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Start With Strengths: Creating Emotionally Healthy Communities

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Session for parents, educators, practitioners, and community members. Facilitated with Karen Copeland.

What happens when we shift away from focusing on our kids’ challenges towards exploring and honouring their strengths? How can curiousity and storytelling strengthen relationships between our children, youth, families and community?

Learn how to move away from focusing on all the things we can't do and find out how celebrating the things we CAN do makes a huge difference for our children, families and school communities.

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Start With Strengths: Creating Emotionally Healthy Communities

  1. 1. Start with Strengths: Creating Emotionally Healthy Communities Karen Copeland championsforcommunitywellness.com @KarenCopeland3 Chris Wejr Chriswejr.com @ChrisWejr Sponsored by the Abbotsford Local Action Team of the CYMHSU Collaborative
  2. 2. #startwithstrengths #BellLetsTalk
  3. 3. CC Image from Wokandapix via Pixabay
  4. 4. 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness this year. Depression is now ten times as prevalent as it was in 1960
  5. 5. The plan… • Change the lens to see and tap into: – The Strengths of Ourselves – The Strengths of Others • Create healthy communities through a strengths-based approach
  6. 6. Community Agreement
  7. 7. Strengths of Ourselves Image Source: Piktochart Seeing our own strengths
  8. 8. Image Source: Piktochart What prevents us from seeing
  9. 9. Constant comparisons Happiness is not a competition. Authentic happiness derives from raising the bar for yourself, not rating yourself against others. ~Martin Seligman
  10. 10. How do we see ourselves?
  11. 11. Our stories shape who we are
  12. 12. Before we see the strengths in others… we must first see the strengths in CC Image: Mikko Kaaresmaa https://flic.kr/p/6fSa2E
  13. 13. CC Image from Trottalot https://flic.kr/p/a4YZhT Change the LENS. Change the HABITS. Change the STORY.
  14. 14. How We Want To Be Seen… Image via Clip Art Panda http://www.clipartpanda.com/categories/super-mom-clipart
  15. 15. This is closer to reality…
  16. 16. What you expect life to be like when you have kids…
  17. 17. *START*
  18. 18. Dom
  19. 19. Dom
  20. 20. Raising children is far more than just fixing what is wrong with them. It is about identifying and amplifying their strengths and virtues, and helping them find the niche where they can live these positive traits to the fullest. Dr. Martin Seligman chriswejr.com
  21. 21. The goal of starting with strengths is not to simply feel less miserable… but to create more joy, more happiness, more energy and to flourish in life.
  22. 22. What are “strengths”?
  23. 23. Strength of Talents & Skills Images from Langley Schools
  24. 24. What makes your HEART sing? CC Image from Pixabay 3dman_eu / 7491 images
  25. 25. Strengths of Character
  26. 26. www.viacharacter.org
  27. 27. -30 -20 -10 0 10 20 30 40 . Research from the Corporate Leadership Council, 2002 Strengths +36.4% Weakness es -26.8%
  28. 28. STRENGTH S
  29. 29. Czech Republic Saskatchewan Hope, BC Teachers Sports AthleticsStory-telling LoveJudgmentFairness Positive legacy in a school Confident kids Happy marriage A job that I get to use my strengths Daughter A Daughter B Wife Mom Dad Staff & Students Attention Party guy Coach Teach Reach out with love to those who need it the most Be an ally for those with less privilege and opportunitiesBe a wide-awake educator
  30. 30. Seeing the Strengths in Others
  31. 31. Start With ONE
  32. 32. Who are you here for? CC Image from Pixabay: qimono / 293 images
  33. 33. Bring forth what is within
  34. 34. Strengths-Based Parenting Image Source: Karen Copeland
