This year my school has formed a partnership with Dr. Lea Waters and Visible Wellbeing. As part of this partnership, all faculty and staff participated in 2-days of intense training in August before the school year began. At this stage of the training we specifically looked at strengths and emotions as pathways to helping achieve their potential, or in the case of my school, flourish.
In preparing for Parent-Teacher interviews this year, I started my preparations slightly differently than I have in the past. During advisory, each student in my class had completed a VIA Character Survey that had identified a ranking of their strengths. Over the course of the year, we will do work in advisory helping students to develop a stronger understanding of their strengths but as a teacher, I found this to be a powerful tool for framing the conversation during Parent-Teacher interviews.
Prior to Parent-Teacher interviews, I looked at each child’s VIA survey and identified examples of ways in which I had observed them demonstrate some of their top strengths. As a teacher, I found it was much easier for me to zoom in on each child’s contributions to the classroom community individually when using the lens of VIA Character strengths. I also was able to look at some of the strengths that appeared lower on the ranking and think about if there were specific goals that could be set to help students utilize these strengths more frequently and have these formulated in advance. For example, I noticed there were a number of students where the character strengths ‘Leadership’ appeared lower on their ranking. As a result his might be an area that when working in groups or on teams this year, where that student could focus on stretching themselves and learning how to use that particular strength more strongly.
During the Parent-Teacher interviews, I would begin by presenting the parents with a copy of their child’s strengths report and in some cases goals that their child had set. In an ideal world, all of the students would have completed their own goals but in classrooms we sometimes just run out of time! I found that these two pieces of information were great conversation starters and really opened up the conversation about each child. Most parents found their child’s VIA Survey to be very accurate and it was also a great strategy for helping to educate parents about strategies we are using in the classroom to help make wellbeing visible. As a teacher, I found that my interviews this year were more conversational than in the past. This was a nice change as it allowed me to continue to get to know the students in my class better by hearing from their parents.
After Parent-Teacher interviews have been completed, I hope to circle back during our advisory program with the students and continue to help develop their own understanding of their character strengths.