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Human Potential is Limitless

Human Potential is Limitless. We know this to be true. We know it because we feel a surge of adrenaline that covers our bodies in goosebumps when watching humans attempt the seemingly impossible. We root for the underdog because we know what it feels like to be a David up against a Goliath, and, when we prevail, we get a nice ride along the dopamine superhighway–and it feels good. What if you never felt those goosebumps or that dopamine surge? What if it were easier to wear off the jagged edges of high expectations for yourself and live safely? What if experience told you that it made more sense to hide than to proclaim: This is me! This is me, and I am trying! 

What fosters this sense of agency and positive learning identity that allows for such emphatic proclamations? At the core, it is the relationship that teachers have with their students. When students don’t just feel but have evidence of being known and valued they feel safe, and safety is the nutrient-rich soil from which all robust and healthy growth emerges. As with any relationship, interactions have to be rooted in true interest and concern and they have to be reciprocal–human being to human being, rather than keeper of knowledge to seeker of knowledge. 

Years ago, when I was a teacher in a Title 1 school in Los Angeles, my go-to strategy was Shared Inquiry. What I discovered was that my role wasn’t to guide my students to achieve a particular understanding of a text, but to grow their curiosity through my authentic curiosity about their perspective. I would encourage them to share where their ideas had come from and to say more, delve more deeply. With each inquiry, a student’s confidence would grow. It was magic, and it was so simple: All I had to do was make the time to ask. Not so easy though, right?

So much is expected of our educators today because we know so much more about everything from neuroscience to the long-term effects of trauma. Each child brings a range of experiences to the classroom. What can teachers do when they carry large rosters or serve students with wildly varying needs? Consider for a moment Dr. Edith Eger’s question: “How do you spell love?” It’s a four-letter word, she reminds us. Ready? “It’s spelled t-i-m-e,” she says. How do teachers find time in a day that requires so much of them? With the 1,500 decisions that teachers make a day, where do they find the time to authentically inquire, build meaningful relationships, and engender trust? 

Teachers, by the very nature of their work, have become models of efficiency. Watch your colleagues standing at the physical or virtual door, taking the time to look in each person’s eyes and welcome them. Teachers who use collaboration interfaces like Thrively might note how a group member brought a new idea to the team. “Something Miguel said yesterday inspired me to share this article with your group.” Or, “I was curious about an idea that Jazmine shared and I wanted to ask the group to explore that today.” These interactions only take a moment, but they are evidence of care, concern and genuine interest, which are all essential elements of trust. 

A culture of trust provides a solid foundation upon which all learning is built. Imagine a space where a student knows that she can be vulnerable, make wild hypotheses, color outside the lines figuratively and literally, push boundaries, feel those goosebumps that attend exploring the unknown, feel her pulse quicken, and get the dopamine surge that comes when her curiosity is encouraged. 

We can create a place of limitless possibility when we make the time ignite our own sense of wonderment and awe about the humans sitting right in front of us. What are their strengths, what are their dreams and aspirations, what makes them laugh, what makes them think? Everyone deserves to feel the excitement of discovery and who better to build that launch pad than a trusted teacher?


Jane Patterson – Senior Vice President, Customer Success, Thrively

I am a first-generation college graduate. Reared by self-educated intellectuals and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” entrepreneurs, I have learned that intrinsic motivation is the key to personal fulfillment. What motivates us? What inspires us? What piques our curiosity? What moves us? I attribute my success in life to my mother and my 4th and 5th-grade teacher, Gene Howard. Mr. Howard knew that social-emotional growth underpinned current and future success. He encouraged me, saw the best in me, and was the person I could rely upon in turbulent times. Gene Howard would be proud—but not surprised—that a girl from challenging circumstances earned her undergraduate degree and doctorate from UCLA and joined Thrively to spread this message: Every child enters the world full of promise and brings their intrinsic strengths to the conversation. I join Thrively with gratitude and a clear vision of what is possible for our young people and for our collective future.

Incorporate SEL and interests to develop the whole child

The National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) explains SEL as “a wide range of skills, attitudes, and behaviors that can affect a student’s success in school and life.” NCSL goes on to say, “critical thinking, managing emotions, working through conflicts, decision making, and teamwork—all of these are the kind of skills that are not necessarily measured by tests but which round out a student’s education and impact his/her academic success, employ-ability, self-esteem, relationships, as well as civic and community engagement.”