  35. 35. Sometimes it starts with remembering what it is about our child that brings us JOY. Inspired by Ian Brown, Author The Boy in the Moon Image Source: Karen Copeland
  36. 36. Image Credit: NOAA National Ocean Service https://www.flickr.com/photos/usoceangov/8290528771/ What We See on the Surface Refusal Avoidance Anger Sadness The words we use are important Image Source: Pixabay
  37. 37. Image(s) Source: Karen Copeland Image Source: Pixabay Eye Rolling Back Talk Disrespectful Language Anger Avoidance Refusal Kindness Empathy Curiosity Gentleness Connection Perseverance
  38. 38. Connect Capable Count Courage Curiosity Image Source: Piktochart From: B.L. Bettner & A. Lew: Raising Kids Who Can. Newton, MA: Connexions Press, 1990.
  39. 39. • I feel insecure • I seek attention Connected • I feel inadequate • I may seek power Capable • I feel insignificant • I may seek revenge Count • I feel inferior • I may avoid Courage Responsibility in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to Understanding & Motivating Students Dr. Amy Lew & Dr. Betty Bettner
  40. 40. • I believe I belong • I fit in Connected • I believe I can do it • I feel competent Capable • I feel valuable • I matter Count • I believe I can handle what comes • I am hopeful Courage Responsibility in the Classroom: A Teacher’s Guide to Understanding & Motivating Students Dr. Amy Lew & Dr. Betty Bettner
  41. 41. Strengths-Based Education
  42. 42. What we see… Depends on what we look CCImagebyRyanHaddadhttps://flic.kr/p/inZ5S
  43. 43. “Connection is why we are here. We are hardwired to connect with others -- Brene Brown cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Andrew: http://flickr.com/photos/30235101@N06/3344044448/
  44. 44. Agassiz Centre for Educatio n New Lens New StoriesFrom Vancouver Sun
  45. 45. A School Built on Strengths My students OUR STUDENTS
  46. 46. Strengths-based education is NOT…
  47. 47. The struggle is important
  48. 48. CC Image From Tony Baldasaro https://flic.kr/p/cDBuUs CC Image from Terry Priest https://flic.kr/p/hrxqQ Find the Fireflies Rachel Macy Stafford
  49. 49. A teacher’s Firefly: The Story of Logan
  50. 50. Strengths-based education: Helping ALL students to flourish
  51. 51. Strengths-Based Communities
  52. 52. “We presume we don’t have what we need to solve a problem, but often what we need is on the peripheral, we just need to look for it.” Sir Ken Robinson
  53. 53. Starts With Us It starts with ONE. It starts with US. CC Image from Pixabay - Qimono
  54. 54. We need to make the positive so LOUD that the negative becomes almost impossible to hear. George Couros
  55. 55. WWW
  56. 56. What are the strengths of YOUR community? CC Image from Purple Puppy https://flic.kr/p/9jvnkq
  57. 57. How can you use your strengths to make a difference in your community?
  58. 58. *START*
  59. 59. What can I do?
  60. 60. We all have strengths; our light can break through even the darkest of storm clouds. Let it. Karen Copeland championsforcommunitywellness.co m #StartWithStrengths
  61. 61. “You don’t know what you are capable of until you have the opportunity to discover it.” Sir Ken Robinson
  62. 62. Use the strengths within... To help us FLOURISH.
  63. 63. The Story of Ashley CC Image from Marzia http://flic.kr/p/524Dsy
  64. 64. Bringing out the BEST in Ashley Video: https://youtu.be/3nZyo-jHr8Q
  65. 65. CC Image by Ladyvee9 https://flic.kr/p/8dwV21 Start with YOU. Start with ONE. Start With Strengths to Build a Healthier Community. Change the LENS.
  66. 66. Please take some time to share your thoughts on this session.
  67. 67. Door Prizes
  68. 68. Start with Strengths: Creating Emotionally Healthy Communities Karen Copeland championsforcommunitywellness.com @KarenCopeland3 Chris Wejr Chriswejr.com @ChrisWejr Sponsored by the Abbotsford Local Action Team of the CYMHSU Collaborative THANK YOU!

