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Positive Psychology in Education August 1, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 12:00 pm
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Assessing Signature Strengths of the Children from Multiple Perspectives

Tayyab Rashid fromValues in Action Institute, Cincinnati, US and University of Toronto Scarborough, Toronto, Canada

Good character is what parents want to cultivate in their children, what teachers attempt to impart in their pupils, what friends look for in each other. But rarely these perspectives have been integrated with child‘s self-report measures to determine a child‘s signature strengths. This study precisely did that. An entire six grade class at a public school in Toronto participated in this project. Character strengths of curiosity, forgiveness, appreciation of beauty, authenticity and honesty, love, social intelligence and zest received high convergence while modesty, perspective, self-regulation and spirituality received low convergence. Children with the help of their parents also participated in a project which actively deployed children‘s signature strengths. Results of this project are expected before this proposed presentation.

Play Your Strengths(tm) with LEGO(r) Building and discovering our strengths through narratives and LEGO models

Mads Bab from Play Your Strengths (intenz AS), Aarhus, Denmark

Introduction: LEGO bricks are combined with a theoretical foundation based on strengths psychology, appreciative inquiry, play theory and elements of narrative psychology. Participants either build their strengths as identified in the VIA Survey and if these have not yet been identified the participants build their best possible selves, and label these according to the VIA Classification of character strengths. Upon building their strengths in LEGOR participants share stories of these strengths and interact with the models as a group

Background: A constructivist approach to strengths would imply that lasting and usable knowledge of one’s top strengths is likely to happen through a construction process and not a quick labeling process alone. Th rough this construction process one builds a strong scaffold of knowledge regarding, using Linleys (2009), definition, preexisting capacities for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that is authentic and energizing. Taking a narrative and metaphorical approach to strengths it can be argued that in order to understand our strengths we need to understand the strength-stories and strengths-metaphors that we have consciously and unconsciously composed over our lives. This will allow us using, Lakhoff ”s and Johnson”s (1980) words, “to more thoroughly understand how we draw inferences, set goals, make commitments, and execute plans”, but in this case on the basis of our strengths.

Play Your Strength™ has been qualitative researched as part of an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology dissertation as well as practical experience with more than 300 participants.

Participants will be introduced to data and findings from workshops and research done for dissertation from MSc in Applied Positive Psychology 2010 as well as background and theoretical references. Participants will also be given LEGO bricks and guided through a selection of the Play Your Strengths exercises.

Smart Strengths: A Model for Positive Education with Parents, Teachers and Coaches

John M Yeager1, Sherri W. Fisher2, David N. Shearon3 1Th e Culver Academies, Center for Character Excellence, Culver, US, 2Flourishing Schools, Medfield, US, 3Flourishing Schools, Nashville, US

When parents, teachers and athletic coaches form strengths based partnerships for the youth they serve, they can collectively have a significantly positive influence on students.

The workshop will provide illustrations of the S-M-A-R-T Strengths Model at three unique schools in the United States: an independent boarding school, a rural public school (where 50% of the student body are at or below the poverty line), and an underserved student population at an urban charter school. Th e S-M-A-R-T acronym stands for Spotting, Managing, Advocating, Relating, and Training strengths. The approach focuses on how adult mentors discover and act on their own strengths, so they can help youth play to their own assets, thus becoming more resilient and building high quality connections with others – at home, in school, and on the athletic fi eld. Th e following eight essential areas for successful implementation will be addressed:

1) Enabling conditions that make creating a strengths-based culture possible;

2) Incorporating a focus on strengths in the school mission;

3) Performing initial teacher training that generates buy-in and enthusiasm. In the process, the school develops a shared language for talking about strengths, which facilitates communication among teachers, athletic coaches, parents, staff , and students;

4) Using appreciative and strengths based approaches to solve cultural problems among teachers – to move from department silos to a more collaborative climate;

5) Establishing ongoing training practices to help experienced teachers lead newer teachers in the strengths based approach;

6) Helping parents learn a strengths-based approach to learning so that they can support student learning effectively at home;

7) Incorporating strengths based learning in activities performed by students moving through the elementary and secondary school grades

8) Involving alumni in the character formation of students.


