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Celebrating Strengths - Building Character and Enjoying Learning

Our second in a series of guest blog spots from Jenny Fox Eades, developer of ‘Celebrating Strengths‘ – a whole school approach for promoting mindfulness, well-being and creativity in both staff and students. Jenny is also the author of Celebrating Strengths, Classroom Tales and Strengths Gym - a PSHE programme for secondary schools based on the VIA strengths.

Posted on Monday 10th February 2014

Good things take time to grow: Putting Patience and Teamwork into practice…

A few weeks ago I visited  a large, vibrant, multicultural primary school in Ilford, East London and it’s a privilege to be working with them. They heard of my work through a catalogue of strengths resources and they followed that up by watching a video on You Tube of a conversation I had a few years ago with the VIA institute. Then, I am delighted to say, they invited me to visit!…

The first arranged visit at the school, encompassed creating a strengths project together with a view to building the confidence of pupils and embedding a strengths approach deep in the life of the school. Crucially, during my time there, it was decided that staff needed to think about strengths first and get to know their own better – before we introduced them to the children. It was great to meet a head teacher who said they didn’t want to rush things because if something is going to be good, it will take time to develop!

Character strengths

The second visit involved introducing the whole staff to the idea of using the strengths as a tool for planning the term ahead. They were asked to work in their phase teams to decide on five key strengths to focus on for themselves in the coming term. One team, which shall be nameless – but they know who they are – tried to persuade me to let them choose ten key strengths for the term – sadly, I said NO! (partly because I am mean) but because of the ‘power of limitation’. Limiting your choice to 5 means you have to think hard and deeply about what matters to you…

I’m not sure if they ever DID reach a final decision on their key 5 strengths for the term – it is possible they may still be talking about it when term ends!

I then visited at the beginning of February last week. This was a chance to catch up on stories and developments (I will tell you more about them in my next instalment of this blog) and partly to introduce a key teaching technique, to use throughout the project. This technique is sometimes called ‘philosophy for children’ but, as it’s not actually for children, it’s for any age at all, I prefer to call it ‘philosophical enquiry’.

I would usually spend at least one day introducing this process to a staff group. In the current economic climate, we had one hour! The staff, especially the younger ones, understandably looked a little overwhelmed by the end of a rather packed hour. However, as the head wisely pointed out, we are not rushing this project, because good things (deep things) take time to grow.

So, over the months ahead we will learn to conduct philosophical enquiries about love, hope, wisdom and courage ….together!

Jenny.

Click here to read the first of Jenny’s guest blogs – Celebrating Strengths: a tried and tested approach.