While many schools say they focus on instilling character in their students, a significant gift from a prominent family has given Upper Canada College the resources to launch a character development program to explore the role of education in imbuing boys with the a foundation to not only be successful while at UCC, but throughout their lives.
“Our overarching goal is to establish Upper Canada College as the leader in thought, practice and research in character development,” says Steve Dubrick, UCC’s recently hired director of character development who was previously director of character and leadership at Crescent School.
Dubrick’s first priority is to get to know students, the staff and faculty, the UCC culture and the character development work that’s already been done at the school by observing classes, clubs, rehearsals and practices (he’s helping coach the junior varsity football team). He wants to establish credibility with all members of the College community so that his words and actions will resonate with them as this initiative evolves.
After looking at all UCC programs — including admissions, advancement, the curriculum and co-curricular activities — and seeing where the school can further integrate character into them, Dubrick hopes to “create the plan and vision for where we want to go” by January. “I tend to think of it in three buckets: the ethos, the programs and the systems,” he says.
Gathering data from different sectors of the UCC community through surveys will help Dubrick, Upper School character integrator Craig Parkinson and Prep character integrator Laurie Fraser review UCC’s curriculum and co-curricular programs and offer resources and support to further instill character development into them in line with the school’s strategic plan.
“By pursuing financial assistance, the College is demonstrating its character by wanting to have outstanding boys regardless of their financial position,” says Dubrick. “It’s also going to benefit the character development of the kids in the classroom because the more you infuse that student population with outstanding boys, the greater you’re going to be able to influence that culture in a positive sense for the classroom and the school in general.”
UCC has entered a partnership with Angela Duckworth, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, whose well-regarded work focuses on two traits that predict success in life: grit and self-control. The plan is to partner with other post-secondary institutions which are also studying character development and the importance of such things as creativity, adaptability, perseverance, compassion, empathy and duty. UCC is also involved in an international consortium of schools called the Center for Innovation, Renovation, Creativity and Leadership in Education that looks at the assessment of character.
Dubrick wants to create more relationships with other character-related bodies, including non-government organizations and charities, and tap into the expertise of successful UCC parents and Old Boys who may be able to share skills, knowledge and attributes that have made them effective leaders.
Additional community partnerships, such as the one UCC has with Toronto inner-city schools through its Horizons program, will be sought out so the school’s research can be shared and enable other boys to get some of the same opportunities afforded to UCC students.
“I believe that a lot of programs don’t inherently develop character,” concludes Dubrick. “We have to be intentional about making sure that they do.”