Teaching character

Sandra Zerner, author of the recently released "It's Good 2B Good: Why It's Not Bad to be Good," recently gave a presentation and signed copies of her new book at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.

As students are preparing for school, so are their teachers.

The Bureau of Jewish Education is holding a Back to School Jewish Educators Conference this month to help teachers find ways to incorporate Jewish values into their classrooms. Among the many sessions planned, Sandra Zerner, motivational speaker, educator and founder of the It's Good 2B Good Kids Character Education program, will speak with teachers about how to encourage their students to be good people in addition to being good students.

Zerner, a member of Temple Chai in Phoenix, has lived in the Valley since 1994 and recently published "It's Good 2B Good: Why It's Not Bad to be Good," a 112-page nonfiction book for kids that explains why it's good to be a good person. The book is an accumulation of more than 10 years of research that Zerner has used in programs that she has presented to students, parents and teachers in schools in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Calif.

The book is filled with true stories about children who have made a difference, inspiring quotations, cutting-edge scientific facts about doing good, illustrations, and information on how being good can increase happiness, improve health, build higher self-esteem and help make the world a better place. The book also contains appendices with activities for children as well as helpful tips and suggestions for parents and teachers. Zerner especially likes the stories about children who have made a difference and hopes that these stories will inspire her readers to do good. "Kids hear better from their peers than from adults," explains Zerner.

One of the things Zerner will discuss at the BJE conference is the positive impact of concrete examples and hands-on activities in the classroom. For example, she has students make a long chain of paper links to show the chain reaction of good deeds. She also teaches the concept of mitzvah goreret mitzvah - one mitzvah leads to another - by having students drop an M&M into a bowl of water so they can observe the ripples, or positive influences, that a single kind act can produce.

Zerner wants her students to understand that "whenever you do good, it always comes back to you," although it might not be from that same person or even that week. In her book and presentations, Zerner reminds parents and teachers that "it's just as important to focus on the character (of your child/student) as the grades they get and how many home runs they hit."

"It's Good 2B Good: Why It's Not Bad to be Good" ($13, NICE Creative, paperback) can be purchased at amazon.com and retail bookstores.

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