Editor's Notes

  • Title Slide
  • So many of our kids go through school being reminded of the the many things they cannot do while losing sight of the many things they can do.
    We go from kindergarten where we feel we can do everything through elementary and middle, then high school and start to lose that belief. Our stories change. Our identities change.
    For many of our youth today… the struggle is real.

    ADHD, anxiety, depression are more and more common in schools and with our youth. These are our leaders of tomorrow.
  • The mean age of a person’s first episode of depression forty years ago was 29.5, while today it is 14.5 years. This is a paradox, since every objective indicator of well-being—purchasing power, amount of education, availability of music, and nutrition—has been going north, while every indicator of subjective well-being has been going south. – Seligman

    Something needs to change. There is hope. Change starts with US.
  • Intro story
  • Hard on ourselves - naturally drawn to the negatives (evolution to see danger, problems)

    The human brain has evolved to ensure that our firefighting negative emotions will trump the broadening, building, and abiding—but more fragile—positive emotions. – Seligman

    focusing on weaknesses leads to less energy, low levels of motivation, poorer performance and, eventually, burn-out.
  • Constant comparisons – adults and kids
    Percentile rankings – lives as sports scores
    Social media – I wish I was as awesome as my Facebook
    We see this and we want it…
    Happiness is not a competitions – quote click
    We know this… but we are so hard on ourselves.
    Few people are more critical of us… than us.
  • We can learn a ton from kids… the find the best in so many things… and so many people.
  • The stories shape who we are…. They shape our identities.
    We need to the see the strengths


  • "You have come here to find out what you already have" Buddhist Aphorism
  • Creatures of habit. We have spent most of our lives looking for the negatives, the deficits.
    We need to train our brains to see through a different lens
    We do this by changing our habits.
    We find what we are looking for.. What do we see?
    When we do this… when we train our brains and develop a new habit of starting with strenghts, we change the lens… and change the story
  • My story - grew up in Hope. Both in school and outside of school, I had strengths that were recognized and valued.
    Academics and sports.
    Parents, teachers, communities brought out the strengths
    Became a teacher and a school admin.
    Experienced a life-changing shift in lens
    Now a parent
  • Met Dom in my visit to the school when he was in grade 4. He was in the hall after misbehaving. We had a small connection.
    Asked for him to be in my grade 5/6 class.
    After 6 weeks, I was really struggling reaching quite a few students. I met with my principal at the time, Roxanne Watson, for advice on Dom.
    I explained my frustrations. He Was stubborn, withdrawn, reluctant learner that wouldn’t read, nor write, nor do math – I could list his deficits.
    She stopped me– what is he good at? Didn’t know – all I knew was that he would not do any work. FIND OUT
    Met with Dom one recess. Heard his story of struggles at school.
    Was a drummer in his community of Sts’Ailes… BOOM.
    Spoke with our support worker Nelson Leon who also had a strength in First Nation drumming.
    He would work with him each morning for a few minutes.
    After a week, Nelson asked me to come check it out.
    Beads of sweat… passion.
    Asked if he would play in front of class… he eventually did
  • Sang and drummed
    Other joined in... Played in in front of our class each Monday. Played in front of our school for every big event.
    He was connected. He was engaged. He started to read, write, work on math.
    last day of school… he missed the bus. We found him in the class crying. Huge hug. Did not want the year to end.

    Years later, Dom was still coming back to his elementary school to work with young drummers and share his strength

    Had we not found his strength, I am not sure where Dom would have gone those years in school.
    Through strengths, we were able to connect with him in such a way that changed his story of life at school.

    Through my work in the area of strengths-based education, I have experienced pushback from people in and outside of the education world. I have been told this is a fluffy approach that sets kids up for failure in the big bad real world outside of school.
    I respond to these comments with these numbers:
  • Using these lessons not only as an educator but also now as a parent.
    Whole new world of comparisons… starting in the womb.
  • Stop trying to fix kids! Fix others
    Embrace who they are!
  • Skills, Qualities, traits, virtues that lie within people.
    Arts, athletics, trades, academics… and also virtues like empathy, care, resiliency, and courage
    Exist side by side with struggles and weaknesses
    Strengths can be learned… and that is where we can have a huge impact on our students.
    Some are unaware of their strengths… or fail to see their strengths.
    We can help change the lens. Not about teaching them to think they are awesome at everything….
  • They are all good at something that they have worked at over the years.
    Areas in which they have confidence.
    Sports, arts, trades, academics…

    As educators, we need to tap into both strengths of character and skill to engage, develop and connect with our students.
  • When you think of your talents…
    What energizes you?
    What do you love doing?
    What makes your heart sing?
  • These can be embraced and also developed.

