For educators, the thought of their short summer break coming to a close and returning to their empty classrooms can feel overwhelming. Creating a classroom environment and planning lessons is a lot. It can look like 30+ students with varying interests, abilities, and energy levels, parading through the door. With the administration and the district sometimes setting unrealistic expectations, it’s easy to give way to negative thoughts. 

Perhaps a mindset shift is needed to set your classroom up for success. Have you considered seeing your students and their behaviors from the perspective of their strengths—who they really are at their best? 

As teachers, we know that every student has strengths, they are each unique humans. Building off students’ Character Strengths is a great way to recognize individual strengths while achieving classroom unity. 

Humans have a biological need to be seen and appreciated for who we are at our core. The Values in Action (VIA) survey identifies your capacity to exhibit each of the 24 Character Strengths (kindness, bravery, creativity, etc.). The Character Strengths you demonstrate more of or more often are known as your Signature Strengths. 

Strength Spotting is the Positive Psychology skill of noticing, describing, and appreciating the Character Strengths in yourself and those around you. It encourages you to see people as an orchestra of strengths. Strength Spotting provides an alternative to our behavior of focusing on people’s deficits.

Identify my Character Strengths→ Find my Signature Strengths (top strengths) → Strength Spotting (notice and celebrate others’ strengths) 

The way we do school in the United States can easily slip into the negative. How many did you get wrong on the test? What are your goals for improvement in math? Fix the grammatical errors in your essay. Of course, students need to know what they missed. But what if we helped students discover what was RIGHT with them, too?

The same goes for educators. Lesson observations are stressful, and the focus is on what you could improve and how to implement additional interventions or procedures and techniques. What if your administrator also told you what you were doing right based on your Character Strengths? Wouldn’t you feel seen? 

When strengths are known and celebrated, people experience greater happiness, higher levels of positive work experiences, less stress and reduced anxiety, increased intrinsic motivation and engagement, and enhanced wellbeing and life satisfaction—the science is positively proven!

Here’s how you might Strength Spot in your Classroom: 

Zest: “Student X is highly enthusiastic and energetic. This strength can be seen in the speed with which to do things, their willingness to run errands for the teacher, and their excitement during body/brain breaks.” 

Humor: “Student X is hilarious and playful. This strength can be seen in how they are quick to laugh when the teacher makes a joke, their ability to draw attention to themselves and make others laugh, and their authentic joy in playing games in the classroom.”

These strengths can flourish if allowed the appropriate context and teaching. Let’s help students identify and use their strengths!

Student X values fairness, label it a strength in fairness versus defiance. Student Y isn’t the class clown, they have humor as a Character Strength. Student Z asks so many questions, let their curiosity shine—the conversation could evolve into something wonderful! How can we appreciate the perfectionist whose strength could be Appreciating Beauty & Excellence? 

As you enter your empty classroom after six short weeks away, know that you are enough, and trying to understand the kids for their Character Strengths could make your classroom a more positive place and set the tone for the rest of the school year. 

Wishing you and the kids a flourishing school year,

Proof Positive

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