I feel certain that over the past few weeks most of us took a deep breath and asked for strength to manage the current challenge facing us on so many fronts.
When we dig deep and sit in our quiet moments we come to the realisation that strength will not come from an external source but rather from within, whether we are a child or adult, we all have it. We just need to understand it and learn how to use it.
On Thursday and Friday, the leadership, parents, educators and Year 6 students all interacted with Professor Lea Waters and discovered the benefit of living our lives by choosing to embrace what is good or working well in our lives, in combination with spotting strengths in ourselves and the people that surround us, and using them effectively. This serves to create the most fertile ground from which we grow our people and our personal and general practices.
If we don’t feel good we can’t “do good” or function effectively, so Professor Lea Waters stressed the importance of Visible Well Being, which enables students to share how they feel on a daily basis and also allows the adults and educators to respond to them appropriately in order to grow their wellbeing. This is done either at home or at school by simply placing a marker (such as a paper emoji) on a shared family or class emotional or wellbeing barometer, to let others know how you are feeling so they can help to improve your wellbeing and you can indeed “do good”.
The Character Lab
Many of my recent conversations with our students have been about likening Moriah College to the Character Laboratory that Angela Duckworth uses. Her Character Lab identifies 13 Character Strengths, which provide a lens for students to view themselves through in order to identify those aspects of self which are natural, energising and affirming for them to use. By asking a series of pulse questions about their own actions, students quickly identify two or three strengths that are most evident in themselves.
By identifying their personal strengths, students celebrate their own success and feed off this positive acknowledgment. They frequently live up to the strength that is recognised, and they grow towards the best version of themselves as they minimise their challenges and maximise their successes. The Gallup Organisation alerts us to the sense of helplessness in children as they progress through the schooling system. The above strength-spotting technique turns up the volume on the positive qualities children have and inspires hope in young people. It is this model of positive psychology that gives the strength that we so often need, as by viewing humans and the world through such a lens, we strengthen what is right with our students.
In the junior years, we are growing our students’ strengths introducing them to “Superflex and the Team of Unthinkables”. Superflex, our hero, is flexible and a great problem solver who can think of many solutions to one problem. One Sided Sid, however, only talks about his own plans and interests, while Brain Eater gets easily distracted by things around him. Students will learn about another 12 characters and aspire to “Superflex” powers. The Moriah Family most certainly has the resources and knowledge to navigate the next few months as our students, educators and parents combine on a single platform utilising their individual strengths for collective triumph.
The adjunct of Moriah College’s Visible Wellbeing Programme to our cultivation of Visible Thinking and Learning translates into five actions, which will be evidenced in our Primary School student leadership team this year.
- Every student leader can name his/her unique strength, which is of value to the team members, who have a collective role as junior leaders in ensuring their school is a happy good place for all their peers.
- The students have the language to share how they feel and how they receive experiences in their world in order to make their wellbeing visible so that in the event of feeling helpless, negative or disempowered, options and opportunities to climb out from the lower points in the learning pit of life can be offered.
- All students increase their sense of their own agency and have a pathway through which to map their actions to effect change and make their world a happier place filled with promise and shared purpose.
- Students interpret their world through a consistent, meaningful lens and the adults in their lives have a framework for communicating with them that builds their hopes and dismantles their despair.
- Students interact with their younger peers, their educators and the broader community with an awareness of their own pragmatics and impact. Increased responsibility and response-ability is evident as they take their small steps to contribute positively to their Moriah College Community.
Professor Lea Waters shared the benefit of Strength-Based parenting with our parent body and revealed how, by focussing on the strengths of our children, we gift them the knowledge of what they are good at for their further augmentation. This is described in her book The Strength Switch, inspiring us to be the best version of ourselves and bring out the best in our children. This also opens the opportunity for parents to use a parallel context of the Character Lab Strengths to review what is happening at home, at school or in the world and to review character strengths or dispositions that could assist to overcome the challenges we face. When our outstanding qualities are firmly planted in our vision, we are most certainly better positioned to consider the need to improve those aspects of self which need attention in our review mirror.
Currently it is clear that the strengths of Emotional Intelligence (how we read ourselves), Social Intelligence (how we interact with friends, family and colleagues) and Self-Control (doing what’s best in the long-run despite short-term temptation) are priorities across all households, which could move into a more isolated context. In such a situation, parents need to check in on how they themselves are feeling, and before launching into lengthy explanations of Coronavirus, understand how their children have understood COVID-19 and how they are feeling on a day to day basis. This ensures purposeful, helpful conversations that inform children honestly and answer questions without alarming and scaring. Additionally, the strength to exercise self-control is needed to run the daily routines and practices that keep children feeling like they still belong and matter to their beloved school community and are still anchored in the normal practice of daily life. Similarly, conversations around aspects such as hand washing need to also include an element of fun and competition to maintain the playful and fun-filled element that is so critical for child wellbeing. Moriah Primary School students are currently competing with class songs with hand washing moves to ensure they have fun and keep healthy and win a competition, all at the same time. Above all, a sense of humour goes a long way and laughter helps to alleviate any stress and we see this in every conversation, chat group and human interaction.
The power of mindfulness should not be underestimated and we educate both the adults and the students in our world to be aware of how they are feeling at each point in time and provide them with strategies to calm themselves down (regulation) and interact positively with others. The Smiling Mind app is an excellent resource used in all classrooms and can easily be used in the home context and modified to the age and stage of family members.
Strength is indeed at hand if we take time to recognise our own special qualities and use those in our families and extended professional and personal communities to nurture and effect positive pathways forward. As we all reconfigure our social interaction, whether it is through social distancing, quarantining or reimagining how we learn, work, or play as a group of humans, the most useful frameworks and language patterns are those which identify effective ways of interacting with one another to overcome challenges and socialise well.
The Moriah Family most certainly has the resources and knowledge to navigate the next few months as our students, educators and parents combine on a single platform utilising their individual strengths for collective triumph. The importance of respect, kindness and generosity towards one another needs to be at the forefront of our consciousness at all times along with the awareness that we belong to a caring, supportive Moriah Family, for now and for always.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lynda Fisher is the Head of Primary School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.