Dear Sheridan Community,
In March, we shared the news with you that Sheridan was named the District of Columbia’s only School of Character by Character.org. As proud as I was about that designation, I am even prouder still to announce that Sheridan School has won distinction as a 2017 National School of Character. The honor recognizes a small number of schools across the country for their exemplary work in supporting the social, emotional and ethical development of students. Through school culture and curriculum, schools that excel in character education help students develop and apply core values that include caring, honesty, diligence, fairness, fortitude, responsibility, grit, creativity, critical thinking and respect for self and others.
Becoming a National School of Character is the pinnacle of a rigorous process that included a deep review of our programming and our community. We were asked to share essays and evidence about our dedication to 11 Principles of Effective Character Education, including how well we promote core ethical and performance values, how we take a comprehensive, proactive and intentional approach to character development, and how we provide a meaningful and challenging academic curriculum that respects all learners, develops their character, and helps them succeed. We provided sample lessons, videos, assignments and artwork related to the curriculum, showed examples of our students taking moral action, and shared information about our community and the ties that bind us.
After we were named a State School of Character last winter, Character.org leaders spent a full day at Sheridan, interviewing students and teachers, parents, board members, community partners, and administrators. Their team walked our halls, observed in classrooms, and sat in on morning meetings, lunch and small groups sessions. After getting to know us and all we do, they chose to award us with this national honor. Sheridan is one of only 83 schools nationwide and the only school in the District of Columbia, Maryland or Virginia to earn this distinction in 2017.
What is most exciting to me about this award is that it emphasizes the power of what we do each day at Sheridan. Because we are always striving for better, it’s easy to overlook how much good we accomplish each day. I am grateful for the reminder to take a moment to appreciate all that we have, even as we strive for more.
Specific examples of the work that we highlighted for Character.org are shared below.
We will receive the award on May 23rd in a ceremony on Capitol Hill. In the icing on the cake, 8th Grader Fiore Petricone is one of three individuals from Schools of Character who have been asked to speak about what it means to be part of a School of Character. The event will be livestreamed and we will share information as we get closer.
I’m so proud of our little school and our whole community. Thank you to you all for working together to make our school a National School of Character.
Here are some of the things that we highlighted for Character.org that led them to choose us for this distinction:
At Sheridan, students’ social/emotional and academic development are equally important. This is evident in all we do, including restorative justice, use of the peace rug, friendship classes and wellness groups. In our morning meetings, students connect with one another, take a mindful moment, and revisit their obligations to be generous members of the community and good citizens. Class covenants reflect the school’s mission and address core ethical values such as respect, responsibility, empathy, advocacy, and teamwork in developmentally appropriate ways. These values are continuously reinforced.
Our whole community is committed to the ideals of respect for oneself, others, and the environment. You can see this as you walk through our campus, whether you are looking at the interactive character bulletin boards, visibly posted class covenants, posters inviting all community members (faculty/staff, parents, students) to join groups including the GSA; SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity), and DEIC, or our diversity, equity and inclusion committee for parents. Our Critical Friends group for teachers allows our teachers to exchange ideas about best practices in education in a supportive setting. We are the only school I know of that requires all teachers to complete a year-long social justice course.
Beyond these programs, our Mountain Campus curriculum focuses on students developing traits like leadership, perspective, teamwork, self-control, grit, bravery, curiosity, and appreciation of beauty. Our two Family Weekends allow us to impart these same values to the entire family while bonding as a community.