|Chicago Jesuit Acadamy|
At Chicago Jesuit Academy. Ninety-six 5th through 8th graders go to school here-- all boys, mostly from rough West Side neighborhoods like Brandyn’s. Teaching character in a morning handshake. When Brandyn walks into CJA’s spare but sunny atrium every morning, he sees Dave Diehl, the Dean of Students, standing by the door, holding a clip board. Brandyn knows the rules: First, take off your jacket. Then, look Mr. Diehl in the eye and shake his hand. “Good morning Mr. Diehl.” “Good morning Mr. Snow,” Diehl answers, checking off Brandyn’s name. “Do you have your belt on?” “Yes.” “You may head up.” These rules are an explicit part of the school’s culture. But they’re also triage – a check for any problems the kids might be having.“Do the students often forget their belts?” I ask Diehl. “I noticed you asking each of them if they have it on.” “They forget it occasionally,” he tells me. “It’s more of a check for them-- it’s an indicator. If they’ve forgotten that they're forgetting other things.” Discipline and dress codes aren’t new in education. But here, there’s an additional question: Can you teach middle school kids practical life skills and character-- along with math?
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