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#071 Unpacking Strength-Based Learning w/ Sam Young

Featured Image #071 Unpacking Strength-Based Learning w Sam Young

Today we catch up with a recent guest Sam Young, from Young Scholars Academy, as we unpack strength-based learning and find out what the big deal is all about!

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Memorable Quote

“When we think of strength based learning we’re really talking about focusing… where the energy or where the mind goes… everything flows… and a strength based education is just a choice to focus on here, the strength area, and just bring this up knowing that this [the area of deficit] will come to.

It’s a choice that we make as educators and as mentors, as psychologists, as a therapist, everyone to say, yes, there are these areas, there are these struggle areas, but we also need to focus on developing, primarily, the strength areas, the areas that feel good and know that everything else will follow suit.” – Sam Young

“At its core, deficit-based learning… steeps our students… in a space where they are not thriving and it constantly reminds them… of where they’re struggling, how they’re coming up short and what they’re not doing. And that has been shown to have real consequences on their psyche, on their self-worth, on their self-esteem, on confidence and their ability to then be successful in this life. Paradoxically, by helping someone bring the bottom up, so to speak, you’re actually harming them.” – Sam Young

Resources

 

Bio

Sam Young

Samuel Young, MEd, is a growth-minded, two-time Fulbright Scholar and Director of Young Scholars Academy, a strength-based, talent-focused virtual enrichment center that supports twice-exceptional students and their families. Samuel is a neurodivergent educator who has ADHD. As an ADHD learner, he has a tremendous understanding of, experience in, and respect for all things related to neurodiverse education.

Before founding Young Scholars Academy, Samuel taught in a variety of capacities—including nearly a decade at Bridges Academy—at an array of programs in the US, Europe, and Asia. Travel and culture are near and dear to him. He has led 2e students to over 7 countries for immersive cultural and educational trips.

Samuel has been featured in the documentary 2e2: Teaching The Twice Exceptional, the textbook Understanding The Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Students, 2nd Ed., Variations Magazine, 2e News, and other publications.

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: Hello, and welcome back to the Al gifted kids podcast. I am delighted to be back, and I’m also excited to present this episode to you. We catch up again with Sam young, from young scholars academy. Now that name may ring a bell. He was on the podcast recently as a part of gifted, talented, and your diversity awareness week.

[00:00:21] Where we discussed, why they use D and D as a part of their young scholars academy offerings. Which was a great episode. But Sam’s back because I felt like it was really important. That we have a conversation about. Y the strength based approach to not just learning, but even parenting gifted kids or, I mean, any kid.

[00:00:47] Is the bee’s knees. We go on about strength based learning. On the podcast, you would have heard that term before. And we were well overdue having a chat with someone. About just kind of, what is it? What is it all about? So we dive into that with Sam. Which is lovely because that is what young scholars academy is all about.

[00:01:11] And so I feel very grateful that he made time and we got to catch up and dive into that. Now young scholars academy. I think they have a new round opening soon. I think they do 10 week sort of blocks and a new one coming out. But what they’re doing is an open house online on the 8th of December, where you can actually kind of take a sneak peek and meet some of the students and families.

[00:01:36] Who get involved and the teachers or educators. And Sam, so a really great opportunity to kind of check it out. If it sounds like it might be something that interests you. Because I know as a parent of gifted kids, I’m always looking for those opportunities for my kids to connect with other gifted kids.

[00:01:56] And also find those spaces where. They can just be themselves and there’ll be understood and people kind of get what they need. And so young scholars academy is certainly one of those places. So thank you, Sam, for joining us. Um, it was a lovely episode. Uh, as a couple of ADHD is, and I think Sam why me saying we did go off on a couple of tangents, but like that we’re really good tangents.

[00:02:21] And we certainly came back onto topic. So really lovely episode, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Also at the moment, our gifted kids has a new Christmas book for gifted families. I got rather carried away. It’s about 50 pages long. It’s an ebook. Called a very gifted Christmas available for sale on the website for 9 99, Australian.

[00:02:45] And we’ll be doing a free webinar. We worked through a couple of things from the book. Uh, which is kind of exciting because it’s all about. Well, actually, I shared it with a couple of friends and one of my friends. This is what she had to say about it. She said Christmas can be many things. And here is a book to help you along full of inspiration. But at the end of the day, it will empower you to not feel like you need to live up to expectations.

[00:03:11] And as I, oh, that is so sweet. It is. Exactly. The intention is just kind of like taking back Christmas and. Making it something that meets our gifted needs. And so it was really fun. I could have made it so much longer. Uh, and may well in future years. Um, and I’m excited to be talking about it in the zoom. So we’re going to go live on a zoom webinar. It’ll be available for replay if you register as well. And that’ll be December 5th, 7:30 PM. Adelaide time.

[00:03:45] And there is links in the show notes about that also links in the show notes for young scholars academy. So check out their open house on the 8th of December and. Have a lovely Christmas.