    Martin Seligman – father of Positive Psychology shares
    “not about being less miserable. We need to be trying to create human well being and flourishing… the way to do this is through our strengths”
    24 Character Strengths – his research has shown that when people spend time in areas of strength, they are less depressed, less anxious and more engaged in their work and learning.

    Many of our students with significant struggles have incredible character strengths – care, courage, leadership… curiosity.

    Kids come to school with such a strength in curiosity. I have 6 year-old twin daughters… they ask questions about everything… they get excited about everything.
  • The focus on deficits and constant comparisons is killing us... Or at the least, hurting us. Mental health... Depression, anxiety, eating disorders all are impacted by a focus on what is wrong.  
    Seligman - if we can teach 10 year-olds to use their strengths and be more optimistic, you can decrease depression by 50%
    Students are much less vulnerable to substance abuse, disengagement, and dropping out if they are involved in activities that put to use their strengths.
  • If we focus on strengths during feedback, we get an increase in over 36% and if we focus on weaknesses we get a DECREASE in almost 27% in performance.
    This is a swing of 63% in performance. Still fluffy?
    What if I told you that this research did not come from elementary classrooms… this research came from the Corporate Leadership Council that surveyed over 19,000 employees in 27 countries in the world to determine how companies can best lead their businesses and employees. This research came from companies such as Canon, Caterpillar, Lego, H&R Block, and Lowe’s Hardware. These are companies in the “big bad world”
    The Gallup organization has also shared research on the significant impact of employee engagement when we use a strengths-based focus
    Not so fluffy.
    points to a simple message: When we change the lens to a strengths-based focus, we bring out the best in people. Period.
    This works for students, for children, for employees… for people.
    One of our main jobs as parents, educators, and leaders is to bring out the best…
  • Not about simply telling kids they are awesome.
    But is not about focusing solely on strengths and not deficits.
    Focus on Strengths AND support deficits. Use strengths to build on struggles.
    We never want to ignore struggles much like we never want to ignore strengths.
    Embrace the power of and. 

    We want kids to struggle… we want them to learn how to get through this struggle and develop more resiliency

  • Roots - where we come from - location, culture, heritage
    Trunk - tall, flexible and strong - our strengths and talents
    Branches - reaching out - goals, hopes, dreams
    Leaves - those around us who are significant to us and are affected by our strengths and talents
    *optional - compost pile - those areas that we were once defined by that we refuse to be defined by now
    Soil? Actions to put their strengths to use?
  • Behaviours? Skills and strengths?
  • James – teacher’s idea to connect through his strength of skateboarding.
    We met 2-3x a week as he attempted to teach me to skateboard.
    He still has some struggles but I have a connection. He no longer shuts down when I talk to him… he seeks ME out to share his stories,

    Start with one… find out the strengths, use these strengths to connect…
  • Child? – if you have more than one child. Pick your favourite. ;-)
    Colleague?
    Family member?
    Client?

    Share
  • One of the root words of education is educere – which means to bring forth what is within?

    As Chief Marilyn Gabriel of the Kwantlen First Nation said
    “the role of our elders is to look for that gift in our children… and then work to develop and nurture this gift so they can become our artists, nurses, singers, teachers…”

    The question is: What are we developing? Nurturing? Bringing out in our kids?




  • 1 minute each person… 2-3 people
  • What is it?
    Changing the lens. Changing the story.
    Starting with the strengths of each child. Using these strengths to build and work on the struggles.
    Creating a positive identity, more confidence, overall better well-being.

