Modeling Our Learning

A few years ago our staff completed a Strengths Finder course and it was revealed that more than 80% of our teachers had the “Learner” profile in their top five strengths.  Not a surprise at all, considering the profession we’ve chosen.  I imagine that, despite being a small sample size, this group was representative of teachers across the world.  We’re learners, through and through.  It’s something we’re passionate about and, even if it’s not one of our top five strengths, it’s something we’re good at and enjoy.  

Over the last few days I’ve been thinking back to induction week and the challenge I put forth to lead our students, not only by teaching them academics, but also by positively modeling the behaviors we consider important.  I wish so badly that there was a way for our entire High School student body to have seen how hard their teachers were working to LEARN on Friday and Saturday.   Being learners, we understand the value of opening our minds to new ideas, but how do we model this behavior for our students?  

Too many students see learning as a school activity, something they’ll be “done” with once they graduate.  It’s one thing to tell our students that being a “lifelong learner” is important but wouldn’t that message be more effective if we could show them that we actually believe it?

One of the easiest ways to demonstrate our “learner” strength to our students is by sharing our learning experiences with them.  Whether it’s learning Bahasa Indonesia, studying for an IELTS assessment, taking golf lessons, or learning a new instrument, we’re all learning new things all the time.  If one of those doesn’t remind you of something you’re learning, then think no further than what you learned over the last few days in our MYP/DP workshops at school.  By discussing what we’re learning with our students we model for them the idea of being a lifelong learner as well as demonstrating our value for education in general.  

Recently I’ve become very skilled at saying, “Saya perlu belajar Bahasa Indonesia.”  I may not be making much progress but I’m working on it.  Students may occasionally laugh at me but they see me trying to learn Bahasa.  I constantly let them know how jealous I am of their bi/tri-lingual abilities (many of them have no idea how lucky they are to be learning in such a dynamic place as Sekolah Ciputra).   It’s one thing for me to tell them that learning languages is cool but it’s another thing altogether to show them that I really believe what I’m saying by showing them I’m working to learn Bahasa myself.  Talking the talk is one thing, but walking the walk shows you mean it.

So, as we come off a wonderful weekend of learning, think about how you can share this experience with your students.  Ask them about their 3-day weekend and let them know what you were doing while they were sleeping in and eating ice cream.  Let them know how important it is for you, as a teacher, to keep learning by sharing with them.  As the year goes on, look for more chances to share your learning with the kids.  You’re learning, you know it and I know it…let your students know it too!  



Gratitude’s Exponential Powers

Last week I wrote about character strengths and practicing what we preach.  If you completed the self-assessment you saw that “gratitude” is one of the 24 character strengths measured and is, in fact, important to becoming a successful person.  In one of the studies included with the course I am taking it is suggested that gratitude could be, in fact, a malleable skill.  So what does that mean, what if we can actually learn gratitude?  Well, some of the activities included in the course are designed to help do just that:  reflecting on three good things that happened each day and why, reflecting on things you are grateful for at the end of each week, explaining why when you say ‘thank you’ to someone (i.e. Thank you for buying me that coffee, that really makes me feel appreciated!), and perhaps most impactful of all is writing a gratitude letter to someone and reading it to them out loud.  All of these activities are designed to help you understand the reasons you are grateful as well as help you express your gratitude in a way that allows others to feel even better about themselves.

We have been talking a lot with the kids recently about ‘saying what they need to say’ to their friends and teachers before the school year is over.  Isn’t this another case of practicing what we preach?  How have you shown gratitude to those around you recently?  Think about the impact you are having not only on those people but on yourself.  The attached research article is a bit dry (as research articles can be) but some of it’s findings are very interesting:  Gratitude and positive emotions can help ‘sharpen the saw’, as Stephen Covey calls it, and provide emotional resources for us to draw on when we’re down or having a bad stretch.   Gratitude helps to build and strengthen bonds with other people (students, colleagues, acquaintances, etc.)  Gratitude can help us deal with stress and adversity.  My favorite of all, “Gratitude inspires prosocial reciprocity.”

So how do you show gratitude?  Could you do more to improve all of these things in your life just by changing the way you show gratitude?  Give it a shot for a few days and I’d recommend keeping some kind of a log to track how people respond to your signs of gratitude.  As always, I’d love to hear your two cents 🙂


Practicing What We Preach

I’ve always been a huge proponent of explicitly teaching character strengths but that takes dedicated and specific time.  In the absence of a specific program for teaching character there are still many ways to ‘teach’ our students how to develop their character strengths.  One of the best ways is by modeling, by living the message.  Currently I am taking a GREAT online course called “Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms” via Relay/GSE and  It is only a four week class and I’m half way through, it doesn’t take too much time…if you’re interested in giving it a shot follow this link to sign up.

One of the very first lessons requires you to take two sorts of self-assessment.  The first part tasks you with considering 24 character strengths and ranking them in order of importance for student success.  Follow this link to the document from the Relay/GSE that is used for doing this so you can give it a try.  The second part is an online self-assessment that asks you 120 questions (it takes about 10 minutes) and then gives you feedback about the order in which you actually live out the 24 character strengths.  This VIA Survey requires you to sign up but it is free and they don’t send you annoying emails (interestingly enough I signed up 9 years ago and took this test and received nothing from them, it was also really cool to see how I’ve changed over time!)

So, give it a shot.  Go through both parts of this (it will take about 20 minutes) and see what your results look like.  Are you actually practicing what you preach or are there areas where you talk-the-talk more than walk-the-walk?  I’m happy to share my results (from now and 9 years ago!) if you’re keen to see.  Let me know once you’ve completed this, I’d love to hear your two cents!!

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”  – James Baldwin