[00:04:00] It feels slightly early to be saying that, but I’ve got to get the Christmas decorations out this weekend. So maybe not.

[00:04:07] Enjoy the podcast stay quirky and I will talk to you soon.

[00:04:43] Hello and welcome everyone. I’m super excited to be here today with Sam Young from Young Scholars Academy.

[00:04:49] Sam joined us recently in gifted, talented and neurodiversity Awareness Week to talk about why. He uses Dungeons and Dragons as a part of his kind of offering to engage young people. And Sam is back today and we’re gonna dive into the power of strength based learning, which I am super excited about because if you’re a listener of the podcast, first of all, thank you.

[00:05:14] But secondly, we have talked about strength based learning a lot, but never really sort of dived into what is it really all about? It is what Sam is all about. And so Sam, welcome. I’m delighted to have you

[00:05:30] Sam Young: back. Thanks, Sophie. I’m really happy to be back and again, I feel very fortunate to be here two times in uh, two months I think.

[00:05:36] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, no, it’s super exciting. Uh, I love to have regulars. It sort of, I feel like it builds a relationship and part of the community, so thank you for making the time. I really appreciate it. Absolutely. So first of all, for anyone who didn’t catch the d and d episode yet, , tell us about what you do and how you got into what you’re doing.

[00:05:59] Sam Young: I like that. Yeah. Go back and listen.

[00:06:01] Sophia Elliott: Pause that. That’s right. It’s really good. You’re missing out .

[00:06:05] Sam Young: So, yeah. My name’s Sam Young, as Sophia said, and I run a virtual enrichment program for neuro divergent students, twice exceptional students and gifted students. And the vision is really to have a, a strength base as we’ll get more into today environment where our students can be celebrated.

[00:06:21] Scene where they’re triumphing as opposed to what we know is often the status quo, which is where a lot of our students are, you know, kind of, uh, steeped in their deficits, right? Steeped in areas where they need to improve and where the kind of bringing the bottom up, so to speak. So the vision at Young Scholars Academy is to create kind of a school without walls that does learning for the sake of learning.

[00:06:44] Where in the business of saving, learning, connecting students, uh, fostering creativity and building friendships and, and also

[00:06:51] GMT20221115-200712_Recording_640x360: mentor.

[00:06:53] Sophia Elliott: And that really warms my heart because the joy of learning is, I think, intrinsic to the gifted soul. And the one thing that gets like, smashed to a pulp in the school system sometimes if you’re not lucky.

[00:07:10] So I, I love that your approach is all about that joy of learning and, and not having walls. I really, that’s a great visual for me. You’re online, you’re virtual, so literally people from around the world can tune in and. Your classes?

[00:07:29] Sam Young: Yeah, so there’s synchronous classes. So the only thing that can hold people back are the, uh, the time zones, right?

[00:07:34] Mm-hmm. . So, uh, we’re working on offering more and more actually, and, uh, offering them at different times that, uh, we historically haven’t to reach a broader audience because we have families. Probably once a week I get a, a new family from a new country reaching out and just saying, Can you offer this earlier, uh, or way later?

[00:07:52] And I’m like, Well, we haven’t yet, but Sure, let’s try. So we are, we’re working on bringing together, the vision is to connect students from all over the world who may be the only student like them. Yeah. And cause the research is very clear that they need to be with other students like them. Right. So going from Maros to, you know, fitting in and being like part of a group.

[00:08:13] Sophia Elliott: Oh, do you know? And that’s just. The heart and soul of it, isn’t it? It’s like our kids absolutely need to see themselves in their similarly aged peers, and it’s not like, it’s not like an age thing, but they need that reflection back to them of who they are in other people around them, other kids around them.

[00:08:34] It’s so important and getting so tricky to find. I often have parents reaching out. With very sad stories that really like, you know, tear jerking stories of just their children’s struggles to find friends and not getting invited to parties. And it just seriously breaks my heart. And so, you know, as we know, virtual is real.

[00:09:00] I think the one gift over the last few years is those virtual connections that we can make. And, you know, as someone who connects with people from all over the world doing this podcast, you know, like these connections are real and valid. And thank you for offering those because it’s very much needed.

[00:09:19] Yeah. A wonderful, Yeah. Oh, sorry.

[00:09:21] Sam Young: Go ahead. No, no, you go. I think it’s just so important to, you know, we sort of let go of like what we’re doing and focus a lot more on who we’re doing it with and Yeah. You know, we’re one of my favorite guests on my show once said, human beings are social creatures who happen to.

[00:09:36] Not thinking creatures. Who happen to feel right we’re we’re social first and a lot of times we get so caught up in what our students aren’t doing and what they need to be doing. But the reality is that when we focus on the social development and we focus on that connectedness and you know, these basic human needs that they then can blossom, right?

[00:09:55] They then can access that like prefrontal part of their brain. They can then start doing this sort of higher order thinking because they feel accepted. They feel like they’re a part of something now that they can ascend, so to speak.

