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Character Education

Promoting Character in Trinidad and Tobago

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Our team was sent to Trinidad and Tobago for our character education internship with the Universal Peace Federation. We were to teach character education at St. Joseph’s Primary School and Sealots Community School July 2-27, 2008.

We held two camps at these schools with the theme of “Building the Peace Dream.” At St. Joseph’s Primary, we had between 65 to 70 students. The Sealots camp had 33 students. We taught stories from the Discovering the Real Me curriculum and integrated icebreaker games with team-building activities, question and answer sessions, drawing and writing exercises, discussion and sharing, singing, and sports.

 

After going to Sealots, the role our character education program may play in decreasing gang violence and crime in general became much clearer to us. Violence and crime are on the rise in the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Feeling the urgency and desperateness of their situation, we wanted to give the youth as much guidance as we possibly could.

The students were extremely well behaved. They gave innovative solutions for the peacemaker challenge, a group activity where students come up with solutions for everyday problems such as being insulted on the football field. They needed little prompting to come up with answers. The drawings the students made of themselves being peacemakers showed us the level of conflict they have to deal with and their willingness to tackle it as peacemakers.

When we evaluated the program, we found that the stories in the curriculum were effective in teaching the lessons. The statements that some students made in their reflections showed that they had truly taken in the lessons and made them their own.

The graduation ceremony was wonderful. Students received special certificates that stated their appointment as Junior Ambassadors for Peace. Speakers emphasized that this was both an honor and a responsibility.

We could tell this graduation meant a lot to them and their parents. We were impressed by the poise with which all of the students conducted themselves while on stage. The parents were also impressed. Some parents who had not been interested before asked when the next parent-teachers meeting would take place. We were delighted to see how much potential there is in Trinidad and Tobago for a network of home, school, and community as a moral “net” for children.

Fighting was a major issue. We could see even from the first day that fighting is very present in the community. Reacting physically was a very ingrained response to any provocation.

Yet during the camp we overheard two girls complimenting each other outside of the classroom. On the last day of the first week at St. Joseph’s, one group worked together to efficiently resolve a conflict between two girls in the group, without teacher assistance. Incidents of violence and fighting decreased throughout our time at St. Joseph’s.

Everything the students did showed us how much our praise and approval of their behavior and accomplishments meant to them. We are planning many follow-up and support activities to keep character education—and the respect and hope it generates—active among the beautiful and responsive people of Trinidad and Tobago.

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