Achieving Civility Through our Mindset

Mindsets and civility

“I’m not allowed to get angry?” That’s a question that is raised in nearly every civility workshop we lead. Participants want to know how to have a mindset focused on civility when they’re feeling angry or frustrated. Our answer to that question is, “Of course you’re allowed to be angry. But, choose a mindset that helps you deal with the problem with civility.” It is our ability to understand the roles of emotions and mindsets that can help us maintain civility through everyday challenges.

While our emotions influence our mindsets, you can choose different mindsets for the same emotion. For example, if I’m feeling angry that my flight got canceled, I can choose a mindset that says, “This is the worst day ever! Why does this always happen to me? Nothing ever goes right.” Or, I can have a mindset that says, “I’ll get through this. There is a solution here. I can get this fixed.” The emotion is the same in both scenarios, but the mindset changes. When we lose someone close to us, we can feel that sadness for the rest of our life, but our mindsets may change and evolve over time. We can be devastatingly heartbroken over someone’s passing (emotion) and think about how grateful we are for the memories we have (mindset) at the same time.

Choosing your mindset, no matter your emotional state is an incredibly powerful tool because our mindset impacts our response. A negative mindset makes it less likely that we will choose the best possible response.

Our response to any situation is always entirely within our control. No matter how angry or frustrated we get, we can choose any number of responses – from violence, shaming, and name-calling to asking questions, seeking connection, and working to understand the other person. It is the same emotion, but different mindsets produce different responses.

The next time you are struggling to choose the right response in an emotional moment hit pause and ask yourself three questions:

  1. What emotion am I feeling right now and why am I feeling it? Acknowledge the emotion. Acknowledge the reason for that emotion. Feel what you feel.
  2. What outcome do I hope to achieve in this situation? You can’t fix everything, but what outcome is within your influence?
  3. What mindset and response give me the best chance to achieve that outcome?

By Jeff Kluever, Director of Programs

Resilience(Grades 6-12)

 Students need opportunities to see success and triumph in the midst of struggle. This lesson provides a video that discusses resilience from a young man who faced a lot of trials in his life. The discussion will provide an opportunity for the classroom to share ideas about trust, growth, and overcoming obstacles. 

Character Education Objectives:
Students will:

  • watch a video about why adversity can build resilience.
  • discuss resilience and trust through the lens of overcoming obstacles.
  • hare ideas for building resilience. 


  • Markers 
  • Post-it pads (large stick posters or paper) 
  • Access to stream YouTube video 

Lesson Plan Day 1

Journal: (5 mins)

  • What is something that has been challenging in your life to overcome?
  • Who have you trusted in your life to help you overcome challenges?

Whole Group (35 mins)

  • Watch the video: (15 mins)
  • Discussion (20 mins)
    • What does this quote mean to you? “The worst of life could not take out the best of me.”
    • Why do people still succeed and flourish despite pain and trauma?
    • What is resilience?
    • Why does change cause adversity?
    • How do your belief systems impact whether you succumb or surmount challenges? 
    • How is your mind the most crucial resource to building resilience?
    • What does trauma teach us about resilience?
      • Tell your mind what to think- how do we do this?
      • Life is easier when you are prepared – how do you prepare for the unknown?
      • Perspective requires partnership
        • Why do we need others to help us overcome adversity?
  • Exit Ticket: (5 mins) 
    • Who can you trust to help you overcome adversity when you need it?

Lesson Plan Day 2

Journal (5 mins) 

  • What is important about learning to trust yourself in tough situations?

Whole Group Discussion (5 mins)

  • What did you learn about building trust and resilience yesterday?

Small Group Discussion (10 mins)

  • Everything happens for a reason- How can you use your trauma/struggle for a purpose?
  • Who can you trust to support you amid trauma or challenges?
  • What does it mean to trust resiliency to help you overcome adversity? 

 Productive Group Work (10 mins)

  • On poster paper: What are some ways you can build resilience?
    • Have students use a Post It Poster page to record ideas.

Gallery Walk: (10 mins) 

  • What are some ways you can build resilience?
    • Put a star next to an idea you want to remember.
    • Put a tally mark next to an idea you have used in the past to help you overcome an obstacle. 

Exit Ticket (5 mins)

  • What is the most important thing you learned in this lesson?

Hunt, C. (2020). What Trauma Taught Me About Resilience | Charles Hunt | TEDxCharlotte. Retrieved 1 April 2020, from

Resilience and Overcoming Obstacles (Grades 6-12)

character education resilience lesson

Students need to embrace resilience as they care for one another during conflict. This lesson focuses on the caring Pillar while supplying a resource to problem-solve and build resilience.

Character education objectives:

  • Students will discuss problems and solutions 
  • Students will brainstorm solutions to a problem
  • Students will use the Problem Solving Essentials tool and compose a caring response /solution for a problem


Duration: 2 days

Lesson Plan Day 1 

Journal: (5 mins)

  • What is a problem you have had to solve at home or school?
  • What was challenging about solving it?