[00:10:07] Sophia Elliott: I absolutely like Spawn because it’s like no one can learn or be creative or connect when your brain is, you know, operating in a state of fear or uncertainty or a lack of safety.

[00:10:21] And so it’s, it’s integral to our children’s development that they find that safe place that they can then explore and connect with. And. And I think what you said is so important because sometimes as a parent of a gifted kid, it can be really tricky to find that balance between the expectation, the pressure and responsibility of it’s like, Oh, I’ve got this child with potential, like the P word, and it’s like, Oh my God, I’ve got to, what do I have to do?

[00:10:55] I’ve gotta make sure they’re doing, uh, stuff and extending and uh, you know, and get really kind of wound up and stressed about offering stuff, stuff, stuff. When the reality is we just kind of need to breathe. And like you said, the best thing we can do is actually find that space where they can connect.

[00:11:18] People like them socially feel, feel connected, a safe space and the other stuff will come, you know, and you know, yeah, find the classes or whatever. But as a first port of call, addressing that need that we have as human beings, like tribe animals to find our tribe. Mm-hmm. , are those. A great, we, you know, we, we did a great podcast with Dr.

[00:11:46] Geraldine Townsend, and her research was about how important it is that our kids find that sense of self and have that positive sense of self from an early age. And I strongly believe that a huge part of that is finding those like-minded peers to reflect back to them. And like you say, meeting those social emotional.

[00:12:08] Sam Young: Yeah. I often say, I might have said this in the d and d one that we did recently, so forgive me, but I think about like the X and the Y axis, right? On the one hand. Mm-hmm. , like we have our students who need the, they need like the lateral, they need peers just like themselves, as we’ve said. Right. And then they also need on the other, they need like to look up at a neuro divergent mentor or educator.

[00:12:26] Yes. And be able to say, Okay, these people are like me. That person’s like me and they’re doing something. They’re succeeding. Yeah. So like it’s gonna be.

[00:12:34] Sophia Elliott: Yes. Ah, that’s just beautiful. I love it. And perfect. And I really like that. Again, I’ll, I’ll remember that. I’ll be like, Mr. Sam said , the X and the Y.

[00:12:46] The X and the Y. Because it is, we do need those mentors. And you know, even personally on my adult journey, that often comes after you figuring your kids out. Uh, I have, especially over the last year or two, been seeking out my. Equivalence, you know, to connect with. So to help me see myself in that kind of neuro divergent space.

[00:13:12] And so it’s really important for all of us to, to have the X and the Y needs met . Absolutely. Yeah. So I love that. So let’s dive into today. You’ve touched a little bit on it already, but what is strength based learning like? Break it down for us. What’s it all about?

[00:13:32] Sam Young: When we think of strength based learning, we’re, we’re really talking about focusing, right?

[00:13:36] We’re talking about where we put our focus, and I like a saying like, you know where, where the energy or where the mind go, right? Everything flows. So what a lot of the times our students are, They’re really sort of being depicted like this, right? Like we’re focusing like they’re asynchronous, right? They have this gifted area and they have this kind of lagging struggle area, and we often think like, we need to get this here so they can be successful.

[00:13:59] And a strength based education is just a choice to focus on here, the strength area, and just bring this up knowing that. This will come to, Right. So it’s a choice that we make as educators and as mentors, as psychologists, as a therapist, everyone to say, yes, there are these areas, there are these struggle areas, but we also need to focus on developing primarily the strength areas, the areas that feel good and, and know that everything else will, will follow suit.

[00:14:26] Right? So an example, I have a student who really, really struggles with emailing and a lot of the executive function around that kind of, And, uh, I spoke with him and I, I just kinda shared my story. I was like, Look, me too. Okay. It’s a big thing in my head. I open ’em and I forget to do them. So here’s a couple systems that I’ve done, but to be honest with you, I didn’t really start getting good at emails until they became authentic.

[00:14:48] Like, until they became like the other end is a family that I can help, right? Or the other end is like a network of families I can help. Then all of a sudden I got better and so I spoke with him and then over the. Uh, he came back and we connected and I said, How’s it going with the timeliness and, and the executive function stuff?

[00:15:06] He said, It’s great, and I, I said, I, I heard you got a job. How’s it going? He said, I haven’t been late once. I said, Why? And he said, It’s like my email’s, Mr. Sam, I get paid to show up. And I, Oh my God, it’s amazing. And it’s like, you know, just now being on time, now doing these things is all of a sudden it’s not like vanished, but all of a sudden he’s handling business because there’s a reward, there’s a reason to do it.

[00:15:29] Mm-hmm. , Right? So, sort of a bit of a tangent, but a lot of the times choosing to be strength based or choosing to focus on what students are already doing can kind of take away from that deficit focus. And like with a student that I exampled sometimes choosing to focus on someone’s strengths. And then just shifting the context can allow a student to absolutely thrive, right?