Happy Children, Happy Teachers… July 31, 2011

The HAPPY SCHOOLS Program: A Project on Positive Education in Spain

Ricardo Arguís Rey C.P.R. ‘Juan de Lanuza’, Zaragoza, Spain

The “HAPPY CLASSROOMS” Program is a pioneering and recent project in Spain, which attempts to provide teachers an educational program based on Positive Psychology. It’s designed for students in Preschool, Primary and Secondary Schools (children and youth between 3-18 years old). The two axes of the Program are: mindfulness and the education of character strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). It has two fundamental objectives: enhancing the personal and social development of students, and promoting the happiness of students, teachers and families. This Program is situated within the framework of the Key Competencies of the current European educational systems. Specifically, it allows teachers to work the three more transversal Competencies: autonomy and personal initiative, social and civic competence, and competence of learning to learn. It can be developed in all areas of school curriculum, as well as in tutorial action and values education. Th is project is the result of two years of work by a team of advisors and teachers linked to the Teachers’ Center “Juan de Lanuza” in Zaragoza (Spain). Th e authors -SATI Team- have grounded the program on the most recent contributions of Positive Psychology, and off er general proposals and more than 200 activities for students. Th e Program is posted online from October 2010 and in coming months it will be published in printed version. Currently, SATI Team promotes teacher training to implement the HAPPY CLASSROOMS Program in schools in Spain. In June 2011, we will have some data that will help to evaluate its application, as a basis for designing future research on the effectiveness of the Program. At present, the Program is only available in Spanish. Its distribution is gratuitous and completely free. Th e authors allow its diffusion and reproduction, but always without commercial purposes and citing the original source. It can be downloaded at the next website:

Well-Being at Work and Across Life Domains: A Comparative Study Among Italian Professionals

Antonella Delle Fave1, Mjriam Di Bisceglie1, Andrea Fianco1, Paola Mencarelli2 from Milano, Italy

Background and aims: Meaning pursuit, resource mobilization, and the exercise of freedom and responsibility are constituents of well-being in any life domain. However, as concerns work, task and organizational differences substantially influence workers’ well-being. Th ese topics were explored through the Eudaimonic and Hedonic Happiness Investigation among 402 Italian adults (266 women and 136 men, aged 45,8 on average), including 185 teachers, 113 bank clerks, and a miscellaneous group of 104 participants involved in dif erent jobs.

Results: Teachers associated work with the highest levels of happiness and meaningfulness, compared with the other groups. On the opposite, bank clerks scored lowest in happiness and meaningfulness at work, and in life satisfaction. Teachers more oft en associated well-being with personal growth and involvement in community/society issues, while the other groups gave more emphasis to leisure and material resources. All groups quoted family as the prominent context of meaningfulness and happiness.

Conclusion: Teachers prominently associated job with wellbeing, while bank clerks perceived lack of engagement and meaning. Structural job aspects were related to these findings. Overall, group differences suggest that achieving an optimal balance in resource investment across life domains, according to their developmental and meaning potential, can represent a useful strategy in well-being promotion.

A UK Perspective on Positive Education

Ilona Boniwell from University of East London, London, United Kingdom

This presentation will address two positive education projects implemented in British schools. Results will be discussed with regard to cultural, curricular and wider school policy considerations. Th e first, Haberdasher´s Well-Being Curriculum, is a comprehensive positive psychology programme implemented in three secondary schools in South East London. From Year 7 through to Year 13 students receive one hour of positive education weekly. The presentation will report on the outcomes of the pilot year of programme implementation with Year 7 students (focusing on positive experience and relationships). The study was a non-randomised control group design with a pre-test and post-test, using Multidimensional Life Satisfaction Scale for Children, Positive and Negative Aff ect Schedule for Children and Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale. Using 2x2Anova, significant effects were found for satisfaction with self, satisfaction with family, satisfaction with school, satisfaction with friends, positive and negative affect.The SPARK Resilience Programme was developed to improve adolescents´ psychological well-being by building resilience over 12 one-hour weekly lessons. It was delivered to Year 7 pupils in two different schools in the Borough of Newham, East London and assessed using pre- and post test design. Th e statistical data analysis showed significantly higher resilience scores in the post assessment compared to the pre-assessment data. A significant increase was also found for self-esteem and self-efficacy scores. A marginally significant decrease was observed in depression symptoms.

