They say “Glasgow’s Miles Better!" but in the Springtime and the sun is shining for a whole weekend, it is also true that “ Glasgow Smiles Better!" The new Emirates Airlines flight non-stop from Dubai to Glasgow cuts at least 8 hours travel time out of a flight that normally involves a stop in Frankfurt, Amsterdam or London. I was heading for the Working Seminar called Common Sense Communities that showcased a new strengths-based approach for working with children and young people hosted by Training Connections Scotland with Kibble Education and Care Centre.
Both external and internal assets require attention
Those of you from the US and Canada may have already heard about the 40 Developmental Assets identified by the Search Institute in Minneapolis as building blocks for healthy development that enable young people to grow up healthy, caring and responsible. Those working in the child and youth care field elsewhere, especially in Britain, have not really heard about this material before – hence the seminar. The basic idea behind this Strengths-Based Approach is that certain external and internal influences – or what the Search Institute calls assets – have been shown empirically to dramatically shape young people’s chances in life. Kids with more assets have greater chances for success. Twenty external assets have been identified around four themes: Support; Empowerment; Boundaries & Expectations; and Constructive Use of Time. These External Assets involve family members, other adults, community involvement and safety, family, school, neighbourhood and peer group boundaries, and purposeful use of time at school, home and in the community.
A lot happens when parent(s) and teachers encourage kids to do well
At the same time there are twenty internal assets or internalised characteristics that help shape daily living. These are also grouped around four distinctive themes: Commitment to Learning; Positive Values; Social Competencies; and Positive Identity. Highlighted in these Internal Assets are issues associated with achievement and engagement in learning activities, whether at school or at home. They also involve values such as caring, equality and social justice, integrity, honesty, responsibility and restraint. Competencies associated with planning and decision-making, interpersonal and cultural skills, resistance skills and peaceful conflict resolution are also highlighted. Finally, themes such as personal power, self-esteem, having a sense of purpose and hope for the future are also reaffirmed as important.
Much happens when kids care about their school and its activities
What’s so new about all this you might ask? The answer is very little. The interesting and useful part is the way child and youth care workers are able to focus on kids” strengths or assets. This lets a worker or team of workers identify a handful of themes that might become the focus of on-going attention over the course of 6-8 weeks, engaging young people in ways that help shape survival skills that can make a real difference in their lives. In case you’re interested, check out the website at www.search-institute.org where you will find a lot of useful information about what this new “common sense” approach is all about. You can also access a wide range of practical materials for use in community, classroom and group care settings. Our task now is to try and translate the materials for use outside the US and Canada. Just do it!