[00:15:50] Like a fish out of

[00:15:51] Sophia Elliott: water, so to speak. I love that because we can also get caught up in this idea that our kids have to be good at everything, and especially like all they’re gifted, well they’ve. Kind of gotta be good at everything. And it’s like, well, no one is, We’ve all got various different strengths and areas of weakness, and I too have a find emails very challenging.

[00:16:14] I’m currently catching up on, you know, A couple of inboxes that got totally away from me over the last month, and I have in introduced a system. So I’m all about systems at the moment, which is working, but I agree with you when you find the meaning behind it. And so I, I get a lot of emails from, from parents and folk, which I absolutely love, and I.

[00:16:38] I take quite a bit of time to reply, you know, to those which, and I really enjoy that. And now that I have this system around it, I’m like, okay, I’m feeling like I can catch up and, and, but stay on top of that from now on because I’ve kind of created that space. So, And that’s the thing, isn’t it? It’s kind of like finding the meaning for us.

[00:16:59] So the meaning for me, Like the whole point I do all this is to connect with people and try and make things easier for people. And so by connecting to that and finding a system to support it, I’m better able to do the things I’m not particularly good at, which is like yourself, emails . And it’s the same with our kids.

[00:17:20] It’s sort of like, what is it that intrinsically motivates them? How can we tap into. And build on that. So why is strength based learning a better kind of approach than a deficit based approach? And what is a deficit based approach? I mean, you’ve kind of explained it there, but maybe, Yeah.

[00:17:42] Sam Young: And. It’s, it’s a very good question.

[00:17:44] I would love to delve way deeper into strength based, cause I think I was eager to share my , Dunno that I did the question justice. But when we think about the difference between strength and deficit, again, strength-based approach is choosing to focus on what the student is interested in. An area in which they are strong and it’s helping them to develop those interests and things.

[00:18:04] Uh, deficit is often focusing on bringing, I like to say, bringing the bottom up. Okay. So it’s, when we think about our two E students, so our students who are twice exceptional, right? They’re characterized by having these dual exceptionalities. On the one hand they have the exceptional strength area, uh, above average IQ or a certain strength in a certain domain, kinesthetic, whatever it may be.

[00:18:25] And then they also might. In above average struggle area, right, Which would be that they are, maybe they have ADHD or dysgraphia or dyslexia or autism spectrum disorder, and so they have this, this, this chasm, this. And more often than not, deficit is simply just focusing on the bottom right. It’s the, it’s usually the, uh, Japanese proverb, right?

[00:18:46] Like the nail that sticks out gets hammered down, right? So we focus, okay. You know, so and so is really brilliant. They’re doing such a great job in class, but they’re not turning in their work. Okay. You know, red flag. So we need to work on that. And I’m not saying we don’t, by the way, I do think that we do.

[00:19:01] I think it’s important that we can help our students be successful, but the difference. We’re choosing to focus on the area in which they shine and then bake those things in. Uh, now this is a delicate balance. One of my favorite guests who’s native to your country, uh, Dr. Shaban Lamb, uh, was on my show and she talked about the importance.

[00:19:23] She did this kind of break, the fourth wall. I wanna talk to you parents. And she said, Just make sure that you don’t bake all the deficit stuff around. The strength, right? Because what do we do? We, we, we can kill the strength, right? If I say like, Sophia, I know you love Dungeons and Dragons, so we’re going to do Dungeons and Dragons math.

[00:19:41] You’re gonna do Dungeons and Dragons writing. We’re gonna do a Dungeons and Dragons science experiment. It’s gonna be great. Right? You may very well at the end of that Hate Dungeons and Dragons because of what I’ve done, right? So it’s a fine line. But at its core, To answer your question, at its core, deficit based learning trenches, our students, steeps our students, if you will, in a space where they are not thriving.

[00:20:04] And it constantly reminds them, It’s constantly a reminder of where they’re struggling, how they’re coming up short and what they’re not doing. And that has been shown to have real consequences on their psyche, on their self-worth, on their self-esteem, on confidence, uh, and, and their ability to then you.

[00:20:22] Be successful in this life, paradoxically, you know, by helping someone bring the bottom up, so to speak, you’re actually harming them.

[00:20:29] Sophia Elliott: Mm. And some, I, you know, I’m aware of some extreme examples where you’ve got a twice exceptional child. So someone who is, does have that gifted degree of intelligence. A very evident deficit area.

[00:20:50] All that focus being on the deficit area and, uh, you know, being in classes that are, you know, special classes that are solely focusing on that deficit area. So that intelligence is. Just ignored. Absolutely. And I could only imagine the damage done in that extreme situation. And in fact, I’ve got a very close friend who, and that was their experience at school, very intelligent issues with dyslexia and dysgraphia got put in the special class as a teenager.

[00:21:25] and just eroded confidence and that sense of self during those very important teenage years, uh, because the, the intellect was never acknowledged. Mm-hmm. . And, you know, obviously that’s being done with good intentions, but we know better now, we know better that, you know, you’ve gotta meet the, the whole person where they’re at and.

[00:21:54] and we’re talking very heavily about two e kids. Uh, but also I think it’s important to acknowledge. You know, if you’ve, if your kid is just gifted and use, you know, air quotes mm-hmm. giftedness within itself is a synchronous and will have relative strengths and relative weaknesses. And so those can be more extreme with a twice exceptional kid who has a diagnosed something else going on.

[00:22:25] But nonetheless also, Situation that gifted kids find them in because of those relative, sort of weak areas compared to their strengths. Uh, so yeah, a real potential pitfall regardless of kind of where you’re at in that journey but something worth really keeping an eye on. So for you, you’ve mentioned a few sort of examples of things that you do but maybe, you know, what does that look like?

[00:22:56] Uh, so if. A parent or an EDU educator listening, what would a strength-based sort of approach look like in that classroom setting? In terms of what Some examples of the kind of approach you take?

[00:23:12] Sam Young: Lots of choice. Uh, I mean, strength-based education is election. It is fundamentally very democratic. It is very flexible and malleable, and the students are co constructs with you.

[00:23:22] So when we think about what it looks. It what it looks like is just as important as what it does not right. Again, as you say with the example, with your friend, you know, focusing on what students aren’t doing. Right. Focusing on where they’re coming up short is going to fundamentally rob them of the development, rob them of the, the, the, the learning and rob them of their becoming themselves.

[00:23:47] So what we want to do is we want to allow them to have more choice, right? If we’re teaching a unit on, on history, right? Are we flexible in the piece? Are we flexible in the product? Are we flexible in the process? Can we make it so that our students can maybe go through a certain, there’s certain things that we want them to do.

[00:24:04] Let’s say we want them to, uh, reference sources. We want them to be critical consumers and information. That’s all well and good, and those can be our standards that we, we hope to hit, but we can let go perhaps of how it gets done and what it looks like when it’s done. So if you say you have to write a paper, you’ve just.

[00:24:24] A good part of your brilliant kiddos, right? But you could probably get more depth, complexity and rigor out of them. If you say, I want you to record a podcast, or I want you to make a documentary, or I want you to put on a play right now, they’re, they’re casting, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re thinking about the historical accuracy and they’re doing all of these really deep-seated incredible things that we want our, you know, young historians, young students to be doing.

[00:24:46] And they’re doing it in a way where they feel like they’ve had a voice, they’ve gotten to navigate it, they’ve had uh, choice, and, and now they’re proud of their work.

[00:24:56] Sophia Elliott: Right. Yeah. That’s really beautiful.

[00:24:58] Sam Young: Keep going. Sorry, the last thing I, I go on like these long. No, no. I love them. Keep going. Authenticity.

[00:25:05] But it has to be authentic. So when we go back to, like Joseph Zuli, who I think I talked about last time mm-hmm. , you know, Zuli talks about in his three rings. One of them is that it has to be something that is authentic. It has to be something, uh, that’s really meaningful. Excuse me, not three rings. The, uh, the type three model.

[00:25:22] It’s, it has to be something that’s authentic and is meaningful to them so that they can, they. Be doing something bigger than themselves, right? If it’s just an assignment, it’s enrichment’s only going to go so far. Strength application’s only gonna go so far. So do they have choice? Is it an authentic assignment and is it a flexible assignment?

[00:25:41] I think those are the

[00:25:42] Sophia Elliott: big three. What that brings to my mind is now where particularly lucky that my kids go to a school that is strength based and child centered. Very different approach to mainstream models, and I know that a part of their approach is, like, for example, at the beginning of each term, they, they assess the kids on where they’re at with a particular sub stream of the subject.

[00:26:16] So, so first of all, they’re learning at the right level, which is amazing, but. They have a conversation with the kids around, right? These are the outcomes. This is, this is what we need to learn this term. How, like you said, having that conversation with them, How are we going to do that? I’ve got some ideas.

[00:26:35] What are your ideas? Let’s workshop that. This is the, you know, these are the points we need to hit. This is what we need to learn. This is where we need to end up. How are we gonna get there on that journey together? And it is, when you were talking there, I’m like, Oh wow, this is comforting . Cause it’s all about the flexibility and the negotiation and the conversation.

[00:26:56] Because the truth is with gifted kids, you know, they can go through a terms worth of content in. A couple of weeks, you know, it’s sponge, just suck it up. And then it’s kind of like, well then what is the point of school if it’s not just churning through content? And there is, there is much more going on at school than just kind of sucking in facts.

[00:27:19] It’s how do you work as a team to present what you know, you know, And how do you build your skills around? You know, like eventually you will need essay writing skills to go to university and get into the deep stuff. How do we start to build those skills at whatever level you’re at? And so it becomes those sort of, the skills and experience needed around the content, you know, and the sort of the teamwork, the social aspects.