    Not every child has a positive identity and story at school.
    This can change when we start with strengths.
  • Depends on what we look for.
    What we focus on gets larger – what are we looking for?
    Challenge to see strengths in stressful situations – large classes, large needs, large curric, little support.
    It is also difficult and stressful for us to see through the deficit lens.
    Step back… seek out the positives in our classes.
    When we look at our challenging students, what do we see? Where is the bar?


  • It all starts with Relationships. Connection. Interests and strengths. Getting to know students.
    Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser say each child needs to be able to name 2-3 adults who care about them.
    Do we know who our students are? Do we know what they are good at? What they do beyond school?
    Do they feel worthy when they walk through our doors?
    Best way to connect… through a strength
    Best way to change stories – tapping into strengths
  • ACE is the alternate school in agassiz - labelled as bad kids.
    Sandy Balascak created the conditions for these students to change their experiences at school. Change their stories
    The students have become a staple in the Agassiz community – 9 to 90. Especially the seniors community.
    Each Christmas, these “bad kids” give up their own Christmas morning for seniors.
    5am, cook, prepare breakfast and share gifts with local seniors. Became a nation wide news story.
    Sandy found their strengths and changed the story… and changed the community.
    seniors have gone back to school including 3 over the age of 80 2 years ago.
    Majority of ACE students graduate with their Dogwood too… the staff believe the students can do it, and the students continue to prove them right.
  • 89 year old Kay on the far left with 76 year old Maureen in the middle along with other graduates of ACE.
    In an alternate setting, there is more flexibility but - we tap into the strengths of students, we can help to change their stories of school.
    We can even change an entire community and the relationships within it.
  • Kent Elementary – OUR STUDENTS
    Previous principal and many staff member and parents, community members (esp FN community of Seabird) taught me this.
    LEADERSHIP roles - flourish- Gardening, big buddy, tech crew, lunch monitors, cheerleading, office helpers, library tech, early morning readers, FN drumming and dancing
    Not a reward – part of the educational experience.
    The first question we asked was… what are they good at? Let’s go from there.

    Now, when I share this stuff I have been criticized for the being fluffy, pie in the sky stuff. This may work in an elem school but not in the real world. People don’t just get to focus on their strengths.
    But I want to share some numbers with you:
  • Is NOT:
    Ignoring the struggles of our students
    Bubble wrapping
    Creating arrogance
    Inauthentic feedback: telling students they are awesome and amazing for no apparent reason
    Giving awards to everyone
    Letting students do whatever they want whenever they want

    We want kids to fall… we want kids to struggle… and we want kids to know their strengths to help with these struggles
  • Resiliency – bouncing back, sticking with it, determination… so important
    Embrace struggle so important in learning – it is difficult to stick with anything or bounce back without confidence.
    Start with what they know… build confidence from there. Embrace struggle. Build resilience.
    Not about telling kids they are great. We need REAL successes.

