So here we are, in the 3rd month of the school year, with our character education program well established.   We have:

A theme to guide the year

A poster created & distributed throughout the school.

The 10 Virtues of the Month for the year picked & the month assigned to each.

Mini posters for each month created with the Theme, an Image, a Quote & the virtue & distributed monthly

A Bulletin Board created & undated monthly

A Road Sign updated monthly

And Daily Announcements being made


It may be a great time for ‘Pausing for Applause’ for the students who have been working hard to make this all happen.  It was our ‘Leadership Workshop’ where we used lots of activities to learn the 5 Strategies of the Virtues Project™. November is a great month for this.  The school year is launched, midterms have happened, the festive season hasn’t happened yet and exams are still a couple of months away. 


We were fortunate enough to have access a large hall with no charge which was in walking distance from our high school.   I felt it was really important to get the students ‘off campus’.  It made the day feel special and it minimized distractions. 


We took care of 2 key elements.  Food and transportation.  We provided snacks, drinks, pizza lunch.  And we kept our program within the school day so that everyone had access to transportation – this allowed for equitable participation.


Sometimes our Workshop was one day, some years we had 2 days, but it was always hands on experiential learning using activities, dramatization, art, music and team building initiatives to create those ‘teachable moments’.  


The students came back feeling appreciated, acknowledged and energized for what was next!


Hope Respect Road Sign

Another way we showcased the Virtue of the Month was with the daily announcements.  We  used the same resource that we used for the Monthly Bulletin Board; The Virtues Project™ Educators’ Guide.  We would create a script that read:


“For our focus on ‘CommUNITY’ (name the theme of the year), the virtue of the month of September is Respect.  Respect is… “ and we would read one sentence from the pages about respect. 


There was enough content there to say a little tidbit over the 20 days of school in a month.  Often there was one student who took on the responsibility of being available and willing to do this task every day.


Hope Virtues Bulletin Board

There were lots of ways that we showcased the Virtue of the Month.  One way was to create a monthly bulletin board.  Once the program had been established for a couple of years a supportive principal asked us to move our Bulletin Board to a prominent place by the main office.  This was a time when The Virtues Project™ in the school was being presented as our ‘best face forward’.  


To create the Monthly Bulletin Board the main resource used was The Virtues Project™ Educators’ Guide.  We’d take the pages focused on each virtue and create posters from some of the sections: What is… (the virtue)? Why Practice it? How do you practice it? Signs of Success. Poster Points, and some of the quotes.  It was a task that could be delegated and shared with another enthusiastic teacher, club or class that wanted to participate more.  This collaboration happened as people in the school felt the positive impact of the focus on the virtues and wanted to become involved. 


Unity Among Students

Quick & Easy – do an announcement over the PA system!

Big & Involved – do a presentation at an assembly!


By October we’d have our Theme for our Virtues of the Month Initiative for the year.

Its poster was created, selected, printed, laminated and distributed or about to be distributed. The Virtues of the Month themselves had been selected and assigned to the months and

a mini poster design has been created and the individual posters for

The Virtue of September ~ Respect and for the Virtue of October have been created. 

It is also a great idea to have the plan for how each monthly poster will be created…

and when, and by who for the upcoming months!


It’s time for the BIG REVEAL to the School Community!

If there was no other way to announce all of this to the school community, we’d use the morning announcements to let everyone know what had been selected and to thank those who had contributed.  This would be synchronized with the installation of the posters in all the public spaces and the distribution of the posters to staff so there would be a bit of a feeling of an event revealing the campaign to everyone.


At the height of the program, when The Virtues Project very active and supported within the school culture, I would have a group of students who were part of The Virtues Project Club create a presentation for a school assembly.  They would introduce the Theme of the Year and the Poster to the whole school and introduce the Virtues of the Month that had been chosen.  One time they showed previous posters from the past years to give students a sense of continuity and identity, showing that this was something we do at our school and have done for a long time, intentionally focusing on virtues every month.

It showed how our virtues work became part of a narrative, a history, and our identity.


Synchronized with this ‘Reveal’ was the posting of the Posters in strategic places in the school as listed in a previous post. 


Some years we made extra posters and delivered them to key places and people in our town. We would present posters to the local mayors, First Nations Chief and Councils, local library, and any store fronts who wished to display the poster. The poster with the Theme of the Year has great potential for outreach to the local community. 


