fall into this category.  A few examples would include assemblies, monthly citizenship programs, peer mediation programs, circle of friends programs and restorative justice practices.

Character champion

Providing quality opportunities for leadership in the school and community will help students and staff who are directly involved develop their character and also encourage character development in other people through the example being set. The annual student leadership day sponsored by our student success leader would be one example of a quality student leadership experience. Similarly, students taking on major charitable projects such a building a school in an underdeveloped part of the world would serve to further develop character in the student champion and in the system at large. We recognize that anyone in our school community, including students, staff, parents, and other community members, can be a character champion in advancing a culture of character in our system!