School Safety Moment: Smart Strengths
Wyoming Department of Education
It's extremely important to create a positive climate in the classroom to facilitate learning, especially from a teacher's perspective. Recent professional development training offered at Torrington Middle School utilized a tool that has been available since 2011 that facilitates this goal. It's a book called Smart Strengths; Building Character, Resilience, and Relationships in Youth written by John Yeager, Ed.D., Sherri Fisher, M.Ed., and David Shearon, JD. The training was conducted by one of the authors of the book and was attended by a variety of individuals, including certified, classified, and administrative staff.
The book serves as a parent-teacher-coach guide and contains practical exercises teachers can use in the classroom. It helps teachers and students find their own strengths. A strength is defined as a malleable and measurable natural ability or asset. The book is divided into two parts; finding strengths of the reader/teacher, and helping students discover the same.
The core idea is that we are more successful when we live with the mindset of cultivating and utilizing our strengths. This is backed by an enormous amount of research and has been empirically proven.
Two surveys were available for the training (one designed for youth and one for adults) to help the reader discover his/her natural core qualities. Both can be accessed and taken at www.viame.org and more information can be found at www.smartstrengths.com. The results will tell the participant what his or her five signature strengths are. Each student, regardless of family background, intelligence, or socio-economic status, has a list of top five strengths. The "have-nots" have just as many strengths as the "haves".
Why are strengths important? One reason is the degree of self-confidence students discover in themselves which translates to a higher level of thriving in school, athletics, and other areas. In addition, Tom Rath, author of Strengths Finder 2.0 (a similar strengths-finding instrument), found that most very successful individuals start with an innate major talent and later add education, practice, and skills into the mix. The natural talent serves as a multiplier.
The following 24 core character strengths were identified by a different research team than the individuals who wrote Smart Strengths -- but the survey from www.viame.org and Smart Strengths are both offshoots of this original research, called Positive Psychology. The VIA Institute on Character has done much work to scientifically measure and ultimately identify these traits. They not only cross all cultures -- they also hold true across time -- 3000 years or so of literature, philosophy, folklore, etc. These core character strengths are listed below:
- Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence (awe, wonder, elevation)
- Bravery (valor, acting on convictions even if they are unpopular)
- Citizenship (social responsibility, loyalty, teamwork)
- Creativity (originality, ingenuity)
- Curiosity (interest, novelty-seeking, openness to experience)
- Fairness (acting toward others as equals)
- Forgiveness (ability to give second chances and move on)
- Gratitude (a tendency to express appreciation and thanks)
- Hope (optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation)
- Humility (non-defensive willingness to see oneself accurately)
- Humor (seeks to inject fun and playfulness into situations)
- Integrity (authenticity, honesty, trustworthy without pretense)
- Kindness (generosity, nurturance, care, compassion)
- Leadership (good at getting a group to work together)
- Learning (excited by opportunities to gain knowledge)
- Love (values close relationships above all else, able to share emotions)
- Judgment (open-mindedness, critical thinking, evidence-based thinker)
- Persistence (perseverance, industriousness, able to finish a work)
- Perspective (wisdom, having a big-picture view of life)
- Prudence (focus on preventing bad outcomes, aware of consequences)
- Self-Regulation (self-control, disciplined, follows through on commitments)
- Social Intelligence (emotional intelligence, seeing the motivations of others)
- Spirituality (disposition to live in ways shaped by transcendent beliefs)
- Zest (vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, noticeable energy)
There will be a presentation on Smart Strengths at the September 2013 School Improvement Conference in Cheyenne by Catherine Deahl. Torrington Middle School plans to implement the training this fall. In addition, teachers from other Goshen County schools are also looking at incorporating some of the training into their work. The target outcomes from this application will be improved relationships, increased learning & engagement, increased measurable student achievement, fewer discipline issues, and reduced bullying.
For those who see great challenges facing our country, it may be wise to help students maximize their ability to contribute to their world. Contributions are made from positions of strength. As an educational community, we may be able to do more to help students find theirs.
For questions or comments, feel free to contact Bruce Hayes, at 307-777-6198 or email@example.com. One can also contact Catherine Deahl, at 307-532-7014 or CDeahl@goshen1.org.