Character Improvement: Not Just for Our Students

Linda Bisarek · February 26, 2019



I listened to a sermon from a pastor once that assured all of us we should each be prepared for our storms. Life, he said, is not a smooth ride. He encouraged us to set our foundations strong, so when our storms came, we would have what we needed to weather them.

Our storm hit this past fall. Our 13-year-old daughter has always suffered from bouts of anxiety. She’d been seeing a local counselor regularly and had a few tools to deal with her occasional anxiety. My husband and I assumed this was enough. For reasons we still do not know, in October the wheels fell off the bus. Her anxiety and flight response became so strong that she struggled to stay in her classes.  She stopped interacting with her friends. She couldn’t make it through a sports practice. Curt and I both work in the same building where our daughter goes to school, so she would constantly seek us out. It was a daily struggle for any of us to get anything accomplished at school. Eventually, Kyra was diagnosed with OCD and after our first session with a therapist who specializes in the disorder, we were told that she needed a “higher level of care”. Kyra entered a program over two hours from our home in early December. She participates in intensive Cognitive Behavioral Therapy from 8:00am-2:30pm every day Monday-Friday, then has daily homework and exposures assigned to her after hours. She falls into bed at night mentally exhausted from retraining her brain. Curt and I take turns spending the week with her. During the week, we stay at the Ronald McDonald House.


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What a lesson in character this all has become. I teach servant leadership at my school using the CharacterStrong curriculum and I try my best to walk my talk. This storm has shown me that no matter the strength of your character, there is always more work to do. I have seen kindness in strangers at the Ronald McDonald house beyond what I ever could have imagined. Staying there has given me perspective and a level of humility I didn’t think was possible. I have learned to not judge others’ pain and suffering, especially in those whose struggle cannot be seen from the outside. The patience my husband has shown in making Kyra our number one priority has made me fall in love with him all over again. I have been forced into a level of selflessness I never would have chosen and I am a better person for it. My daughter has taught me that commitment pays off. Yesterday, we found out there is a discharge date scheduled within the next two weeks. The list of lessons goes on and on.

The winds are calming and the waters are not as rough these days.  The air feels lighter today and we can sense this storm is nearing its end. But there will be others. And we will be ready. I’m hopeful for the future and the lessons I will learn. I know that constantly working to improve my character will always serve me well no matter what the weather brings.

Character Dares:

  • Think of someone you know who is in the midst of a "storm." A text asking how things are going or simply saying you’re thinking of them can be really powerful. A handwritten note would be level two. A home-cooked meal is level three if you are close by and can help in that way!

  • Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel says, "Every tragedy is unique, just as every human is unique. When a person loses someone dear to her, who am I to say that my tragedy was greater? I have no right. For that person, her tragedy is the greatest in the world—and she is right in thinking so."  Take a moment to honor your storm today. Release yourself from the comparison game of whether or not your stormy weather is worse than someone else’s stormy weather. Do one thing today that you need to restore some energy or kindness in your life - exercise, meditate, watch a favorite movie, or reach out to a friend for support.


Linda Bisarek

Linda Bisarek has an English degree from Ripon College and has taught at almost every level K-12 over the last 20+ years in a variety of areas and schools. She and her husband enjoy spending time with their two kids and all the activities they are in. She has called Wisconsin home all her life, but enjoys traveling around the country with her family. Education, students, and school have been the conversation of her life and she is thrilled to be a part of the CharacterStrong team.