'Hope is our children's window for a better tomorrow.'
Through drip-feeding we created a common language from Birth through to Year12; from bucket filling, character strengths to love bombing and the power of yet. But, this wasn’t enough.
Our students seemed happy, were graduating from the Children’s University, were generally attending and behaving but our data reflected that a large percentage of our students had low hope (Hope Scale - Snyder, Harris, et al 1991). In a community with the closure of Holden, and generational unemployment how could we instill hope in our kids? Helping students become more hopeful is rewarding for the students, teachers, leaders and other key stakeholders. We needed to focus our attention on building capacity of our staff to be ‘caring coaches’ (Snyder, 1994) to support our school in becoming a hopeful place for our children and young people.
Professor Emeritus John O'Gorman, Griffith University (2013) states that there are 5% of Australians experiencing multiple disadvantage, that is they are disadvantaged on three or more of the six standard indicators including; low income. poor education, homelessness, poor self-assessed health, lack of a safe environment and limited social support. Multiple disadvantage reduces the capacity of individuals to experience a sense of hope that they can build the sorts of lives they would otherwise choose for themselves.
Hope is defined as goal-directed thinking in which the person has the perceived capacity to find routes to goals (pathways thinking), and the motivation to use those routes (agency thinking). (Snyder, 2003)
Hope is a powerful concept. How does one “enhance hope,” exactly? It is innate, to an extent, correlating with high optimism, self-esteem and perceived control and problem-solving abilities. But it can also be learned: train a student to visualize their goals, to see how they’ll achieve them, even when obstacles arise, and hope will follow, some experts say.
A conversation with Ryan Niemiec (VIA Character Strengths Institute, Education Director) and the Institute of Positive Education Team at Geelong Grammar School supported our thought process and reaffirmed the need to immerse Positive Education throughout our college from Birth to Year 12 with the Character Strengths at the core of our curriculum. How do we instill hope in our children and young people? ‘An optimal approach is to help each of these students understand who they are – their signature strengths – and create ways for them to understand and use their signature strengths in a balanced way. This is the pathway to greater achievement, hope, relationships and positive emotions. Treat each student like a seed in which creating the right environment to nurture that seed is the crucial approach. This involves asking powerful questions, giving students opportunities to discover and explore their signature strengths.’
We were on the right track however we needed to utilize the character strengths to drive the immersion of Positive Education. The VIA Classification of Character Strengths became the essential element that informed our Positive Education teaching and learning. The VIA provided the common language and lens for understanding who our children were – at good times and bad – and what it meant to flourish and thrive. Character strengths were immersed into the culture of our college implicitly and explicitly. It provided a language for strengths based conversations with all stakeholders and reframed behavior management conversations to have a strengths-lens. Staff explicitly taught character strengths from Birth through to Year 12, in explicit Positive Education lessons, throughout the content of general curriculum areas and in Project Based Learning.
In summary at Mark Oliphant B-12 College we;
Developed common character language and lens
Recognised, communicated and nurtured the strengths in ourselves and others
Practiced and applied strengths throughout all subject areas including explicit Positive Education lessons
Identified, celebrated and cultivated group and individual strengths -in assemblies, throughout our school newsletters and social media pages and in our Character Strength Days across the college, for example, ‘A Day of Kindness’
Filtered PERMA language implicitly and explicitly throughout the teaching of Character Strengths
Other strategies to instil HOPE in our children and young people. Hope can be taught throughout all curriculum areas. There are a number of means teachers and adults can use to support the development of hope including;
- make sure students are setting goals that are purposeful and important to them, they should not be set by the teacher or anyone else
- facilitate an array of goals, including those which stretch the abilities of the individual
- prioritise goals from least to most important to focus effort
- allocate time for children and young people to focus on goals
- use and teach positive self talk
- think of problems as challenges, use failure as growth opportunities
- cultivate the ability to use the strength of humour and laugh at oneself - this can be useful at times of blockage
- teach students to learn to enjoy the process of goal attainment
- support children and young people to develop friendships as a powerful source of guidance for reaching goals
The focus of the drip feed to immersion approach was to create a common language. Dr Robert Marzano (Interview, 2008) has suggested that the educational field is lacking a common language/model of instruction to decisive effective teaching. Having a comprehensive model in which everybody talks about teaching in the same way communicates the message that ‘we are all serious about good teaching…’ This must be the same for wellbeing.
Wellbeing is just as important, if not more important as the ‘academic’ curriculum areas. A common language provides a framework for a way to talk about wellbeing just as it does with curriculum and instruction. It enables seamless transitions throughout a school or college, and supports all children and young people of their flourishing journey.
Wellbeing must be rigorous.
'Through passion, drive, coaching, a sense of entitlement and hope for all.'