Our work is based in positive psychology and positive education. Our major focus is helping people define their vision and goals and the steps towards these – this is different from dealing primarily with problems. We explore the strengths that people, organisations and families have and build on these. We also bring a light touch into our work with the positive psychology aspects of kindness, gratitude, humour and positive communication.
Positivity is incorporated in the Circle guidelines
- There are no put downs – only personal positives (or push-ups!)
Circle Solutions is based in positive psychology. It incorporates the burgeoning knowledge in this field to support student endeavours to learn about themselves and others, promote an emotionally supportive learning environment and enhance resilience.
Strengths: Many young people do not think of themselves well, even those from supportive backgrounds may feel they do not meet expectations. Others may perceive classmates negatively and not be able to acknowledge the strengths they do have. Students need to tune into their own and others’ strengths and be able to use these in their relationships and in their learning. There are many ways Circles can help students identify, develop and find ways to use their own strengths and recognise others. This is about who you are ‘becoming’ and making choices about this.
CIRCLE ACTIVITY: CHOOSING STRENGTHS: Divide students into groups of three. Give each group one of the cards in Choosing Strengths from St Luke’s Innovative Resources. For example: I can choose to be patient; I can choose to be brave; I can choose to be caring. Ask the group to think about situations where someone might need that strength.
How would other people know that they were making that choice?
What would they see, what would they hear, what would they feel? How would they regard that person? Each group gives feedback to everyone
Extension: What difference might this strength make to a community – class, family, school?
Solutions: We live in a problem-saturated culture. Although there are challenges to be overcome, it might be better to start with a solution rather than the problem. This might sound back to front but when people focus on ways to get rid of something they don’t like (such as bullying) rather than what needs to happen instead (inclusion, friendship, support) they spend too much energy on the problem itself. A solution focus envisages where you want to go and what you want to happen. This gives you a much better idea of what steps you might take. It is easier for people to do things than to stop doing them. The language is of the positive is also helpful. Compare what happens in your mind when you say ‘don’t think of an elephant’! and then ‘ I am meeting a friend I haven’t seen for ages’. You have the image in your head of whatever is being talked about.
CIRCLE ACTIVITY: Start with the Solution. In small groups turn these problem statements into solution statements – there are no right or wrong answers as there may be several different solutions. The principle of agency means that everyone in the Circle takes responsibility for contributing to a classroom or school where everyone’s wellbeing is addressed. The first two are done to show you how to do them.
|PROBLEM||POSSIBLE SOLUTION (S)|
|There is a student no-one wants to sit near.||Our class is inclusive of everyone.|
|Teachers favour the ‘clever’ students||We acknowledge different abilities and strengths.|
|We are given too much homework|
|Some students spread nasty rumours|
|Binge drinking is on the increase|
|Some students are scared of making a mistake|
|Some people in school make others feel small or stupid|
|It’s always the same students who get into leadership roles – such as the SRC|
|People who have tantrums get their own way|
|Several boys here treat girls as inferior|
Often solutions are statements of intent – mission statements – there will be a need for an action plan to put them into practice and make them happen. This can be discussed over time in consecutive Circles, ideas shared, agreed and then referred to when needed. This works better than teacher imposed rules.
Positive Emotions. Positive emotions promote an effective climate for learning. They not only enable students to focus but they also facilitate creativity and problem solving. Positive emotions include a sense of belonging, feeling valued, safe, comfortable, cared for, respected and loved. Positive emotions are also experienced in moments of exuberance, excitement and shared humour. Laughter releases oxytocin into our bodies – the neurotransmitter that makes us feel good. This promotes connectedness and resilience. Promoting shared humour in Circles is one of the main reasons students love them. All emotions are highly infectious – we have mirroring neurons in our brains that make us ‘catch’ what other people are feeling.
CIRCLE ACTIVITY: Pair Share. First mix up students and then ask them to discuss what enables them to feel comfortable in school. See if they can find two things that are the same for both of them. They feedback to everyone. We feel comfortable when …
Extension Activity – any other positive emotion.
CIRCLE ACTIVITY: Contagion. Watch this YouTube clip about a man who starts laughing on a train and infects everyone around him. It’s 8 minutes long. You may want to cut it down by a couple of minutes: www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQUg75Q_t1c
Now go round the Circle with this sentence completion activity – “Watching this film …”
Fredrickson, B. (2009) Positivity. Ground-breaking research to release your inner optimist and thrive. Crown Publishers
Roffey, S. (2014) Circle Solutions for Student Wellbeing Sage Publications
St.Luke’s Innovative Resources: Many materials for developing strengths and solutions including Choosing Strengths. www.innovativeresources.org