Whole Group Instruction: (10 mins)

  • You are going to compose an advice column to help people solve problems in their lives. 
  • You will work in groups of 4-5 to problem solve solutions to real-life issues.
  • You will compose a caring response to help the sender tackle their problem.
  • I want you to utilize the Problem Solving Essentials  tool.
  • For each problem scenario you will…
    • Define the problem and solution goals  
    • Brainstorm all possible solutions
      • Write down everyone’s suggestions 
      • Encourage everyone to participate and give ideas 
      • No idea is a bad idea they can all lead to great ideas 
    • Adapt, expand, innovate, and eliminate possibilities
      • Determine the best route with the list of ideas you came up with during the brainstorming
    • Test solution and revise as needed 
      • Compose a response and edit / wordsmith until you feel it is ready to submit 
      • Share with the classroom

Whole Group Model with the classroom the following scenario: (15 mins)
DEAR ABBY: I’m a freshman in high school, and it’s great. I’ve made a lot of new friends, but most of them are guys. For some reason, they think I’m this girly-girl type who doesn’t like to get my hands dirty. When it’s time to do something that involves lifting, they think they have to take over. If they ever saw me at home, they’d think I was a whole different person. How can I show them I’m not a girly-girl while still being friends with them? — NO GIRLY-GIRL-14

Small Group Discussion: (10 mins)

  • How does our response show we care? 
  • Review what resilience means
  • How do you build resilience?
  • Why is it important to seek advice from people who care about you?
  • How does seeking advice from someone you care about help build resilience?

Lesson Plan Day 2: 

Journal: (5 minutes)

  • Write a Dear Abby Response to the problem you listed in your journal (see lesson plan day one)

Small Group Productive Group work: (25 mins)

  • Students can use the Problem-Solving Handout to gather their thoughts 
  • Students will go through the scenarios listed on the Scenario Handout (Allow them to choose one they would like to work on together)
  • Students will use the Problem Solving Essentials tool and compose a solution for the problem 

Whole Group: (10 mins) 

  • Share aloud the advice your group offered for the teen 

Exit Ticket: (5 mins) 

  • How does advice from someone who cares about you help build resilience?


If students are unfamiliar with advice columns you can send them to the sites below to review and read some of the responses from Abby.

Dear Abby. 2020. Uexpress. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2020].

Dr. M., 2020. Ask Dr. M — Advice For Teens Advice Column. Advice For Teens, Advice For Kids, Advice For Children, Advice For Young Adults, Advice For Parents, Advice For Parents Of Kids, Advice For Parents Of Teens, Advice For Parents Of Young Adults. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2020].


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See more character quotations in our quotations database.

Emotional Toughness (Grades 6-12)

Overview: Students today need more opportunities to build their emotional toughness in a world that is as fast paced and ever changing.  Thus, creating conditions that allow them to take responsibility for their behavior, emotions, and responses is important in building resilience for learning and development. This lesson will have students focus on their emotional toughness and highlight the need to be responsible for our responses in emotional situations.

Character Education Objectives:

Students will:

  • utilize the Scale of Emotion to describe how they feel 
  • discuss Emotional Toughness Indicators
  • reflect on their own emotional resilience and the importance of taking responsibility for their own emotional response.


Lesson Plan

Journal (5 mins)

  • Using the Scale of Emotion explain where you feel you are today and why. 

Small Group or Whole Group Discussion (30 mins)

  • Read through the Emotional Toughness Indicators
  • As a group discuss/respond to the following: 
    • Emotional Flexibility
      • Define productive and unproductive states of emotion
      • What emotions make you unproductive?
      • Why are emotions so important?
      • Who is responsible for your emotions?
    • Emotional Responsiveness 
      • What are some positive responses students when you face unpleasant or unproductive emotions?
      • Give an example of a time you took responsibility for creating a positive emotional response
        • How did this impact you and those around you?
    • Emotional Resiliency
      • Look up the definition of resilience and come up with a working definition with your group 
      • What is a situation you have had to show resiliency in your own life?
      • How has this situation made you more responsible and resilient?
    • Emotional Strength
      • How do people develop a never-quit attitude?
Scale of emotion character counts

Hurst, K., 2020. Learn How To Move UP The (Vibrational) Emotional Scale. [online] The Law Of Attraction. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 March 2020]. 

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Good Stress Versus Distress (Grades 6-12)

Not all stress is bad. Most, if not all of us recognize this simple fact, and yet when was the last time you heard anyone say, “I’m stressed” with a smile on their face or joy in their heart?

The reality is, stress exists on a continuum, from good stress to distress. Good stress is the stress that challenges you, motivates you, perhaps even helps you focus. Teachers put their students through good stress every day by asking them to take an more challenging math problems, tackle difficult texts, and attempt new skills. Good stress helps us grow and develop as human beings.