The control data was provided by the school’s annual student survey of Year 7 students completed one year previous to the current post-assessment. The control group indicated lower positive aff ect than the treatment group in the pre and post assessment. Th e control group’s life satisfaction scores (SLSS) resulted lower than the treatment group in the post assessment.


Children’s Resilience Programs July 30, 2011

The Second World Congress on Positive Psychology took place in Philadelphia last weekend. I didn’t attend it, but I learned  about some interesting educational projects around the world from the Final Program:

Children’s Resilience Program in India

Steve Leventhal from University of California, Global Health Sciences, San Francisco, CA, United States:

We present findings from CorStone’s ‘Children‘s Resiliency Program (CRP)’ in New Delhi, Mumbai and Surat, India.

CRP is a 24-week, school-based prevention program that incorporates elements of positive psychology, restorative practices, and social-emotional learning skills for at-risk adolescent youth in developing countries. The CRP seeks to provide youth with knowledge and tools that build character strengths, inter-personal skills, problem-solving and conflict resolution. In 2009 the CRP was piloted with 97 female students, ages 12-18 at a school in a poverty-stricken Muslim community in New Delhi. Teachers were trained to facilitate weekly one-hour support groups (10 students per group). Group sessions included an interactive 20 minute lesson plan followed by 40 minutes of group sharing and problem-solving. Emotional resilience was assessed by levels of optimism, locus of control, and emotional and behavioral difficulties.

Standardized assessments administered at baseline, midpoint and post intervention, showed large emotional and behavioral effects. ‘Normal’ scores on the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) increased from 33% at baseline to 61% at mid-intervention (12 weeks), whereas the percentage of students having an abnormal score decreased from 45% to 6%. Significant decreases in pessimism and external locus of control were found in post-intervention scores. Attendance increased markedly on days when the program was offered. 99% of students reported that the topics were relevant to their lives and that the program provided valuable learning experiences.

An intervention for 1,000 adolescent girl students in slum communities in Mumbai and Gujarat is currently underway, using a quasi-experimental design with 500 girls receiving the intervention and 500 girls serving as a control group.

School Based Relationship Programs: A Foundation for Building Resilience

Jonathan Toussaint, Karen Morris from Interrelate Family Centres, Sydney, Australia

The Australian Government’s initiative and focus on Respectful Relationships has informed the development of Kids Connexions, a program for children encouraging them to build healthy relationships. Th e program covers the importance of: maintaining a sense of self; respecting differences in others; normalizing respectful ways of relating to others; empowering children to make healthy choices about relationships; and highlighting effective ways to connect with peers.

Kids Connexions has been evaluated with outstanding results. The philosophy of Interrelate is to build resilience in the life of a child. With over 84 years experience in cutting edge school based program development and delivery, Interrelate continues to inform children as they first begin to establish conscious relationships in primary school. This interactive workshop provides participants with an overview of the program, useful tools to engage with children, and techniques to encourage active participation in the classroom. Strategies to promote and increase the involvement of schools will also be addressed.

Children’s Character Strengths and the Transition from Kindergarten to First Grade

Anat Shoshani from Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Psychology, Herzliya, Israel

The transition from kindergarten to first grade is one of the major challenges children face during early childhood, and children´s character strengths can be crucial for effectively adjusting to this transition. In this talk, I will present findings from a pioneering study attempting to integrate the body of knowledge accumulated in the strengths and virtues field with the school adjustment literature. Specifically, parents of 108 first-grade Israeli children rated their child’s character strengths using a Hebrew version of the 24-items Values in Action (VIA) scale and reported on their child´s cognitive, emotional, behavioral and social engagement in school.

