The HONORABLE CHARACTER™ story began in 1984 with a high-spirited, first-grader named Brad. Like many children, interactions with classmates sparked an unexpected, outgoing social side of his personality. The outcome: Brad frequently received correction from his teacher for excessive talking. Although the school placed a high priority on character development, its weekly, home-bound conduct card reported only the child’s negative behavior. Disheartened, Brad mistakenly concluded that his teacher didn’t like him because, “I get into trouble a lot.” The school’s approach to classroom management showed only one side of Brad’s character…and he was picking up the wrong message as a result.
Brad’s parents knew him well and understood that he was a delightful child who needed to develop some self-control in the classroom setting. His mother, an education professional, couldn’t help but wonder how many other children were like Brad. How many were internalizing a distorted message about themselves due to teachers focusing on correcting inappropriate student behavior? If Brad was getting the wrong message, she reasoned, surely other students were, too.
When Brad’s mother, Vicki Vaughn, became principal at his school, one of her first initiatives was to recast the school’s classroom management practices and procedures. A new model - one that deliberately emphasized identifying and recognizing students for their positive character qualities - became the school’s new standard. Vicki accurately predicted that by consistently emphasizing the honorable character within each student, teachers would achieve greater success in drawing out the best qualities within their students, minimizing the need for correction.
The results of the new approach to classroom management surpassed the educator’s expectations! The intentional positive focus transformed the classroom environment and ultimately, the school culture. The many compliments the school received from the community about its students’ character and conduct - along with consistently higher student scholastic achievement - persuaded the staff the changes were right ones.
Over the years, Vicki Vaughn received repeated requests from former teachers for permission to use the system at their new schools. During accreditation visits, team members saw the HONORABLE CHARACTER™ Classroom Management System in action, and they often inquired how to purchase the program for their schools. One accrediting agency designated the HONORABLE CHARACTER™ Classroom Management System as an Exemplary School Program, generating greater interest from administrators and teachers at schools across the nation.
When the administration realized they had the opportunity to positively impact the lives of students and teachers in other schools a team of teachers fine-tuned the classroom management system, to make it available for other schools. Ultimately, HONORABLE CHARACTER™ became a 501(c)(3) non-profit with a mission to provide a simple tool to help teachers encourage, promote, and build the character of children within the classroom setting.
Now that the HONORABLE CHARACTER™ story has been told, it’s time to finish Brad’s story. Years later, while he was attending college, Vicki Vaughn went through some of her son’s old school papers and found Brad’s elementary school conduct cards - the ones developed using the HC approach. She noticed a particular character trait that appeared again and again on the cards: diligence!
“The day Brad graduated with honors earning a bachelor’s degree in biology, he said something to me that I will never forget,” Vaughn recalled. “He said, ‘Mom, I may not have been the smartest one in my class, but I think it was my diligence that helped me through this.’ My mind immediately flashed back to his elementary school conduct cards. It was then that I fully realized the HC system could transform a child’s life."
Today Brad is a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist. The strong work ethic he practiced as a young boy - a trait fostered through the encouragement and recognition of his teachers and then reinforced by his parents - became a habit that enables him to succeed in achieving one of his life’s goals and to serve as a contributing member of his community.
All too often, character education is limited to telling stories about imaginary people who show qualities of good character. While those kinds of stories are good, HONORABLE CHARACTER™ chooses a different approach. In the HC system, the child is the story…the living model who becomes the example of good character. A real-life story with a happy ending!
In 2010, Vicki Vaughn was named a National Distinguished Principal® (NDP) by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. The NDP program honors outstanding elementary and middle-level principals who ensure that America’s children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement.