On October 12, 2018, NYC Department of Education featured Brilla’s special attention to character formation in its newsletter.
“Brilla Public Charter Schools is a charter network consisting of two elementary schools and a middle school, all located in the South Bronx. In each Brilla school, a dedicated staff member works with school leadership to create and facilitate the Character Initiatives curricula. Brilla network’s core virtues are the cardinal virtues of classical antiquity and are accompanied by ancillary sub-virtues. The four core virtues are Courage, Justice, Self-Control and Wisdom and the sixteen sub-virtues include Empathy, Gratitude, Humility and Initiative, among others. Character development pervades classroom instruction and extends to staff professional development and family engagement.
The Character Initiatives curricula is scaffolded; definitions and discussions become more nuanced and more in-depth each year. Kindergarten students are first introduced to simple definitions for core virtues (Justice = fairness). Over the next four years, teachers increasingly expound upon these definitions leading to a more complete understanding. By third grade, Justice is defined as, “fairness, giving to all what is owed to all, consistent with one’s dignity.” During their time at Brilla, students are exposed to human dignity and social emotional learning curricula which makes a more sophisticated definition both accessible and relatable. Historical and fictional figures serve as character exemplars, and so do classmates. Students see their own pictures placed on the character board alongside revered historical figures.
The Brilla network also carves out time for adults to reflect on and engage with the core virtues. During the last “Mission in Progress” faculty meeting, teachers discussed the three types of self-control, reflected on their personal strengths / weaknesses and the impact of self-control on relationships and classroom environments. Parents and guardians are kept abreast of the Character Initiatives curricula through the school-wide monthly newsletters and Coffee and Conversation events. Parents get to hear which virtues and sub-virtues are coming up and how to support their scholars’ growth at home.”
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