[00:27:53] And so it becomes about more than just. Wrote learning facts. Mm-hmm. which I thinks really beautiful because that’s the world we live in. As an adult going to work, you don’t work, you know, as an island you’ve gotta deal with people around you. You’ve gotta present them with your ideas. You be convincing, This is where we need to end up on this project.

[00:28:15] How do we get there together? And it feels very, A very authentic journey to go on with a student, and so I really love what you’re saying there about that flexibility and that negotiation.

[00:28:29] Sam Young: It’s so important everywhere. I mean, if you look at the foundations of, of, uh, gifted education, uh, and, and, and go beyond just schooling and we look at, you know, gifted application, right?

[00:28:40] Talent application. You look back at like the United States military and, and going into World War I, right at some, one of the first times that we really had. Uh, early testing. What are people’s strengths and talents? Like? It wouldn’t make sense for me to have someone who is a, a doctor and then just chuck ’em on the front line, right?

[00:28:59] And say, Go get him. Here’s your carbine. Let’s go fight him. You know, what the military did going into the war, into the, the great war, the first World War was they actually took the time to reflect what are our talents and, and strengths for our different soldier? And then let’s put together this elite fighting force by maximizing people’s talents and strengths, right?

[00:29:18] And the same is true of everything. When during the Cold War in the 1950s, the Soviets got Sputnik into space and the United States thought, Hold on, maybe we need to start doing more testing. And they placing our students with really high aptitude, high IQ in certain domains, right? Let’s develop their strengths, uh, in the workforce, right?

[00:29:36] Same thing. So it doesn’t really matter what domain, I mean, we’re talking academically. But strength based, talent focused education is everything. And, and you’re so right Sophia, Like when you’re talking about the, the, the, the application of what it looks like in a school, it’s a huge disservice to our students.

[00:29:54] It’s a massive disservice to our students to only focus on. You know, everyone doing the same thing because that’s not the real world. The real world dictates that our students become deep seated experts, right? That are, we’re in the information era. This is no longer, you know, the 1890s and like terrorism where everyone goes into a workshop and you.

[00:30:14] Rotate on the bell and the whistle, and we’re, we’re trying, we’re, we’re in the information era where students are, should be encouraged to. We have a responsibility, I say, to encourage our students to explore their interests, explore their strengths, and then figure out how can they serve, how can they better society, How can they create a brighter future with those strengths, with those interests?

[00:30:32] And I can tell you it’s not going to come from making students focused on whether or not doing. And then having them do more of it. That’s just not the answer. .

[00:30:40] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. And you know, if I think about what I want for my kids, uh, do you know it is to have a life where they’re doing something they love with people that they like.

[00:30:54] You know, fundamentally, you know, is that not success? If you can go to work, do something you love, get paid well for it, be surrounded with like-minded peers, and so why would you focus on things that they don’t love? Why would you beat them down with deficits? And, and sure. You know, uh, as a six year old, as a 10 year old, as a 14 year, Whatever they’re into right now, it may not be the exact thing that they go off and into the sunset as an adult and work on, but it will lead them somewhere.

[00:31:29] One love will need lead to another. Love will need lead to another love. And there, there is a, there’s a pathway there where they’re developing the expertise and the skills and experience as a big foundation to. You know, what they could potentially do into the future. And so I think that’s a, a much nicer vision than, you know, and we’ve all, anyone listening who’s done a job that they hated , you know, like, I did not want that for my kids, you know, And so let’s build them up from the beginning in, in that space of, of, of doing something from a place of joy and love.

[00:32:09] I think there’s a lot in.

[00:32:12] Sam Young: And, and let’s be honest, you know, I’m not pretending to say that strength based education is that students will never have to do anything they don’t love. I do agree with you. Oh yeah. It’s not fun doing what you don’t love. Right. But our students actually do need to be able to tolerate, you know, complexity and handle difficult tasks and so forth.

[00:32:27] So I’m not saying throw all that out, I’m just saying where do we choose to place our students? Where do we choose to steep them? And if that’s not the majority focus, Than, than something needs to give. And there are so many different pathways to a strength-based education, right? A strength-based education can sometimes be, Hey, let’s knock out what you have to do so we can do what you want to do.

[00:32:48] Right. That’s fine too. We can say we don’t need to, it doesn’t need to be all about the interest. Let’s just, let’s do what we need to do to check the boxes. So, and then let’s do. What you love, right? And then what we’ll build extra around that. And that’s well and good as well. Obviously it’s less ideal, but that also is a way for parents who say, like, I can already hear a lot of my parents say like, Okay, we’re in a public school and you know, we are in a great district.

[00:33:13] We don’t have a lot of control. We can’t really dictate as much. The classes are big. Okay, great. Can we make a program so our students can realize life’s a pie chart, right? , Yeah. Life is a pie chart. How can we shrink what we have to do so we can do more of what we want to?

[00:33:26] Sophia Elliott: and that’s a really important life lesson.

