Character Education - Academics - McDonogh School

Character Education

A Force for Good

McDonogh School embraces its mission “to provide life-altering opportunities and to develop in students the ‘will to do the greatest possible amount of good.’” The school is committed to graduating young people of strong character who are prepared to face the future and be a force for good in the world. In order to precisely articulate the values that define strong character, members of the faculty and administration created the McDonogh Character Compass in 2009. The Compass, which hangs in every PK-12 classroom, provides a shared sense of direction for every child and adult who is part of the McDonogh community. 

Character Compass

McDonogh's Character Compass is a symbol of the school's character education effort. At the center of the compass is the principle of service. School founder John McDonogh epitomized service when he set up the mechanism to create a school for underprivileged boys, regardless of race, religion, or background. That spirit sustained the evolution of McDonogh during its military school era and is well articulated in the line from the traditional poem, The McDonogh Uniform: We give something more than we take.

The core virtues of respect, responsibility, honesty, and kindness comprise the four compass points. They are guiding principles for the daily actions of members of the school community. These four values are emphasized in the daily interactions among the people in our community. Across grade levels, teachers and coaches proactively build learning environments that lead to positive behavior and explicitly teach students to interact in constructive ways.

The Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools have division-specific guidelines for behavior, but all guidelines align with the Compass values. In the Lower School, the LifeReady Character Program not only teaches students about values, but it also shows them how to apply and practice those values in their everyday lives. Middle School students and parents are asked to sign an honor pledge annually that states students will tell the truth in all situations, present work that is truly their own, ask permission before handling or using another’s property, recognize that each person has a unique value, and treat each person with respect and care. The Upper School has an Honor Code that directly states “I will not lie, cheat, or steal. I will respect the rights and well-being of myself and others.”

At McDonogh, the faculty, staff, and administration are dedicated to educating both the minds and hearts of students. Our goal is to graduate young men and women who have both the knowledge and skill sets needed to succeed in college and beyond, but also the strength of character necessary to make the world a better place.

We give something more than we take.

- Eustace S. Glacock 1879, "The McDonogh Uniform"


At the center of the Compass and at the heart of our character development effort is the principle of service. At every grade level, teachers discuss and plan meaningful, age-appropriate ways to teach students the value of service.  By actively engaging in service-related activities, students experience the intrinsic rewards that come from assisting those in need.

Throughout the school year, there are countless opportunities for students to participate in service, whether individually or as a class, grade, division, or full school.