Guest blogger:  Sherry Harsch-Porter, PhD, is an executive coach and President of PorterBay Insight, a leadership development consulting firm. She teaches graduate-level courses at Washington University in St. Louis and is author of the book, “Education as Possibility: Coaching for Persistence.”

What do you get when you put 30 middle school administrators and educators from nine schools into a room and ask them to learn about their strengths? Energy, focus, courage and laughter. The nine grantees of the 2016 Mayerson Academy Thriving Learning Community RFP represent five states (Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Texas) and span public, private, charter and parochial schools. They come with a common goal – to bring positive character strengths education to their home schools.

Day One of the Champions’ workshop was packed with high energy activities ranging from Strengths Bingo (an opportunity for us to meet people in the room while searching for all the VIA Strengths); creating an advertisement for one of the 24 strengths; and paired interviews to go deeper in understanding our signature strengths.

What did the Champions learn in Day One that they plan to take back? Here are just a few examples:

  • The team from Brown Middle School (Ravenna, OH) plans to use strengths to match students with mentors who might complement and grow the student’s strengths. For instance, a student with over-used Zest and Humor might be paired with an adult who has Humor and Self-Control.
  • Crown Community Academy (Chicago, Il) plans to have all faculty and staff take the VIA so that they can use the strengths insight to create teams to work on committees and projects. This will ensure teams have a divergence of strengths and let individuals select projects that leverage strengths.
  • Whitfield School (St. Louis, Mo) came with some prior experience using VIA in their school. Last year, students used their VIA reports to prepare for and conduct student-led parent-teacher conferences. They plan to build on this for next year.

With two more days to go, the learning has just begun.