Nik2[This post originally appeared on Durff’s Blog:]

I was reading a post on Intrepid Classroom’s Ning about character. It occurred to me that character is a summation of who we are. It equals not only the ‘good’ points, but ‘bad’ points. The terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are defined across cultures in pretty much the same general way.

Displaying etiquette is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life.” Now I’m not saying I’m Ann Landers or anything. But others who fail repeatedly to display etiquette lack good breeding & education. It is important to treat others with respect.

This is how we should treat our learners – those in our classrooms. We need to model this behavior in our own interactions. When others consistently fail to do so, others cease to listen. For a twitter analogy, they unfollow you.

But how do I address this is the classrooms where I lurk? What is the best way to guide young hearts and minds toward developing character? I’m sure I don’t know the definitive answer. All I know is that I do insist on kindness, courtesy, and a reverence for all humans as better than ourselves. I attempt to provide many opportunities for co learners to practice kindness, courtesy, and reverence throughout the school year.

To this I must add, it is impossible for people of character to work for people who lack character. I do not mean they are characters, like the Laurel and Hardy characters. I mean they are ethical people, not concerned only with themselves, but are consumed by the passion of serving others. I was recently shocked to discover that my housemate works with unethical people while at the same time impressed at how she handled the situation. I know me, I would be screaming, ranting, spouting in German; it would not be pretty. But she displayed why veterans’ services at her university is moving up the military friendly ranks with her at the helm. Just a note that the university she left does not now appear on the military friendly list at all.


but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God 


Critical Literacy for this century in three part harmony

TrioCritical literacy is a way of thinking, not only about text (the traditional view), but a way of thinking about any message conveyed via any medium. Literacy is a “21st Century Skill” that is comprehending meaning and creating meaning using a medium. In this participatory culture of the web, it could be photographs, drawings, animations, podcasts, vidcasts, or live presentations using audio and/or video. Three areas (the harmony, if you will) converge to create understanding of literacy: What you get, what came before, and what you make of it.
Simply put what you get is your immediate, right now understanding of the message, whether it is text, audio, video, macropost, or micropost.
What came before is what you bring to the message, your insights, your knowledge, your connections, what resonates with you. And what you make of it relates to the higher levels of Blooms’ Taxonomy.

A while back, I read Critical Literacy: Enhancing Students’ Comprehension of Text by Maureen McLaughlin and Glenn DeVoogd. The authors state that critical literacy is a way of thinking about text. Since I consider literacy to be about of comprehending and creating in a medium, I would extend their meaning of critical literacy to be a way of thinking about everything. I often tell the learners in my room to question everything. Many are surprised when one of them questions me and is praised! It is simple math, really. There are 19 of them and 1 of me. Now where is the brain power? Yeah, exactly.

One of the techniques for enhancing critical literacy is called “Problem Posing”. Using this method, the learning leader poses questions after learners have experienced the medium. These questions include


  • Who is named in the medium? Who is missing?
  • Which viewpoint is represented? Which viewpoint is ignored?
  • What does the author intend by the piece? What does the author want you to think?
  • What are the alternative views?
  • How could this piece promote freedom from bias?


Using just this one strategy with fiction mediums and nonfiction mediums, we could encourage learners at all levels to think critically. Being able to think critically is the hallmark of freedmen/women. It is sad when our students are afraid to question teachers/professors and then grow into adults afraid to question all authority figures.
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