Applying Strengths and Showing Empathy

This past week, we had our first committee meeting! These committees are an opportunity to draw upon our skills and bring them to our profession.  Can you imagine how empowered every learner on campus would be if we all worked together to take advantage of this opportunity? As educators, we have the chance to make such a positive impact on the future of our students. I was reflecting over this past week and thinking about everything that we can do when we work together and when we come from a place of empathy. How powerful would it be if each teacher could apply their outside strengths to something within the school? How powerful would it be if we were able to demonstrate empathy throughout the day?

At Feaster Charter, learners have a unique opportunity to have voice and choice in what we teach and what impact we will have on our school. This opportunity comes in the form of electives and committees. Electives allow teachers to bring their interests in STEM and/or VAPA to create a class that showcases their personal strengths. For example, teachers with an interest in fitness can teach a VAPA class that incorporates fitness and dance – this is especially helpful if the teacher has a strength in something like “woo”. Our teacher chosen committees allow teachers to show their strengths and interests by supporting the whole school. These committees bring teachers together from all grade levels which is a great opportunity to connect and apply our strengths in a group setting. In addition, each committee has the opportunity to bring about a product or a project that positively impacts the entire school.

Committees:

Every teacher on campus has the option of which committee they will join. Together, with our committees, we can have a positive impact on Feaster and our community.

  • Dual Immersion – have input on how this program is developing and growing at Feaster
  • AVID – review and gather strategies that help our students develop academic and social skills
  • Parent Involvement – bring our community into the forefront and organize events that will interest our families
  • Social Committee – bring our staff together to celebrate upcoming events and show support when needed
  • Yearbook – work with all teachers to gather pictures and celebrate the events that take place over the school year
  • Building Relationships – help develop school wide practices that will positively impact all learners
  • Student Motivation – plan events that will celebrate the success of all learners and help make learning a positive experience for all of our students

Electives:

Every year, our teachers have the opportunity to choose a VAPA, STEM, or STEAM elective to teach.

  • VAPA
    • Our VAPA electives offer our teachers the chance to apply their interests and help our students learn about interests they may not have been aware of. Teachers have chosen electives like readers theater, developing foreign language skills, TED talks, digital media, and the study of ancient civilizations.
  • STEM
    • Our STEM electives offer our teachers the chance to apply their interest in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Teachers have chosen electives like blogging, origami, the study of planets, gardening, movie editing, and financial analysis.

 

How we Create Opportunities to Show our Strengths

By knowing what our skill sets are and by making sure that we have the opportunity to develop these skill sets, we can stay empowered as educators. When we see our elective time and our work within our committees as more than “one more thing” and really understand the purpose behind them, we are empowered and prepared to bring about new opportunities. The reason we have electives and committees is to bring forward the strengths of all learners on campus and to help truly develop Feaster beyond the state focused curriculum. Beyond our classroom walls, we have the opportunity at Feaster to apply our strengths and interests to our everyday work lives! Through working with our committees and bringing our outside interests to our electives, we can actually develop the skills we need to be great at our hobbies and help our students learn more about character development and character strengths. Not only is this a way to stay empowered as educators, it is also a way to help our school develop specialty programs.

I’m not saying that the state standards and curriculum are unimportant; what I am saying is that at Feaster, we have a unique opportunity to apply our strengths to our electives and committees. We are integrating the core curriculum while applying our strenghts and interests to  daily character lessons.

IMG_5399.jpg

Happening because of a personal interest within staff members at Feaster who wanted a way to help others recognize their strengths

Showing Empathy

When we make decisions from a place of empathy, we show that we are caring and understanding our students. When we take a moment and realize the cause behind actions and choices and occurrences, we are acting with empathy and care.

This week, I was walking to a classroom and saw a student who has been chronically tardy all year. Instead of getting upset and telling him to hurry to class, I chose to try to understand his home situation. I asked, “I know you are late and rushing to class, but what caused you to be late?” When I did this, he told me that his mom had to go to the hospital because she was having contractions. This changed the entire trajectory of our conversation. He opened up about his personal life and I recognized the validity of his tardiness. If this question had not been asked, I would have missed out on a chance to connect with this student.

When we look for opportunites to better understand the situations our students are in, we are showing empathy. When we jump to conclusions about what is going on, or worse yet, don’t even bother to ask, we are doing damage to the potential relationship that can be built.

IMG_5400

Happened because we put ourselves in our student’s shoes and showed empathy during a heat wave

 



“We prepare our students to become 21st century learners in a multicultural society by infusing Visual & Performing Arts as well as Science, Technology, Social Studies, Engineering & Mathematics into our daily curriculum and literacy instruction. This integration challenges our students to communicate and think critically, creatively and collaboratively. “

-Feaster Mission Statement

 

We have the opportunity to show our strengths every single day! How are your strengths being applied to help our students truly communicate and think critically, creatively and collaboratively? What opportunity will you find this week to show empathy towards another person?

 

Advertisements

Strengths, Interests, and Values

Recently, we held a professional development meeting focused on the Thrively assessment. During this PD, we worked to complete the same strengths assessment that our students completed earlier this year. This is meant to “develop the whole child and unleash their potential” (Thrively webiste).

We are well on our way and already recognizing the strengths, interests, and values of each individual. Taking the assessment and knowing these strengths is only the initial part of the process and the Thrively website will help us take a deeper look into strategies to effectively apply this to our classroom learning. The next phase is actually working to recognize and apply these strengths during lessons. By doing this, we will be providing our learners with the opportunity to apply what they are learning and to have a voice that is heard and respected within the classroom community.

Currently, so many teachers are doing exactly this by:

  • strategically creating groups with a variety of strengths
  • providing opportunities for students to develop their strengths
  • providing opportunities for students to excel because of their individual strengths
  • applying student voice and input into the classroom community in any way possible
  • supporting the students as individuals

By creating opportunities for students to excel and recognize their strengths, we are helping them explore passions that they may never have known existed. We are also giving them the opportunity to recognize the importance of having various strengths within a team. This better prepares them for working collaboratively with a group. The ability to complete a task is only part of the process; the way that a team works together to enhance each other’s strengths is important as well.

“Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent not a singular conception of ability.”

-Sir Ken Robinson: The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

Our students have the opportunity to work within a team and develop their collaborative skills. By fostering this idea from Sir Ken Robinson’s quote within our classroom communities, we are allowing our kids to be successful in more ways than simply by grades on a report card. We are providing opportunities for them to be successful in applicable skills that are needed in addition to the curriculum we are teaching. As our vision statement states, we are helping our students make a life changing impact by recognizing and applying their strengths, interests, and values:

“…students are developing their leadership and reasoning skills, as well as increasing their self-esteem at a young age to make a life changing impact”

-Feaster Charter Vision Statement

It is by helping our learners recognize their own strengths and the strengths of others as connected to a common goal that we can help our students make that life changing impact today.

 

#StrengthsInterestsValues

Carole Ann McGuire: Creating Strengths Based Goals 

Angela Lee Duckworth: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance  

Thrively Website:

Social Emotional Learning Lessons

Thrively Projects

Make notes, record a video, record audio

I have had the opportunity to see great things going on in your classrooms! I encourage you to share how you are recognizing the strengths of your students. You can do this with a comment or Twitter post to the hashtag: #FeasterLearns! This will help us build on each other’s strengths and develop our own strengths through communication and collaboration.