Personal Development should be just that, personal.
Orla Carlin tested herself to find her strengths then incorporated them into her lessons and way of teaching.
Sometimes we have to be honest and admit that generic PD sessions at times, just don’t cut it. Research now indicates there are many benefits of differentiated PD and ultimately if we apply it for learners, why not apply it to staff training too. After embarking on a Positive Psychology Intervention, I was introduced to the VIA character strengths which helped me identify my own strengths. My top three signature strengths were kindness, love of learning and curiosity.
I decided that at this moment of time, kindness resonated the most and so I started to carry out random acts of kindness daily. I noticed how it became infectious, bringing smiles to those around me, which then prompted others to do act kindly also. Recognising that kindness was not just monetary but could be given through the love languages such as time, acts of service or words of affirmation made it feel even more achievable and relatable.
Then came the idea were I decided to weave it into my lesson plans. I asked students to celebrate kindness, we had a kindness challenge, we talked more about empathy and we praised kind acts a lot more in class. Using my character strengths in this way made me feel elated and somewhat accomplished given the stress of teaching during a pandemic. It became apparent that other teachers could develop creative lessons using their key strengths, in order to improve their wellbeing. As a result of this exploration, I feel that middle leaders can differentiate PD sessions to allow teachers more time to focus on their strengths. Strengths based interventions can shift the power dynamics between leadership and teachers, as focusing on the individual will allow teachers to take more control but in a productive and healthy way.
How can leaders do this?
All in all, PD sessions may be helpful at times, but ultimately when they are designed they are not personalised for each individual. Investing time to allow teachers the option to improve or enhance their practice using character strengths has the potential to increase their active participation and engagement with PD sessions. In this way, middle leaders will get to know their teachers that little bit more and essentially allowing teachers to get to know themselves in a way they may not have explored before.