In short, SEL is the skill set that teaches children to be productive members of society.  Most teachers can easily list a set of traits or qualities that they hope to see their students exhibit.  These include qualities such as independent thinking, self motivated, inquisitive and persistent.  Thrively takes these skills even further and combines them with students’ interest and strengths to encourage the student’s whole self development.

Finally, teachers have a method to actually teach these desired skills sets in a way that motivates students to learn and achieve them.

What does the research say?

Thrively is backed by lots of science and research. It utilizes several assessments in order to compile a profile and design an individualized instructional path for each student.  The assessments include the THOMAS and MIDAS, in conjunction with their own independently developed Strength Assessment.

The THOMAS assessment is based on the Habits of Mind, which is part of the previously mentioned science and research. The Habits of Mind are an identified set of 16 problem solving, life-related skills, necessary to effectively operate in society and promote strategic reasoning, insightfulness, perseverance, creativity and craftsmanship. The understanding and application of these 16 Habits of Mind serve to provide the individual with skills to work through real-life situations that equip that person to respond using awareness (cues), thought, and intentional strategy in order to gain a positive outcome.

The THOMAS Assessment builds a personality profile of the test taker and combines the 16 Habits of Mind into four main traits, Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance.  These traits are known as the DISC personality types.

Alicia Verweij has written an in-depth article; read more https://www.edgeucating.com/help-students-thrive-with

Students Advocate for Authentic Learning

As he planned instruction for his high school English classes, Scott Reindl asked himself, “How is this going to help my students prepare for life beyond my classroom? Will they be able to think critically and collaborate effectively? Will my students be able to differentiate themselves in cover letters, resumes, and interviews? Ultimately, that is what we’re doing; we’re giving students the internal resources to navigate the world on their terms,” explained Reindl. Now, as the Program Administrator for Career Education, Reindl brings the pursuit of student voice, empowerment, and agency to 30,000 students in the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD).

The most resounding demonstration of student voice and agency is political action. In 2013, 200 high school students–with 5,000 petitions in hand–went to Anaheim City Hall to appeal for change. They wanted an education that would lay a foundation for a future of their choosing, an education that would capitalize on the resources in their own community to advance their aspirations. Students whose career goals ranged from future naval office to business leader responded to the question: “Does education serve us, or do we serve education?”

“I feel that right now, we are serving education and that’s not the way it should be,” shared aspiring Naval officer, Fabiana Munoz. “Give me the tools I need to succeed in life. Show me how to get to college, pick a career, and come back and contribute to my community,” added aspiring future Anaheim Police Chief, Abel Ardiaz.

Following the student-citizens’ impassioned and articulate pleas for change, Anaheim Mayor, Tom Tait and Anaheim Superintendent, Michael Matsuda partnered with the California State University, Fullerton’s GEAR UP program to launch a model public-private partnership to advance both the needs of young learners and the workforce. Together, they created Anaheim’s Innovative Mentoring Experience (AIME), and since its inception, they’ve created over 9,000 mentoring and internship experiences for students. Funding sponsors the United Way of Orange County and the Disneyland Resort, along with others, have joined the effort and have allowed the program to expand this premiere mentoring and internship program to AUHSD students. In what is surely a model for the nation, AUHSD has transformed their district into a launchpad for a future full of promise and possibility.

Thrively was the right fit for what we’re trying to achieve. All of our students are now taking the Thrively Strengths Assessment, and we’re working together to create virtual work-based learning experiences, or what Thrively calls Business Connections projects, so that every learner in our district has the opportunity to experience real-world problem solving,” explained Reindl.

AUHSD’s commitment to authentic learning is gaining both momentum and attention. This year, Reindl and his team won the prestigious ePrize grant, offered by Chapman University’s Attallah College of Educational Studies, in partnership with the CEO Leadership Alliance of Orange County, which recognized the district’s efforts to prepare the next generation of students for high-growth sectors in the region. Thrively is thrilled to support the successful implementation of this critical work.

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