“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.”
-Carol Dweck, MINDSETS
When students think about themselves and their capabilities in our schools, outside of grades, what intentional practices do we provide for ALL young people to think about who they are in addition to what they do? This self-inquiry is crucial in the development of self-awareness. This self-inquiry should not be relegated to rushed and too often contrived checkbox activities. Schools spend a reasonable amount of time and energy crafting mission statements about the importance of strong academics and strong character. There is a shortage of direct professional learning opportunities for character strength work. A survey of local educators revealed most professional learning consists of problem-focused presentations from consultants, and these are important topics but the disproportionate amount of time we spend on things that can go wrong during adolescence is troubling. Character Strengths are expressed academically and socially - importantly, they are strengths that can be cultivated. Imagine young people adopting a broader view of their potential and the potential of others.
I believe that there is an urgent need for a school-wide adoption of a strengths-based common language that reveals what is best in all us. Would giving our students a common language help them to strengthen their narratives? VIA is the first nomenclature to describe and measure positive traits. Published for use in the early 2000s by Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson VIA is a positive template for thinking about and working with others. VIA refers to 3 things; the non-profit Ohio-based organization, the 24 character strengths and six virtues framework and the tool used to assess a unique personality profile. VIA is a free psychometrically valid tool with immediate rank-order results. I believe that introducing VIA in our secondary schools will revitalize the stories students tell themselves about who they are and fortify their perceptions of their unique capabilities. Learning about the potentiality and dimensionality of character strengths within all of us may unwittingly reduce the effects of social comparison and social exclusion.
The VIA framework allows us to dissociate from the centuries-old belief that character is immutable and unchanging. Adopting a flexible mindset about character imbues hope.
With zest and gratitude, Tammy Darling
Be a Strengths Spotter and Cultivate Positive School Culture