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Finding Hidden Strengths & Passion!

Finding Hidden Strengths & Passion!

To use the word “hidden” may not be quite accurate because often, strengths are hidden by lack of opportunity to display them. Too often, when students are in school, they are not looked at in terms of their strengths; rather, there is a focus on remediating their deficits. This is rarely a source of inspiration for anyone. What ends up happening is that kids’ strengths and passions are either hidden from their educators or worse, they become hidden from themselves because they do not get encouraged.

So what can educators do? First, have all your students tell you about their hobbies or other things they really like to do or are very good at. You can do that in a homeroom or advisory, or you can work it into a language arts or other assignment. Typically, their classmates also are unaware of their assets.

Thrively helps educators to better know their student’s Strengths. For the kids who have no idea about their strengths and also to discover hidden strengths of all the other kids, have them take the Thrively Strength Assessment. There is benefit to having everyone go around and share their undiscovered strengths with classmates.

Second, ask students to talk about times when they found out something surprising and good about someone else. Ideally, this would make a wonderful topic for an essay or short story or even an art-related assignment. From these examples, help students reflect on things about themselves that classmates or teachers might find surprising and impressive.

Third, have students talk to their parents or guardians about their “hidden talents”. Help them develop a short story to find out about hobbies or aspirations that they may have pursued at one time and then had to give up.

More About Thrively

Thrively helps educators to better know their students, attend to their well-being, instill hope, and teach essential life skills. At Thrively, we believe that Every child has a genius and deserves to thrive.

Ways to encourage positive mental health habits and practices to boost Student Well-Being

It can be very difficult for young people to navigate their way through the world. They need to learn how to deal with big feelings and new emotions, all while trying to make friends, experience new learning environments and manage their self image as their bodies and hormones change at a rapid rate. While many students are generally happy and feel secure within themselves, there is a growing number of students experiencing poor mental health.

Children who experience poor mental health are more likely to act out in the classroom, especially if they haven’t been taught how to regulate their emotions. It can also lead to poor learning outcomes. Students who have low mental health are more likely to have more absences at school, including some who become school refusers entirely.

Ways to to support positive mental health in your classroom
1. Incorporate Mindfulness

Incorporating mindfulness as a daily exercise in the classroom can be a fantastic way to improve mental health in your students. Some mindful activities include meditation, journaling and practicing gratitude.

For meditation you can easily find short 10-minute YouTube videos that will take your students through some breathing activities. Or, you can run it yourself. Simply play gentle, instrumental music, ask your students to sit or lay down on the floor, and instruct them to relax their bodies. Finally instruct their breathing. Tell them to take a deep breath in for 5 seconds, hold that breath for 3 seconds, and release it for 5 seconds. Repeat 3 times.

For journaling, give your students some prompts and allow 5 minutes of quiet writing. Some journaling prompts may include: taking your students outside and asking them to use their different senses to write what they see, hear and smell in the environment; asking them to recall a time when they felt happy/angry/sad/excited and to write how their minds and bodies reacted to that emotion; asking your students to note down how they would like to be treated by others and then list how to manage the situation if their peers do not treat them right.

Gratitude should be shared with others and it could simply be writing a note to someone in their lives explaining why they appreciate that special person. It could also be asking your class to write a positive sentence about another class member or two, and giving the note to that peer. If you do the second activity, ensure you sort out the class so that every student receives the same number of positive compliments.

2. Teach what mental health is

Students are often not aware that we all have mental health. So they may not have the language to describe their feelings, or the awareness to identify when they’re feeling great, terrible or something in between.

That’s why it’s so important to teach your class about mental health is. Explain that much like we all have physical health, we also have mental health.

This can be a series of ongoing lessons in addressing students’ needs. The lessons may include:

  • What is mental health? How can we look after it?
  • What habits can we start to use on a daily basis that may make us more resilient?
  • Where do you feel big and uncomfortable emotions in your body?
  • Where do you feel positive emotions in your body?
  • Why do you think knowing about our character strengths can help us to flourish?
3. Create a calm environment 

If keeping the environment calm is important in the household, it is just as important in the classroom. Aim to keep your classroom as clutter free as possible, with little distractions. Yes, decorations and educational posters are beautiful for the classroom environment, however, try to keep them neutral in color or in a similar color palette. Too many conflicting colors and too much clutter may make the space overwhelming for some students.

Another benefit of reducing classroom clutter, is that it is easier to clean and less mess ends up on the floor.

4. Build connections between students

Most likely, ‘getting to know you’ activities are reserved for only the first day of the year. Students have insignificant time to get to know their peers as a person before going straight into curriculum and work. When students don’t know each other well, they often form groups with a few others and don’t support others. 

