Walking the Talk

“Walking the Talk”

At Harris Hill Elementary

Marc Nelson, Principal & Fran Palma,  former Walk the Talk Co-Chair


How do you get kids— and everyone else in a school—to “walk the talk”? That’s the biggest challenge in character education.    Most kids, like most adults, know the right thing to do. Actually doing it is the hard part.  At Harris Hill Elementary, our focus has been on helping students internalize and act upon principles of good character. We do this through our “Walk the Talk” Rights and Responsibilities, developed by a committee of parents, teachers, and administrators.


Walk the Talk is now the standard against which behavior is evaluated. There are colorful visual reminders everywhere—in the classrooms, the cafeteria, the gymnasium, and the hallways. Throughout the school the question, “Are you walking the talk?” can be heard as

teachers and other staff members gently remind students to check their behavior.


Each week we have a schoolwide focus, led by the principal, on one specific right and its corresponding responsibility. Through our Home-School Partnership, families are encouraged to focus on the same right and responsibility at home. This provides reinforcement and

builds a sense of community. Issues we’ve addressed include: lack of respect, bullying, exclusion, responsibility integrity, self-discipline, and caring. Our PTA newsletter,  The Hotline, carries articles on character-related issues such as cliques and relational aggression among girls and reviews books on character themes.


Last year we held an evening book discussion of Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman.   Our Kids Care Club has students ages 5-12 working side by side after school to help people in our local, national, and global communities. Building birdhouses for Habitat for Humanity, sewing teddy bears for children in Tanzania, and providing hygiene items for a local

women’s shelter are some of our students’ recent projects.


We find that community service is a very effective way to get kids to internalize good character traits.  Walk the Talk has helped our students understand and recognize unacceptable behavior, communicate with each other, solve conflicts, and become good citizens.


These skills empower our students to become agents of their own social improvement and change, preparing them for their future as people of character and positive contributors to our society.


Excerpted from “Harris Hill Elementary School: A Community of Character.” The article, in its

entirety, can be found at www.harrishillpta.org.


“Walk the Talk” Rights and Responsibilities

I have a right . . .

1. To be safe.

2. To my feelings.

3. To be heard.

4. To be talked to in a caring way.

5. To use my belongings and school property in a careful way.

6. To be included, have fun, make new friends and try out new skills.

7. To talk with my teachers about my concerns in school.

8. To expect my parents to talk with me—to find out about and help me with my needs at school.

I have a responsibility . . .

1. To keep others safe.

2. To try to respect and understand all people’s differences and their feelings, opinions, and beliefs.

3. To listen when someone else is talking.

4. To use language which shows consideration for other people’s feelings and differences and does not cause or increase conflict.

5. To respect the property of others including the school building grounds, equipment, and materials.

6. To include others, since no one likes to be left out.

7. To find ways to solve problems.

8. To tell my parents what is going on at school.







Article is taken from the website of

the Center for the 4th & 5th R’s,   Cortland, State University of New York

Vol 11 Issue 1.   Winter 2004