However, there comes a point on the continuum when good stress becomes distress, when stress stops being motivating and instead becomes overwhelming. It’s important for each of us to be aware of our stress at any given moment so that we know if we are being challenged (good stress) or overcome (distress).

It’s also important for us to be aware of stress of others so that we can continue to support and challenge them as needed. But, recognizing if other’s are in a state of good stress or distress can be challenging. Not everyone wears their stress publicly. To help others think about their stress, and gain an awareness of their stress, draw the Good Stress-Distress continuum (see below) on whiteboard or sheet of paper. Ask your students, athletes, kids, or colleagues to put an X on the curve indicating their current stress level. They don’t need to explain why they are feeling that good stress or distress – this activity is simply about awareness. However, as a team leader, educator, coach, or parent, you can use your knowledge of others stress to push them further (good stress) or provide support if they are in distress.

Good Stress Distress Continuum

Download a PDF of the continuum.

This activity is one of several extension activities in the Growth Mindset module of The ESSENTIALS, a new resource for middle and high school students. The ESSENTIALS modules draw upon nearly 25 years of applied research and development in various K-16 education settings, the workplace, and diverse athletic environments. Each module is a blueprint of research-based best practices for developing an essential character and culture skill needed for success in school, work, and beyond. Click here to order The ESSENTIALS for your students.

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Character During Crisis


We are living through challenging and turbulent times.  Americans are facing an international health pandemic, financial uncertainty, racial tensions, and civil unrest.  It can be easy to feel helpless – wondering what possible impact someone like me can have on such great problems?

We can start with what is within our control: our character.  Start by reflecting on the Six Pillars of Character (trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship).  Think of the Six Pillars of Character as ‘I’ and ‘action.’ We can ask ourselves: what am I doing to act in a capacity worthy of trust, how am I demonstrating respect, am I being responsible for my actions and consequences of my choices, are my decisions fair and equitable to those that are impacted, am I demonstrating a caring heart, am I being a good citizen fulling my duties and responsibilities?

Values like the Six Pillars guide us through difficult times and the actions we take.  It is in these moments that we would do well to remember the words of Edward Everett Hale.

 “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” 

This is our challenge. What is the thing you can do? And not just today, but tomorrow, and next week, a year from now, and for the rest of your life because we know that there is always a way for us to get better, individually and collectively.

The issues that confront us are immense and it can be tempting to cave to feelings of inadequacy. But the fact remains, while you cannot do everything, you can do something. And remember, character counts in everything you do.

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Recognizing Good Stress


From Jeff Kluever, director of programs and administration

There are many, many things I don’t like about social distancing, not the least of which are video meetings and calls. I don’t even like doing video calls with my two nieces, mostly because they are far more interested in playing with the various filters that add cat ears to my head, than talking to me. But the same is true for work calls and meetings. I would much rather meet in person.

I’m a teacher. I’m at my best when I am with my audience, looking them in the eye, reading their body language, facilitating conversation and dialogue, and connecting on a personal level. I want to be in a room, with a group, doing the hard work together.

So you can understand why I say that transitioning some of my work from in-person delivery to online delivery in response to social distancing is, in the words of my 9-year-old niece, “not my favorite.” Presentations that I could deliver with relative ease in person are now posing significant challenges as I think about how to deliver them online. How do I demonstrate interactive activities online? How can I facilitate conversation when I can only see four heads on the screen? Whose dog is barking in the background and why doesn’t that person know how to mute their mic? Changing to online delivery is causing me stress.

But – if I’m being honest, learning how to do online program delivery is actually good stress, not bad stress. Good stress is stress that challenges us, motivates us, takes us outside our comfort zone and asks us to do something new or different, which is exactly what is happening to me as I learn to do online workshops.

Let me be clear, good stress does not mean that I wanted that stress. I don’t want to learn how to do good online training. I don’t want to research which software programs give me the features needed to do my work. I would be much happier if I didn’t have to think about online workshops at all. But, at the end of the day, this challenge, this stress is making me a better teacher. (If its possible to type something begrudgingly, I definitely typed “this stress is making me a better teacher” begrudgingly). Whatever the future holds, I will have new skills, new tools in my teaching toolkit because I had this stress in my life.

So here’s the challenge:

  1. Recognize what is good stress in your life.
    What challenge are you currently facing that is making you better (whether you like it or not)?
  2. Focus on the positive outcome of overcoming that challenge, rather than wishing the stress away.
    What will you be able to do better or differently because of this good stress?
  3. Hard as it may be, be grateful for the opportunity to get better.

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Managing Stress: Part 5

It’s important to set aside time to reflect on how you’re managing stress.

View previous posts in this series:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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Managing Stress: Part 4

Is your mind ready for stress?

Did you miss parts 1-3?

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Learn more about character education.