    Growth mindset. – Carol Dweck – intelligence can be developed with effort. Nothing is fixed when we are born
    Helps to create a story and Identity as LEARNERS.
  • Rachel Macy Stafford
    Many of our students are Butterflies – shine from the outside – these are the ones we clearly see being successful in school. Their strengths are evident and embraced in school.
    She challenges us to find the fireflies – those that shine only under the right conditions?
    How do we create the conditions for more students to also shine and fly?
    We help them to LEAD. Kids thrive when leaderhship roles in an area of strengths
  • One idea, one lesson… one student.
    Start with Your Amy
    Story of LOGAN– a variety of struggles – many labels, lacks a filter.
    Yet he has a strength in Love of Learning. Health and Safety, animals
    Nuclear disasters. Content is important – grade 5 topic of harsh environments, he presented.
    Minerals – presented – started to socialize more, participate more. His identity changed.
    He was a valued member of the classroom community. People knew him not for his struggles but for his strengths.
    As educators, we have an incredible impact and a crucial role with today’s youth.
    So Start Today… start with one. Start with one student’s strengths. Connect - Change one student’s story.
  • Natural break
  • If we focus on problems… we will find many.
    If we focus on solutions… we will find many.
    Sometimes we fail to see the solutions right in front of us… sometimes the solutions lie within us. In the strenghts of us and the community.
  • We find what we are looking for…
    In our communities, what are we looking for?
    Are we tapping into the strengths of others?
    Maybe to build healthier communities we need to rethink our deficit-based approach.
    Finding a new way to do things might make it easier on many of us.
  • Only need one person to start something and a few people to create a movement.
    It starts with us. Starts with us starting with our strengths, the strengths of others and the strengths of our community.
  • Healthy communities are positive communities. Where people are aware of the strengths and assets within the community.
    Social media to build a positive school culture. Share the amazing strengths found within every single school.
    Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blog
    10 Good Things to Talk About
    Sedin Story
    Social media to build a community. Aldergrove.
    WWW
    What are you sharing? Is this building community?
  • Staff meetings
    Family dinners
    Noel Booth
  • Consider the strengths of your community.
    What is going well in your community?
    When you look around, what do you see?
    Are you tapping in to the great things all around us?

  • ACTION!
  • Tip sheets in the folder
  • RESEARCH - People who are struggling with mental illness… focused on signature character strengths for a week and had significantly less symptoms of anxiety and depression.
    People who knew and used their character strengths were more resilient, more engaged at work and school, and had an overall more positive outlook on life.
    People who use their talents are more energized and overall happier.
    It is not about simply making people less miserable… using our strengths and talents is about FLOURISHING.
  • Met Amy when she was 8 years old as she came into my wife’s dance studio
    8 years later, Amy was one of the top dancers in the FV, leader at the studio. Teach younger kids and lead older kids.
    Could perform with beauty and grace in front of a theatre full of 600 people.
    My wife told me her story at school was different.
    Through my interest in Strengths-based education, I sat down and interviewed Amy as a gr 10 student.
    Studio – feels like home. I get to be me.
    School- story of who she is at school, she said “she just tries to blend in… be invisible”.
    struggles in academics, loves her creative writing and visual arts.
    favourite teacher - Mr. C. She skipped many … but rarely missed Mr. C’s class.
    Why “he encouraged us to be who we are in his class”, “he was so random… singing, writing poetry on an oddly shaped paper”
    “share what we learned in ways that worked for us… for me, I could write poetry or draw how a story made me feel”. Test and quizzes
    Does anyone know about you in school as a dancer? No. – bio but nothing done with it
    Advice : be interesting, be interested, slow down, be random
    2 different stories - We all know our Amy’s – their strength is not noticed at school. They try to be invisible… or noticed in negative ways.
  • I started with the story of Amy… how she lacked connection and engagement and knew her many deficits at school…but I never finished the story.
    After I interviewed her, she continued to struggle in school… feel invisible.
    In her grade 12 year… something changed.
    Amy’s real name is Ashley and she was a student in the Langley School District.

    2 years ago, as the TEDxLangleyED committee planned for student performers, Ashley’s name was brought up as a potential performer.
    Because of her many struggles in school, The question was asked if Ashley was a good representative for the school district.
    The decision was made to give Ashley the opportunity to shine.
  • It brought tears to my eyes to know that her high school vp and principal along with the assistant superintendent and superintendent all said the same thing…
    This is the exact person we NEED to put on this stage. We NEED to showcase her strengths..
    Because this is why education needs to change… so students like Ashley no longer feel invisible and their stories change to a more positive identity at school.

    We need to move beyond the deficit-based model and use strengths to connect with our students.

    I talked to Ashley recently and asked if this changed her in any way… she said that this was such a huge moment for her.
    she was asked to perform at school-wide events. Staff knew her.
    She said it was nice to be noticed… nice to matter.

    She has now graduated, now works as a dance teacher to share her passion for dance… and walked away from our district knowing that she had a chance to shine in her area of strength.



  • Title Slide
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