Thursday, December 29, 2011

Great Article: The Importance of Taking a Strength Based Perspective by Mary Beth Hewitt

As my role moves from being in my own classroom to supporting my students in other classrooms I am finding that I need to step back and analyze things that I do and believe in so that it can be projected in to my students new environments.  In a self-contained classroom it is easy to take a strength based approach because we do not have some of the same pressures that exist in a classroom full of 30 students who all need to get through the same curriculum in the same amount of time.  It is making me stop and think. I found this great article on the CPI website and wanted to pass it on.

Link to Article: The Importance of Taking a Strength Based Perspective by Mary Beth Hewitt

For some reason the article is cut off at the end and the "Eight Behaviours of the Strengths Based Teacher" table is not included.  It's a great table that lists the eight behaviours as well as examples of framing things from a flaw and strength focus.  The 8 behaviours are:
  1. Focus on what the student can do.
  2. Make realistic appraisals and avoid the use of overgeneralizations.
  3. Look for and give credit for evidence of progress. Don't minimize or discount the positive.
  4. Positively reframe behaviour.
  5. Look for the "silver lining" in the students behaviour and start there.
  6. Work with the factors that you can control.
  7. Look at the whole picture.  It is as important to focus on factors that are present when the misbehaviour does not occur as when it does.
  8. Be aware of the labels that you use and the projections that you make.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman

Although this is a business book there is much in here that applies to education on all levels - at the administration to teacher level but also at the teacher to student level.  It's a great read and examines what it is about some leaders that make others better and smarter.  It speaks to the need to step back and let others grow rather than stepping in and managing.  It is based in the idea of "growth mindset" that seems to come up again and again in the things that I'm reading.  It is based in the idea that we are always asked to do more with less... which means we need to find ways to leverage the assets that exist because we can't add anymore.  It is about letting people live their passion which means that work will not be work.  It is about growing other people's intelligence by engaging it.  It sometimes goes against what we want to do as teachers - as we want to impart wisdom or help or make things easier by laying the path.  It is worth the time it takes to read.

The book speaks to two types of leaders: Multipliers and Diminishers and the five disciplines that each have.  These are continuums that we move along.
  1. The Empire Builder (Diminisher) to The Talent Manager (Multiplier)
  2. The Tyrant (Diminisher) to The Liberator (Multiplier)
  3. The Know-It-All (Diminisher) to The Challenger (Multiplier)
  4. The Decision Maker (Diminsher) to The Debate Maker (Multiplier)
  5. The Micro-Manager (Diminisher) to The Inventor (Multiplier)
The book does talk about the fact that although multipliers make people feel good about themselves they are not "push-overs" as they demand a lot from those around them.

The book also talks about the "accidental diminisher" which is what I found most valuable as it is an opportunity to step back and look at the things that might be done as a way of "helping" but in the end it is a way of stopping progress/movement.  This is a particular challenge for me as I move from teaching in a self contained classroom to having to "hand over" my students to general education classrooms.  Staying too involved and helping too much can take on diminisher effects.  We aren't looking to just move what we did in the self contained classroom to the general education classroom which means that the disciplines of a multiplier take on an even larger significance. 

As the book moved through each of the disciplines it becomes evident that we are all going to have areas of strength and areas of weakness.  The suggestion at the end of the book in regards to moving towards being more of a diminisher was to find which discipline is your largest strength and to grow that at the same time as ensuring your biggest discipline is neutralized.  Don't focus on bringing you lowest area up to the top as you will probably not be strong in all five areas - you just want to ensure that one area doesn't do harm.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Strength Based

Let's start with a link to an amazing video of Scott James at his 2009 X-Factor Audition on this one...

Alberta Education through it's Action in Inclusion movement is looking to move from a "deficit based model" to a "strength based model" for serving students with "special needs".

People talk about 'starting with the positives' but strength based means not only starting with the positives but also ending with the positives.  When Scott James got to the point of not leaving his house they could have focused on ways to get him out of the house - social skill lessons or a behaviour support plan to reinforce leaving the house or addressing his sensory challenges by giving him tools to help him cope.  Instead they looked to what he could do and what he loved - singing - and they grew that.  They found him a teacher/mentor and he found himself a goal to shoot towards and in the end he left the house not because of any intervention but because grown his strength had grown his person.

When we build on our strengths it ends up neutralizing or eliminating the things that are challenging to us.