All of this action and incredible work by the students would usually culminate in a great article in the local paper which just augmented our community outreach and send of community unity.


Various Mini Posters

To compliment the Theme of the Year Poster, we created a mini poster each month to focus specifically on that month’s virtue. 

The mini-poster was portrait orientation, 5 ½ by 8 inches, and had the theme, the Virtue of the Month, a quote and an image.  Image, virtue, and inspirational quote all converged to create meaning and understanding about the virtue.


Sometimes I would make this an assignment for a photography/digital arts class or art class.   The challenge was to take the virtue + an image + a quote and through the juxtaposition of the three elements create deeper meaning. 


At its best, working on the Monthly Mini poster for the Virtue of the Month was a lively discourse between students of the Virtues Club.  We had the full spectrum of students from grade 9 to 12, so there were student leaders who had emerged as mentors and the newer students finding their feet as mentees. 


They’d use The Virtues Project™ Educators Guide to help us understand the virtue more completely.  The challenge for the students was to find an image (or images) and a quote that would accompany the Virtue on the poster that would convey the depth of meaning they had come to in their consultation. The group would begin this process early in the month and once they had determined what images and quotes worked for their message, one student took on the work of fitting the elements into the poster design.  I then took on the printing and distribution of the mini posters every month or I would delegate those tasks to a coop student if I had one so that students were empowered to take on as much of the process as possible.  The mini-posters were distributed to all the teachers, secretaries, admin, librarian and guidance councillors.   It was invigorating to see the posters in every room of the school.  It was rewarding when someone would say that they felt the message in the quote & virtue was ‘exactly what they needed’ !



Voting for Virtue of the Month

Top 10 Virtues Posted in Window

After settling on a Virtues Theme of the Year we would select 10 virtues of the month for the school year that support the intention of the theme.


There are various ways that this was done.



Working with a Virtues Project™ Club which was  a small group of students from all grades, we’d talk about The Theme and then use dot stickers to put on a Virtues Project™ poster.  This ‘dotmocracy’ was how we would vote for which virtues we felt would be the most helpful for the theme and would help our students be successful. 


Each student would have a number of dots to vote with… 5 or 6 or 10 (you decide).

Then, the ten virtues with the highest votes because the Virtues of the Month for the year.  There would be another consultation to decide which virtues would be assigned to which month which is another opportunity to practice cooperation, collaboration and creating meaning with a purpose. 




Sometimes the Virtues Project™ Club would choose 20 virtues from the 52 on The Gifts of Character poster using the ‘dotmocracy’.  We would then make a placemat with each virtue on it.   It was a sheet of foolscap with the Virtue printed on it… we’d print it in both English and Ojibway because we are on Anishinabek Land and supporting the revitalization of the language.


We would put out the placemats with all 20 Virtues the club had chosen somewhere where all the students could vote on them.  We did this in the hall in front of the café for a few days.  When the Student Council held a ‘Fall Fair’ we’d put them as a booth among the festivities.  We would use the dot stickers and all the staff and students who came would get the same number of stickers to use to vote.  


Again, the top ten virtues selected were our virtues of the month and after further student consultation the virtues were assigned to their respective month.



Hope 24x30 Posters


Now that you have that student designed poster it’s time to share it out there!

We would use the following


  • Student made
  • 11” x 14”
  • Resolution of 300 dpi
  • Portrait Orientation
  • Theme of the Year is printed on it
  • Some sort of central image


The design was put into the correct format it was printed and laminated it was displayed and distributed.


  • School Front Doors – on both sides of the door, 2 posters back to back so that you could see the poster from the outside and from the inside.
  • outside the main office
  • inside the main office
  • outside the guidance office (student services)
  • Principal’s office
  • Vice Principals office
  • Councillors offices
  • Library
  • Cafeteria
  • Double sided poster by other entrances… we had one by the bus loop, one by the side walk entrance, one by the staff entrance.
  • Computer room


  • Every classroom
  • sometimes we created a 8.5”x10” version of the Poster for the classrooms



If I was in the school now, in 2022, I would want to do an electronic distribution of the poster as well.

  • School Website
  • Student Council Instagram account
  • Parent Facebook page


Posters and Designers

The Poster for the Theme of the Year was always created by students.  


How you engage students in creating the poster depends on what subject you are teaching or if you have a Virtues Project club running or some other resource to tap into for student creative talent. 


