Berry Street is a specialist independent secondary school in Victoria, which specialises in working with students who have experienced trauma. The Principal - Ms Alford, spoke at a conference I attended last year - back when we could do these things face to face!
Ms Alford talked about the benefits they are experiencing utilising character strengths. She stated that developing a character strength language for teaching and to manage behaviour had numerous advantages, including:
- Increasing inclusivity
- Increasing resilience - strengths are internal resources that can be cultivated
- Improving relationships - strengths encourage us to appreciate others
- Increasing motivation - strengths are what we value, so when we appeal to someones strength they are more motivated to change e.g. 'I saw how you were kind to the others when you waited for your turn in the game before. Do you think it is kind when you keep interrupting and don't allow others to listen?'
She stated that before we use strengths with problems we need to understand strengths. This can be done by: strength spotting, talking about under and overuse of strengths (utilising the Strength Continuum above), discussing stories of strengths in action and developing strengths.
Useful conversation starters are:
"What does an overuse of gratitude look like?" False/insincere. "Overuse of kindness?" Taken advantage of.
"What would I like look with no kindness?"
Restorative Justice suggestion: "You have the character strengths of... Today was not your day. Let's talk about what we need to do to restore the relationship that has been challenged today. How do you think she felt when you said that? What can we do to make the relationship right again?"
Ms Alford describes character strengths as "24 ways to like a person".
The poster above is useful to use when discussing behaviours of concern. It is available to Strong Minds schools in our Members Portal.