It’s late August, and for most educators in America, the school year has started or is just about to start. We want to take this moment to highlight one of our favorite back-to-school belonging practices: Know Their Sparks!
When Thriving YOUniversity’s Chief Empowerment Officer Joelle was a principal, she would often challenge her staff to find out–and record– at least one strength and “spark” for each of their students by Thanksgiving break.
Why? because one of the critical factors in student success is that the student has one adult on campus who knows them. Students who feel the adults at school know them are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and resilient. A sense of belonging also correlates with a lower incidence of behavioral problems. Tracking student strengths and sparks provides a tangible way to track and measure how our students are connecting with the adults on campus.
What are Sparks?
So what is a spark? A spark is an interest or passion that your students have which makes them light up when they talk about it or helps them express who they are and what they have to offer the world.
This new school year, we encourage you to track strengths and sparks in your classroom or as a school-wide initiative to connect with all the kids at your school site. Once you have identified student strengths and sparks, you can help them to pursue and develop them. Conversely, if you notice that you have a few students who have no sparks listed, you know that those are students who you may need to make a more concerted effort to get to know.
Building Belonging on Campus
To help you identify your students’ sparks and strengths, we have created a Know Their Sparks sheet you can download to use in your classroom or at your school site. You can modify it to include the types of information you want to know about your students. Gathering this information will provide you with opportunities to connect with your students on subjects outside of school.
And, since belonging is just as important to adults, we have created a Know Their Sparks – For Staff sheet, too! Use this tool to help staff get to know each other and initiate conversations that don’t always center around work.
Download your copies today to help increase a sense of belonging for everyone on campus this year!
See the “Know Their Sparks” process in action: