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Top tips for resilience: Knowing and using your strengths

Written By: Cornelia Lucey
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Introduction

In these top tips, Cornelia Lucey, psychologist and leadership consultant presents some possible approaches to building resilience for teachers and educationalists and shares ways they can be applied to build resilience.

It is important to note that these are only some tips to help you cope with everyday challenges at work and beyond. It is advisable to seek out professional help if you need support with your mental health. Education Support, a charity dedicated to supporting the mental health and well-being of education staff, also provides many helpful resources.

What’s the idea? 

Our strengths are the things we are good at, care about and that make us feel good when we apply them. Essentially, our key strengths are those that energise us, engage us and that feel effortless (Biswas-Diener, Kashdan and Minhas, 2011). This doesn’t imply that there aren’t other things that we’re good at and that we’ve learnt to be good at, there are just some facets that feel more natural and we are predisposed towards (Niemiec, 2018).

What does it mean?

A synthesised study of what drives peak performance at an individual level identified that the use of strengths was key for engagement and performance, along with values alignment and emotional management (Crabb, 2011). Another study examining a strengths-based approach to teacher professional development found that this approach increased teachers’ sense of self-efficacy, autonomy, competence and relatedness (Zwart, Korthagen and Attema-Noordewier, 2014). To become aware of our strengths and benefit from using them, we need to apply and develop them on a regular basis. 

What are the implications for teachers?

To take any of this on board and for it to boost your resilience you need to have a good understanding of your own strengths. You may already know them, but how often do you reflect on them and draw out how they have positively impacted your day? Equally, if you don’t know, a good and free place to start is by doing the VIA survey – it’s charitably funded and can be found online. What’s more, teenage students can access this too if you would like to try it with a class:

  1. Try and identify your strengths. What do you enjoy doing? What are you good at?
  2. Write down different ways you could use your top five signature strengths.
 
References
  • Biswas-Diener R, Kashdan T and Minhas G (2011) 'A dynamic approach to psychological strength development and intervention', The Journal of Positive Psychology 6(2): 106–118. 
  • Crabb S (2011) The use of coaching principles to foster employee engagement. The Coaching Psychologist, 7(1): 27–34. 
  • Niemiec R (2018) Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners. Oxford: Hogrefe Publishing.
  • Zwart RC, Korthagen FAJ and Attema-Noordewier S (2014) A strength-based approach to teacher professional development. Professional Development in Education 41(3): 579–596.
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