Starting with Strengths Part 1

“Who are these people?”

—Every student at the beginning of school.

“Who are these people?”

—Every teacher at the beginning of school.

One of the hardest things in life, especially school life, is to understand and communicate with other people. After the summer break, students often get overwhelmed by their classmates, who are also overwhelmed, and by their teachers, ditto. When you factor the various neurologies and accompanying anxieties that affect 2e kids, that overwhelming feeling can become a tidal wave.

Over the last few years, under the guidance of mentors such Susan Baum, Robin Schader, and Henry Nichols, Bridges Academy, the flagship school for twice-exceptional education, has experimented with a beginning-of-the-year activity called Starting with Strengths. Its purpose is for students and teachers to get to know each other, particularly for teachers to begin to understand the students in their classrooms.

The Starting with Strengths activities have taken many forms in the ten years that Bridges has used them. Condensed into an afternoon of personality evaluations proved too short to give quality information to the teachers and for the students to take it seriously. Going too long, dedicating the entire first week to the activities, proved wearisome and resulted in student burn-out.

Reshaped and revised this year under the leadership of the new Head of School, Keri Borzello, the program is tightly organized into two parts that take about an hour and a half after lunch during Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the first week of school, culminating in a Friday presentation.

Part One primarily uses two tools to evaluate the strengths of each student—and teacher. Part Two uses those evaluat...


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