Creating this poster could happen in various ways, but the most essential aspect of it was that it be student created if possible.   There was never a year where I created the poster of the theme myself.  I strongly felt that student participation greatly outweighed any other aspect. You will see there was a huge range of styles and qualities of posters created through the years.


My main criteria were that the poster had to be student made, and that it be portrait orientation with the dimensions 11 inches by 17 inches. I didn’t necessarily have to like the poster. I wanted to avoid students creating one to please me in particular.  I wanted them to create something that was meaningful to them.


The second criteria was to involve as many students in the creation of posters and then engage as many students and staff as possible in choosing the poster from the selection of the year’s posters students created.  

Sometimes it was just me working with one student.

Sometimes it was many classes and then a club and group of teachers narrowing down the options to the final choice of poster.  It required practicing a lot of flexibility and being able to work with whatever situation you have while also looking to use poster making as ways to build community between the diverse people in the school by creating moments for consultation and collaboration all around choosing a poster for our theme.


Often, I would make the Virtues Theme of the Year Poster an assignment in my photography and digital arts class challenging them to create meaning using the Theme and an image.  The whole class was challenged to create a poster.  That gave me at least 25 student created posters. Sometimes the art teacher got in on the action too.  If this wasn’t possible, I would have a coop student who was working in the photography/digital arts studio with me create one or I would invite a student in my Character Development & Leadership Club to create one. 


If there were lots of posters submitted, I would take them to a panel of people to choose the favourite for the year.   The panel was often teachers and students together consulting about what poster they felt best reflected what the intention was behind the Theme or which poster best reflected the reality of our school community within that Theme.  These were rich and meaningful conversations which helped all of us dig deeper into the ideas and the virtues that they called us to. 



Common Ground Button

The idea for the Theme could come from many different places.  The source of the idea shifted and changed through the years depending on many factors.  It depended on how engaged the school staff were in the character development program as sometimes a directive from your principal or the teacher in your school brought an idea forward.  At times the idea aligned with something the Ministry of Education was promoting, or an idea our Board was championing.  Often it was an idea that was an inspiration from the students, particularly when there was a vibrant active Character Development Club.

‘Our Common Ground’ was based on a Ministry of Education of Ontario document on Character Development released in 2008. During that year the entire Board was tasked with developing defining virtues for our board. The student leaders working with me at the high school were able to create an event that trained all the other schools to collaboratively choose the virtues they felt students needed. Each high school with its family of elementary schools did this and then all of those virtues were clustered together.  It was from them that the Board choose the top 10 virtues that represented all of us in the Board.


‘I see the world with…’ was a student’s inspiration and the poster was created by another student.  It was her inspiration to create t-shirts with ‘I see the world with…’ on the front and then have a virtue of your choice printed on the back which was awesome because it allowed students to print those virtues in English, French or Anishnaebek (The Language of the First Nations peoples who attended the school), which allowed for some language revitalization work.


‘Right Here, Right Now’ was a favourite phrase of a principal new to the high school who wanted to affect change for the better and called all the students to focus on the present moment.


When the program was just developing, often the idea for the theme just came from myself as I looked at what was happening in the school community at the moment.  The theme often answers the question; ‘what is it about now?’   ‘What do we need right now?’


The theme needs to be situated in the context of your school community and what that community is experiencing as a whole at that moment.  The theme always seeks to consider what the students need within that context to be successful at high school.  As much as possible the Virtues Project™ theme of the year is a collaborative decision when that’s not possible, take the lead and go with your intuition. 



10 Years of Virtue Of The Month

10 Years of Virtue Of The Month

By mid-August, after one last camping trip, I would allow my thoughts to turn to the next school year. The first item to deal with was the Theme of the Year.


It’s really important to decide what theme the Virtue of the Month Initiative would be based on.  All the activities were centered on this. The theme should be a broad idea so it can be inspiring but simple enough so that a lot of people can connect to it.  Throughout the activities of the year, we would strive to make it meaningful to us.


Meaningful. Inspirational. Relatable. 


The theme for the year was often picked in late May or June so you could come into September ready to move forward with The Virtues of the Month initiative but if that didn’t happen, pick it now!


We had many Themes through the years for example:


Unity in Diversity,


Our Common Ground,

I see the world with…,






We are…,

Right Here!, Right Now!,

Re… (renew, revise, etc),

and to name a few.