At Almaden Country School, we believe a competent student is one who not only learns factual information, but also develops achievement skills and positive, healthful character traits.
More than a decade ago, we adopted the nationally recognized Character and Competence program, which is fully integrated into our curriculum across all subjects and grade levels.
Rather than providing character education or study skills as separate and discrete lessons, Character and Competence at ACS is woven into our daily lessons, classroom expectations and community culture. In this way, promoting achievement skills and shaping wholesome character traits is integral to everything we teach at ACS, to every student, every day throughout the school year.
From our weekly class meetings where students circle together in their classrooms to work through issues cooperatively, to the elementary students collaborating to prepare and produce our 10 yearly musical theater productions, this culture of respect is an integral and cherished part of the ACS way.
Why Facts are Just the Foundation
Factual information is what typically comes to mind when thinking about what students learn at school — math, science and history, for example. Factual information forms the basis of grade-level academic standards and provides the content for standardized tests.
Yet imagine a student who understands academic facts, but doesn’t know how to set goals, manage time or apply those facts to a new set of variables. These are “achievement skills,” and they allow students to apply their academic knowledge constructively. ACS proactively teaches achievement skills in addition to traditional academics. Time management, team building, goal setting, prioritization, and study skills are important components of our Character and Competence program, integrated into lessons at every grade level.
Competence Requires Character
Beyond factual information and achievement skills, there is still more for a student to learn before becoming truly competent. Today’s world is replete with examples of intelligent men and women who have achieved much in life, but who have done so in ways that can hurt either themselves or others. They missed developing the third part of competence: character.
Teaching Character and Competence
At ACS, we proactively teach students how to make decisions that reflect care, concern, and respect toward themselves and others. Character and Competence comprises lessons that promote and reinforce healthful qualities such as empathy, honesty, integrity and social awareness.
Starting in our elementary grades, ACS students meet in weekly class meetings to discuss ethical issues, interpersonal concerns and other topics from their own perspectives. Our Middle School electives include Social Justice and Global Community Service, which help students develop their sense of social awareness.
Teachers actively teach and model positive character traits, helping students apply those traits to their own classroom behaviors. As a result, ACS students create a very cohesive classroom culture where they feel accountable to each other for helpful behavior. And across the campus, student interactions with peers and adults are characterized by care, cooperation and an ethos of respect.
Acknowledging Character and Competence
In the spirit of these ideals, each year at graduation ACS also presents the “Nan Hunter Award,” named in honor of the school’s founder, to a child who most wholly represents the ideals of kindness, service and joy. While we honor students with academic achievement during the commencement ceremony, and share anecdotes from the faculty about every member of the graduating class, we make it a priority to recognize a student who captures the spirit of our Character and Competence curriculum.
Character and Competence is a critical dimension of learning at ACS. Program activities help foster a wholesome, respectful, and positive learning environment on our campus that is evident to everyone who visits and sees our teachers and students interacting. Because of our success at integrating character education at the core of our academic program, children feel safe here to take the risks necessary to maximize their potential and define the gifts that help shape ACS students as confident, kind and competent.