Rather than reserving these activities for only the first day, keep doing them throughout the year. You could spend 5 minutes a week playing a game that allows them to really get to know each other. Keep supporting your students in connecting with their peers. It is very common for students to be in the same class for years and not know that they actually have lots of shared interest. When students find a common ground, they understand more about each other and are less likely to bully each other.

Here is a list of ice breaker activities you can try in your classroom today.

If you use these tips, you will likely find more communication from your students and you may be able to act more efficiently when you see issues with mental health. These tips are great for individual classrooms, but a whole school well-being culture is even better so students will have consistency in their wellbeing support throughout their whole school experience. 

That’s where a whole-child approach like Thrively can help.

More About Thrively

Thrively helps educators to better know their students, attend to their well-being, instill hope, and teach essential life skills. At Thrively, we believe that Every child has a genius and deserves to thrive.

Why It’s Easy To Ignore Something Proven to Create 30 Times More Engagement

Why It’s Easy To Ignore Something Proven to Create 30 Times More Engagement

by Paul Haluszczak

Have you ever noticed how often education conversations are about what’s wrong rather than what’s strong with our learning communities?

Local and national headlines fill our social media and email feeds with apocalyptic warnings like:

  • “Learning loss will be a lasting legacy of COVID safetyism”
  • “Record levels of teacher burnout and resignations”
  • “Stress and short tempers: Schools struggle with behavior as students return”

What if we changed the conversation and took stock of what drives academic achievement and student well-being?

Research shows that learners are 30 times more engaged when they feel known and they have a teacher who makes them excited about the future.

Simply put, knowing our learners is a force multiplier—a factor or a combination of factors that gives us the ability to accomplish greater feats than without it.

When we see something that powerful, “30 times more engaged,” it begs the question: Why wouldn’t knowing our learners and getting them excited about the future be our number one priority in our learning communities?

The answer is rather simple. The upfront investment required to create an environment where knowing our learners is prioritized over things like test scores, content delivery, and behavioral compliance is large.

Knowing our learners is not a prioritized or even stated outcome of the conventional education system’s design. In fact, knowing our learners is antithetical to the system’s design given it’s one-size-fits-all credo.

The moment we begin learning a little more about each learner in our communities is the moment we learn that the conventional system’s design is actively working to limit the success of every child.

Let’s look at a simple example.

Bobbi is 10 years old and just shared that she attended a sailboat race with her mother over the weekend. She was fascinated by the design of the sailboats, the teamwork required to maximize the boat’s speed, and the strategic conversations happening all around her by other onlookers.

Her excitement is undeniable. How will this excitement be translated into her learning experiences this week?

In a conventional learning environment, the excitement will quickly deteriorate in the face of rigid curriculum and pacing requirements. It’s great to hear Bobbi had such a good time, but it’s time for all of us to read Holes by Louis Sachar and then to learn about the asteroid belt.

It’s important to note that neither Holes nor the asteroid belt are bad things to engage with. They simply aren’t relevant to a learner who just shared her fascination about sailboat racing and therefore stumps whatever value might be contained within each of those learning experiences.

Now, let’s look at what might happen in a strengths-based learning environment that celebrates the individual interests of every learner.

In this environment, an educator can invite Bobbi to consider how becoming a strong mathematician helps sailboat racers go as fast as possible, encourage Bobbi to begin reading about sailboat racing or sailboat building, and welcome Bobbi to write a letter to a local sailboat racing team expressing her fascination and seeing if she can attend one of their training sessions.

Math, reading, writing. Sounds like foundational learning doesn’t it? It’s just wrapped in a context that is meaningful to the individual learner. And because this learner feels known and has been inspired to dive into her newfound interest, her engagement goes through the roof.

To have this type of learning be commonplace throughout an entire school or district requires a cultural shift, which can feel like an enormous undertaking if you aren’t in a position of power to get the wheels in motion.

But don’t underestimate the power of possibility. An individual teacher, by taking ownership in getting to know each of their learners and getting them excited about the future, will quickly be known as that classroom where “problem kids” aren’t problems, “quiet kids” bust out of their shells, and “bored kids” are teeming with excitement.

All it takes is one other teacher to wonder how they can make a similar impact. With two examples showcasing the value of knowing our learners, it becomes almost impossible to ignore and the dominoes will begin to fall.

Getting to know your learners is a daily commitment that can happen in formal and informal ways. To catalyze your efforts, Thrively has a free, evidence-based strengths assessment that reveals the top five strengths of every learner.

With this information at your fingertips, you will immediately have an unlimited supply of conversation starters for each and every learner. You will be able to make their strengths visible, which will inevitably make them proud of their unique identities and get them excited about how they can utilize those strengths at school and outside it.

The only question is: Are you ready to ask what’s strong with your students?

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