“To thine own self be true.”
Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3 78-79
So much wisdom can be found in the pages of Shakespeare’s plays and poems if we care to explore deeply enough. It is also interesting how we react to Shakespeare over time. For example, I studied Macbeth at Year 10 and can still remember my lines from playing Banquo in a rather poor adaptation of the opening Acts of the Play. My horse was a broom stick and sword was a paper tube, an ice cream tub for a helmet. The C my group received for our efforts was probably quite generous in hindsight. In Year 11 I was introduced to the “unweeded garden” of “rotten Denmark” and the procrastinating Prince Hamlet.
This quote, has stuck with me since my teacher emphasised it to us, “To thine own self be true.” Whilst we may be able to debate the true meaning of Polonius’s quote to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this quote provides a wonderful reflection point for our students at the mid-point of the term. To know oneself and remain true to your values and principles is often the mark of a person yet what is the relevance for our young students as they consider the challenges they will confront over the course of the year. For our young people at all year levels, the process of coming to understand their own strengths and weaknesses is paramount to achieving their personal best. This is an important part of the development of leadership capacity, as the ability to reflect on areas that need improvement and attention can offer great benefits to individuals in all aspects of their lives.
We have been using the VIA (Values in Action) Character Strength Survey at Berwick Grammar School and I would like to see this expand more widely across the entire School, including teachers and parents. There is a great deal of research and writing behind the use of this tool, freely available on the internet and my own experience reveals how powerful it can be in shaping an individual’s understanding of self. The free online version of the inventory of 120 questions is worthwhile doing, and a summary report highlight’s a individuals strengths of the 24 identified. The program provides feedback on Character Strengths and Virtues based upon the classifications of Wisdom and Knowledge, Courage, Humanity, Justice, Temperance and Transcendence.
Try this link: https://www.viacharacter.org
Understanding our strengths and also that of our students, enables us as educators to work with them more informed about what it is that makes them ‘tick’ so to speak.
Dr Steven Middleton