Findings provided extensive support to the hypothesis that children´s character strengths positively contribute to school adjustment. Curiosity and self regulation were the most important predictors of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral adjustment to school. Implications for early childhood practices and strengths-based skills relevant to school adjustment will be discussed.


More Girl’s stories June 1, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 8:00 am
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There are twenty four girls in Mai Am Shelter right now. Here are more stories:

Vo Thi Thuy (1992) came from Thua Thien Hue.  Her father abandoned her when she was little and her mother was disabled and sold lottery tickets in a wheel chair.

Thuy has just finished her final year 12 with average grade.  She is about to start studying economics at a technical college in Go Vap for four years.

Nguyen Thi Kim Hau (2002) likes to sing and draw.

Hau has no father and her mother died of Aids.  She was found under a bridge over a canal in district 1.

After her first year in the Home Hau finished Class 1 passing with excellent and in June 2010 she graduated from Class 2 also with excellent.  She enjoys maths.

Nguyen Thi Tien (1992) is Ha’s big sister.  She comes from Quang Binh. Her father was an alcoholic who couldn’t work and regularly beat them, so her mother and the children escaped and came to Saigon to find work as servants, but had nowhere to live.   Tien has just finished Class 12 with average grade.  She is studying accounting.

Nguyen Thi Kim Loan (1992) has no father and her mother sells lottery tickets.  She likes to listen to music and watch tv. 

Loan has been in the Home since soon after it began 13 years ago.  She finished Class 11 in 2009 with average grade and graduated from Class 12, the last year of school, in 2010 with above average. Now she wants to be a nurse and will go to nursing school for 2 years in district 4 (4 million dong fee).  She has Christian principles and is committed to wanting to help sick people get better.  She will make a wonderful nurse.

Nguyen Thi Thu Ha (1998) is 12 and finished Class 4 with excellent grade in 2009 and Class 5 also with excellent in 2010.  Ha was abandoned by her father, her mother works  as a cleaner in a restaurant.  Her sister is handicapped.   She likes to play the piano and sing and enjoys maths.

Tran Thi Ngoc Oanh, nickname Tien, is now 10.   (On arrival she was said to have been born in 2000.)  She has no father and was abandoned by her mother.  Her grandmother was too poor to take care of her.  She likes to draw.  She’s a real character, always laughing and mischievous.  She wants to be a kindergarten teacher.

Tien  finished Class 2 with above average grade in 2009 and Class 3 also with above average in 2010.  She enjoys maths.

 Nguyen Thi Bang Phuong (2002) was abandoned by her father who is a Swede, and her mother was very poor.  She came to the Home in February 2008. She finished Class 1 with above average grade in 2009 and passed Class 2 with excellent this year.
For those, who don’t know much about this shelter read my earlier posts (Jan-Apr 2010). All girls sleep in one room on bunk beds, they cook and clean themselves. They wear donated clothers. They go to school and support each other. If any of you want to be pen pals with the girls (must be in Vietnamese), they would appreciate it. It is hard to replace a real family but kind words will help them to grow in life and become mature individuals.

If you are interested in learning more about the shelter and want to help the girls have education, food and clothing, feel free to contact Celia at or just leave your comment to this blog post and we will contact you.


Girl’s stories May 30, 2011

This is the first time I learned their stories, and some of them are shocking, you wouldn’t tell if you saw them that they had hardship in their lives, because they are full of life and positive energy. The following is from Celia’s file about 6 girls I taught last year:

Ho Thi Hoang Anh (1995) is 15.  She is an orphan who was begging at the Saigon train station before coming to Ba Chieu Home.   Her father was from Hong Kong, and went back there.  Her mother died of breast cancer in 2000.  Hoang Anh came to the home in 2002.  She finished Class 6 with above average in 2009 and wants to be a kindergarten teacher. (She also wanted to be a teacher 2 years ago.) In 2010 she finished Class 7 also with above average grade. She likes sewing.

Nguyen Thi Huong (1993) is now 17.  She was abandoned by her father, her mother works but is too poor to look after her.

She finished Class 7 with above average grade in 2009 and Class 8 also above average in 2010.  Huong likes cooking.  She wanted to work in finance and banking when she grows up but is now favouring cooking (chicken with ginger is her favourite dish).

Ho Thi May Hanh (1990) is 20.  She was abandoned by her mother, so her father looked after her and they earned their living by collecting rubbish.  She has been in the home for 8 years since 2002.

She has always liked to cook, and gave me the recipe for Bun bo Hue.

She finished Class 9 (end of Junior High School) in 2009 with above average grade and Class 10 with excellent. She is now going on to study at a City School for 4 years from which she should graduate with 2 certificates, one in accounting and the other a high school certificate.

The following three girls are not longer at the shelter, and as Celia mentioned it is a good thing because it means that they reunited with their families:

Nguyen Cat Tien (1995) was abandoned by her parents and came to the Home 4 years ago.  She finished Class 5 with average grade in 2009 and Class 6 also with average in 2010.  She likes to cook

 and wants to be a hairdresser when she grows up.

Pham Thi Mai Thao (February 1997) is 13.  She came from Ben Tre.  Her family migrated to Ho ChiMinh City to find work as servants and were transient with no home.  Thao has just finished Class 7 with excellent.  She enjoys literature.

Phan Thi Huong (1994) is 16. She’s finished Class 8 with average in 2009 and Class 9 also with average in 2010.  She will now leave school and start a 2 year course in hospitality learning the restaurant trade. She wants to work in a restaurant.  She left the Home to go back to her family.


Ba Chieu Shelter Founder May 28, 2011

Several weeks ago I receved comments to my blog by Celia, who is the founder of the shelter I volunteered at last year. We exchanged emails and I learned more about Mai Am Ba Chieu, the girls there and how Celia keeps this organization alive:

Hi Marina

I have attached my list of all the girls in the home, updated on my recent trip (next post).  You can see their photos, something about them, and some of the movements. 

I helped to start the home 13 years ago, and also to build the current house, and since 1998 have been responsible for finding the funds to keep it going. (We lived in VN for 7 years.)  For the first 2 years I arranged for the NZ embassy in Hanoi to fund it, then when they couldn’t fund operating costs, I took it over to keep it as a kiwi project. We get some profits from the NZ Wine & Food Festival which I set up in 1999 when I was NZ Trade Commissioner and Consul General, some from sponsorships (approx US$100 for one girl’s education for a year, $365 for food and around $600 for all costs). 

I also am a guest speaker and give my fees and gold coin donation to the home.  I have also written a book called Taste Vietnam, introducing Vietnamese cuisine, with a photo of each girl on each page, and all profits going to the home.  I’ve also done another book There’s Lots of Love… of poems for children, illustrated by the girls, and a boardgame Venture Vietnam, again with profits going to the home. So somehow each year we manage to find the US$12-15,000 needed to keep the home going.  I am in close contact with Yen and the girls, and have organized for the NZ Embassy to fund the sewing room and computer room.

I am always happy to hear of volunteers like yourself and hope you have found the contact with the home as rewarding as I do.

Kind regards

Celia M Caughey

Fundraising Coordinator,

Ba Chieu Home, Ho Chi Minh City


Storytelling Class for kids March 13, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 1:00 pm
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What: Learn how to create your very own computer storybook. You’ll get to write about anything you want, add pictures, and draw your characters into the story!

Who: Kids ages 8-12 from the Clarendon Hill Apartments and surrounding areas of Somerville, MA, USA

Where: The CHA Computer Lab.

When: Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 7:00. The first class will be held on Monday, March 28th!

Monday evenings will be training classes, while Wednesday evenings will be “free play” for kids to practice what they learned. Classes will run every week until mid-May.

More information: Participants in this free class will be using eToys, an interactive computer program designed with kids in mind. They’ll learn how to draw “sketches” using eToys and use these sketches to create a story about a topic of their choosing. Creativity will be emphasized…and ultimately, the goal of this class is to have FUN!

If you’re interesting in signing up for this class: Please call Lince or Franklin from The Haitian Coalition at 617.625.6400. Or, send an email with your name and contact information to and we’ll get back to you shortly! Space is limited, so please RSVP.

Thanks, and we hope to see you soon!


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