“Maintaining a positive school climate is important. You can’t get to
the business of teaching and learning if students don’t feel sure that
they are safe” according to Aileen Sterling, Principal of Cerro Villa
Such sentiments led her to ask Jennifer Van Horik a counselor at Cerro
Villa to implement a character education program called Values in
Action! Van Horik remembered the program from her days as a student in
the Irvine Unified School District and was motivated by the challenge.
The result was Teen Respect which she launched the following month.
Values in Action! is an intensive k-12 character education program
developed by Gene Bedley, founder and CEO of the National Character
Education Center in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. The program is
based on 7 core ethical virtues: Positive Mental Attitude, Respect,
Integrity. Compassion , Perseverance, Cooperation and Initiative. It
focuses on developing responsible and value driven students. Van Horik
chose “Respect” for the theme for the year and worked with Bedley and
Andrew Cipolla, the Values in Action! Middle School Coordinator, to tailor
the program to Cerro Villa’s needs. She began by choosing the heart of
“The hardest task was choosing the students for the program. For a
program like this it is necessary for student “buy in”.
Van Horik began by asking teachers to recommend students that were
looked upon as leaders and who had the respect of their peers. She then
interviewed those students Some of the questions Van Horik asked were:
“How do you show respect?” “How do you gain respect from your peers?” and “Why is respect important
to have in relationships?”
Andrew Cipolla then led a 2 hour, interactive seminar for the students.
They discussed, defined and planned how they would teach and promote
respect among their peers. One of the most important messages the
students received, Van Horik believes, is that no one should have to gain
or earn your respect- you should just give it to them.
The seminar was empowering and challenging to the students. It left them
with a mission declares Van Horik. “I wish the entire school could have
had the seminar”
Van Horik decided to present parts of the seminar to the entire school.
The Teen Respect students began meeting at least twice per week. They
developed a series of presentations with respect as their core theme. Each Teen Respect member would take turns delivering the presentations to every homeroom and reading weekly
reminders during morning announcements. Topics of the presentations included defining values, recognizing what respect is and is not, and respectful listening. (all activities in the
Values in Action! seminar workbooks)
Teen Respect members also surveyed the student body asking what each
person thought was the biggest obstacle toward having respect on campus.
“It’s fabulous when students see something in their own environment that
needs improvement” said Principal Aileen Sterling.
Van Horik and Principal Aileen Sterling were both surprised when
profanity surfaced as the biggest concern. Teen Respect’s biggest
campaign became Clear the Air, Appropriate Language is Spoken Here. The Campaign
included a contest where each homeroom was challenged to create an anti
-profanity slogan. The winner was “Would you kiss your mother with that
mouth?” Another was “Clear the air try not to swear”. The Clear the Air
Campaign also included “10 tips to control your tongue” from the Cuss
Control Academy website at cusscontrol.com. These were posted and
presented to each homeroom. In March, Bedley himself came to Cerro Villa
and presented a seminar for a staff development day for teachers. By
this time Van Horik noted, the teachers had already seen the student’s
interest in the program. She describes the staff as very supportive and
involved. Is the program working? “The kids around me, before they say
something, remember what we taught them and think about what the slogans
state,” said Leila Hammad, an eighth grade Teen Respect member. “They’re
thinking before they actually say something.”
Ten Tips to Tame Your Tongue
1. Recognize that swearing does damage.
2. Start by eliminating casual swearing.
3. Think positively.
4. Practice being patient.
5. Cope, don’t cuss.
6. Stop complaining.
7. Use alternative words.
8. Make your point politely.
9. Think of what you should have said.
10. Work at it.
– Darlene Laguna