[00:33:28] Uh, and we, you know, on the podcast we talk a lot about helping our children be comfortable in being uncomfortable, you know, and the grit and the growth mindset and working through that space. So, like you say, it’s absolutely not about some kind of nirvana where we’re just floating around doing things we love all the time.

[00:33:49] We do have to live in the world and be off the world. But. It’s those systems and strategies and that knowledge around it, and you, you’ve framed it really well there. Let’s just, sometimes we’ve just gotta do the stuff to get to the other stuff

[00:34:04] and that in itself is a really important life lesson, a really important skill for our kids to have, uh, learning that grit and. In reality, sometimes, you know, sometimes we’ve gotta put the laundry away. Mm-hmm. , , no one, no one wants to put laundry away. , uh, or we’ve, we’ve, you know, we’ve gotta do the thing, uh, but let’s do it quickly and get it out the way and, and do the other thing.

[00:34:29] So, yeah, that’s a really great analogy. I like the pie chart. I’m a very visual person, so that appeals to me. And in breaking that down for, for my kids, it’s kind of like, okay, there’s this much of stuff that we don’t really enjoy, but we’ve gotta do tidying up . If I’m a parent and I’m thinking, you know, at home, uh, some of those things, So for example, If we’re having to do chores, I might say, All right, let’s put on three songs.

[00:35:00] Let’s dance our way through tidying up let’s, and, but let’s like see if we can get all this done in three songs. And it’s kind of like a race and the music’s on and it’s like a bit of a disco race, but it’s kind of like, how can we. Turn this into an obstacle that we have to get through as a team just to get it done as quickly as we can.

[00:35:23] And, and so, and then let’s go do something fun. So perhaps a good example there of how, how you could apply that as a parent.

[00:35:34] Sam Young: That’s a great example. Yeah. You’re, you’re, you’re prioritizing, you’re thinking creatively, you’re, you’re problem solving, you’re collaborating, right? Like you’re doing all these things and you’re having.

[00:35:43] Yeah.

[00:35:46] Sophia Elliott: And isn’t that a key to it? Do you know? Doing anything you don’t actually wanna do is humor. Yeah. You know, and if I was going to suggest anything, uh, to parents listening, uh, when you hit those big brick walls And some kids have those walls that shoot up more quickly than other kids. . Uh, you know, as parent we try to break that down with humor, uh, and it’s like, yeah, it’s, it’s the one tool in the back pocket.

[00:36:19] My husband is particularly good at it because he’s naturally a very cheeky individual and, and my, my particularly challenging child is also very cheeky, and so thankfully that works really well. Just cracking down the wall with a bit of humor. Mm-hmm. .

[00:36:39] Sam Young: No, that’s so, so important. I always say that when I train my teachers or bring on my educators, I’m always talking about how it’s the number one way to diffuse.

[00:36:48] Mm-hmm. and our students have really witty sense of humor. Right. They’re really bright mm-hmm. and they often have a sense of humor that’s well out, matured their body. Right. And so they’re misunderstood by their students. So sometimes we. Place where once they come to the classroom, all of a sudden there’s a bunch of students who can handle their sense of humor, right?

[00:37:05] And they mm-hmm. , they get really excited. I’m like, It’s rain in a little bit here, so I’ll crack a joke, you know, and try to reign everyone in and be self-deprecating Right. And, and sort of try to pivot a little bit. Yeah. But you’re right, it’s such a, such a powerful tool.

[00:37:23] Sophia Elliott: So I, I feel like we’ve, we’ve done strength based learning.

[00:37:27] Justice there. Uh, and can I add one more thing though? Yeah, yeah. I was gonna say, what else do you wanna tell us? ?

[00:37:33] Sam Young: Yeah, so, cause you asked, you asked for an example and I don’t know that I gave you one. So a good example like of strength-based learning like we’re doing at Young Scholars Academy would be, I’ll give you two if it’s okay actually.

[00:37:43] Cause I can’t think. Yeah. So one example of strength-based learning would be, uh, a speech. You’re taking something that is authentic, you’re taking something that students care about that they want to do well in. And you are, you are creating an environment where they can. Pick a topic they care about.

[00:38:00] Okay. School should start later, right? We’re not saying like, let’s compare this book to this book, which they may be interested in by the way, but it’s something that affects them. Let’s, School should start later. Everyone should be homeschooled or school. Everyone should wear uniforms. You know? Something that,

[00:38:13] Sophia Elliott: Something meaty to

[00:38:14] Sam Young: care.

[00:38:15] Yeah, exactly. We sink the teeth in. It’s authentic. And then, Okay, Now what, what are your strengths? Are you the kind of person who really wants to like, open with, you know, bravado? Do you want to really kind of research like what are the roles that you can play both within as a, as an individual and also perhaps on a team?

