Whew! Using a term from white-water rafting that refers to a dangerous passage with currents that can take anyone in the water under and hold them there, we're going through a "suckhole." I flew back last Tuesday-week from our five day "Immersion" start and fly back out this coming Tuesday for five days in DC with classes and the Positive Psychology Summit. Three of our four classes will meet and the reading, writing and work in our "cohort" (4-person small group) has been intense! So, this post really comes from work I did in one of those classses, with names changed to respect privacy.
As part of our work, we logged on to AuthenticHappiness.org and took seven of the surveys, including the VIA Signature Strengths survey. Then we wrote a "profile" based on the surveys and posted them and discussed themes, etc. I felf t my blogger experience kicking in as I went off about teaching and learnning -- my group has one current and two ex-teachers in it! Here's the map of our strengths and that post (done while our fourth was unavoidably delayed in posting):
Now, here's a thought from an education perspective. Think about the three of us sitting in a classroom. I could be "hooked" by almost anything. And, that has always been pretty much the case with me.
Shannon , you would be next easiest, especially if given an opportunity to create. But, you could easily be turned off by a drab room or distracted by the needs of a fellow student.
Joe, you would be the most sensitive to "culture" within the class and the school. Any hint that things were unfair, that some were being "picked on", or that hypocrisy was rampant would absolutely send you up the wall. Under those circumstances, I suspect you would be difficult to engage in anything until those more important matters were addressed.
That's part of what makes teaching tough! And then what if your distribution of strengths in the class is different the next year, or at least if the dominant personalities have different key strengths? Wouldn't that require a very different way of engaging that class?
Now, turn it around and think about us as teachers -- which, of course, isn't much of a stretch for Joe and Shannon!
Starting with me again, I've got to come from my strengths -- ideas, knowledge, love of the subject. I engage students by sheer intellectual excitement. I'm likely not going to be good at individualizing instruction, and, regardless of subject, I'm unlikely to willingly skip a class, much less a week, to resolve issues of justice and equity impinging on my classroom from outside. (Although it didn't show up in my strengths, I actually have a history of getting riled when teachers are unfair, especially by picking on weaker students. I tend to take them on as a way of diverting them from that activity. So, I think there would be fairness, respect, and appreciation within my room.)
Shannon, I'm betting you have an amazing amount of flexibility, both in going from ideas to aesthetics and in tailoring what you do to individuals within the class as well as to the group character of each class. And, kids will feel cared for and respected, and sense that, if they need something, you're an adult they can trust.
Joe, you're going to run the class where kids sense the quality of their relationships with each other. They're going to be more aware of justice and equity, or the lack thereof, in their lives when they're in your class. I suspect that you're either at your best teaching subject matter that resonates with your strengths (can't remember right now what you teach), or else you teach something that let's you both attend to the teaching and to the culture without sacrificing either. However, in a school or community crisis, you'd sacrifice instruction for building culture and justice without blinking -- and you would be right to do so! You'd get the other done, but the lesson the kids will remember would be the one on how to treat others! Hmmm... wonder what you did 9/11, or the rest of that week for that matter!
Finally, a point about diversity -- if a school has all three of us, and hasn't managed to piss us off or clearly convey that all we're to do is go in our rooms and teach, but has instead engaged us actively and passionately in the life of that school, what's the likelihood it's going to be anything less that good? And, assuming we were treated well and invited to the party, so would the rest of the faculty, and then there's virtually no way our school would be less than very good to excellent!
Now, tell me again why it's we need a new program from the central office to get better?