"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."
President Woodrow Wilson directed this message to grown-ups. It could just as easily have been directed to the parents and teachers of middle-schoolers. According to a recent post by Jay Mathews in The Community College Spotlight (http://communitycollegespotlight.org/content/measuring-academic-drift_3674/), there are eight subtle ways to prepare middle-schoolers for college. And some of those ways parallel what the president was talking about. Character does count, Mathews maintains. There are many ways to encourage it. And one of the best is being a good role model.
Mathews also advises adults to help children develop practical living skills. Being responsible for household chores aids in making children aware that the egocentrism of childhood lasts only so long. These chores redirect the me-me-me's into thoughtful gestures for others.
If your child likes to read, be sure there are some biographies on his or her reading list. And not just biographies of sports figures. Choose some do-gooders like Mother Teresa or St. Valentine or Nelson Mandela. For students who dislike or struggle with reading comprehension, discovering new voices that resonate with and inspire them can be the perfect antidote.
You can choose character-building televisions programs, too. And, you can share quotations that reflect noble sentiments at least once a week at the dinner table.
Depending on the age of your children, a quote like this from Carl Sagan would be an excellent way to bridge science and morality: "The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds."
For younger children, take the words of Harriet Tubman and use them to introduce a history lesson: "Every great dream begins with a dreamer." And don't forget the modeling aspect of character development: share with them dreams of your own.
Think Tutoring, located in Florham Park, maintains a strong passion for helping kids read, learn, dream and succeed. They offer tutoring programs in reading, math, language arts, writing skills and SAT Test Prep. Visit them at www.thinktutoring.com or call them at 973-593-0050.