Hope, Self-Awareness, Creativity

By Ms. Kirsten Bowles, Junior School Counsellor 
Our children have spoken. From a long list of character strengths, our students have identified Hope, Self-Awareness and Creativity as the character strengths they have developed and applied the most during this challenging COVID year. 

Grades 6 and 7 have been learning about character strengths all year. Embedded into the CARE program, character strengths form the framework for their social-emotional learning. In September, they identified their top five strengths and described how they use those strengths in their daily lives. And today, nine months later, they are looking back at a remarkable year and reflecting on how they adapted to the various disappointments, challenges and unexpected opportunities that it presented.

Students answered the question, “What character strength have you developed or utilized most this year?” Hope was far and above the most noted character strength, with self-awareness and creativity sharing second place.

Our school theme this year, Hope is also the character strength that most students have cultivated. Hope balances realism with optimism. When you have hope, you have confidence that things will turn out well and that better days are ahead.

Student Reflections on Hope 
  • “Hope, especially this year. Just having hope and believing that this virus will be over soon, and everyone can quickly get vaccinated.”
  • “I have had to have hope for the future. In this pandemic, there is so much uncertainty and fear. I needed to develop hope for better times ahead.” 
  • “Through these tough times, I needed to stay positive and push through while also comforting others.”

A silver lining from the isolation caused by a pandemic year is that our children have had time to get to know themselves, their thoughts, emotions and impulses, which will help them to individuate and become their own people. Self-awareness is a key to developing maturity and has implications for good decision-making, healthy relationships and self-regulation.

Student Reflections on Self Awareness 
  • “Self-awareness was important—making sure you stay on task and not falling into the rabbit hole of the internet.”
  • “We were working in such close quarters and self awareness was important. A lot of things I was excited for were cancelled and the urge to overreact about them was there.”
  • I have developed this strength because I am really starting to know myself better and I have become more comfortable being myself all the time. I have had to spend a lot of time by myself over the past year and I feel like it has really helped me find myself and become comfortable being who I am.”

When our usual structures and routines are dissolved, we find new ways of doing things and meeting our needs. In conceptualizing something useful or new, this emergent energy comes from the inside out, and is often a byproduct of boredom or stillness. Creativity ranked second of the strengths used this year and was evident in the classroom, on the playground and in our homes.

Student Reflections on Creativity 
  • “I had to find ways to hang out with friends safely, especially when eating food. I used a long tablecloth as a picnic blanket, so we could be socially distanced, still be able to eat, and still be able to sit on the blanket together.” 
  • “I had to find things that interested me because the things I love were cancelled. From being alone and bored, I had to try new things.”
  • “We made up silly games at recess that were really weird but sometimes quite fun.”
Character strengths reveal the best within us. Although each of us has signature strengths that define us, these strengths are not fixed and may change over time. As well, with intention and mindful practice, we can grow all parts of our character. Interestingly, adversity is an alchemist for adaptation and change, and we’ve witnessed this in our children and ourselves as we’ve found work-arounds to the obstacles placed in front of us this year. The year has presented unexpected opportunities to discover and develop the resources and strengths we didn’t know we possessed.

If you are interested in learning more about character strengths, you may enjoy this film on the Science of Character or find it interesting to take your own Character Strengths Survey. What are your most used strengths?