[00:38:32] Right. So we can kind of empower someone by getting them to not only care about what they’re learning about, uh, focus on the method in which it’s being delivered. And there there’s real pressure. Like in two classes I’m gonna. We have three minutes to talk. This is something that you know is real. And then we’re getting them to now, you know, research and tap into their strengths.

[00:38:51] I’m more of someone who’s gonna do better. Winging it. I like to just be the cross examiner. I’m someone who really wants to write every word down. I need to read a script, you know? So, and getting them to kind of tap into their strengths that way. So, so that’s one example. Cuz I, I know you asked for examples, the, another example Yeah.

[00:39:08] Of, of strength based learning. And this is something that I think is key, and I hope this is a big takeaway for anyone listening, but another example for, for strength based learning can be done with executive functioning, right? So a lot of the times it’s like, okay, kid, you get an agenda book, write your work.

[00:39:22] You’re not doing it, what’s wrong with you? Right. But it could be that it’s this system. So what I try to do is I break task management into three key sections. And I say like, we have a class called Young and Thriving, which is all about creating a strength based system for getting tasks done. And so I say, if there’s three things you need to do, you need to record tasks, prioritize, and plan, and then execute, right?

[00:39:48] So it’s sort of like the capture. And then weekly plan, and then daily plan to do list. So if those are three non-negotiables, those are the three pillars of task management. How are you going to do that work? What’s your learning profile like? Are you the kind of person that would dictate into a voice recorder so you can remember later?

[00:40:06] Will really bright sticky notes work well for you. If you saw my desk, it looks like a highlighter threw up on it. would, would you benefit from a linear system that’s digital that allows you to intent, You know, and then all of a sudden we get really flexible and they’re reflecting, right? They’re thinking of what kind of learner they are and how they do best.

[00:40:25] And so we’re taking a strength based approach, even to something that doesn’t feel like learning a classical subject, right? It’s building a system, like you said, building a system, and they’re, they’re building a system based on their strength so that they can be strong in all areas, right? Or in other areas and so forth.

[00:40:38] So, so those are, I just wanted to make sure that I did give you a concrete example that’s in space and debate and in the executive function world, like, those are two courses that, uh, that we definitely believe in strength based approach, and it’s an easy tweak, uh, but it makes the world.

[00:40:53] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, I love that.

[00:40:54] Cause it’s so important to figure out the way that we learn and think because I like you. I’m a post-it note person. I have figured out if I can’t see it in terms of my tasks, then it, it doesn’t exist. The worst thing I can do is have a pile of things to do, which, If you could see my desk, I do, I have a pile of things to do next to another pile of things and they always get ignored cuz they’re in a pile and I can’t see them.

[00:41:23] And then I have my sticky notes of these are things I need to do today right in my face. So I can’t not see it. And, but it’s taken me a while to figure out why some things work for me and some don’t. And what a great thing to figure out as a kid or a teenager. You know, and take on into the world. Ah, actually no, that won’t work for me cause I won’t be able to see it.

[00:41:43] Or, or conversely, you know, actually I really like a list on an app where I can just look at it and tick it off. You know, whatever kind of ends up working for you and having that flexibility to, like you say, work around people’s strengths and weaknesses, but, but focusing on the ways that their, their individual brain works.

[00:42:05] So, no really great examples. Thank you.

[00:42:09] Sam Young: It’s omni presenting. My wife and I both have adhd, so like we always joke that like leftovers are dangerous because they get shuffled to the back of the refrigerator, right? And then like the new meal’s exciting and all of a sudden, like there’s a month worth of leftovers in the back.

[00:42:23] But because it wasn’t toward the front, we have to be careful. So we reshuffle the fridge at like scheduled intervals so that we’re using things and not being wasteful. And you’re right, like I, I often say this is like one of my favorite sayings that I kind. I think I maybe made up, but it’s that piles develop a group identity, right?

[00:42:42] Like a pile, a stack of things. Like I have a stack of mail right now that is, it is a month old to be honest with you, and it is now a stack. What happens? New mail goes on and it joins the stack. Those are no longer bills invoice. Like that’s probably really important stuff, but it has lost its identity and you have to be very careful when you know that about yourself.

[00:43:01] It’s a little easier. So I might just like scatter and reshuffle things and okay, now I have to deal with it. Put it somewhere, I’m gonna trip over it. But becoming more self aware and doing these kinds of things and then saying, Okay, how can I leverage my strengths? How can I tap into the things that I’m good at to like handle these things I’m not, mm-hmm.

[00:43:16] Or how can I advocate and get someone else right to help me do these things that I’m not as good at? I

[00:43:24] Sophia Elliott: absolutely love that. And if you could see our fridge , that’s totally our fridge and that is totally my desk. Just stacks of stuff. I love that identity idea. I haven’t heard that before. That is so true though.

[00:43:37] Cause when you have a pile of things, it becomes this overwhelming pile of things and it’s like, it’s like I never have time to deal with it because it looks like a lot and I, because I have no sense of time management at all. It’s kind of like it. Too much and too overwhelming, but, but if it’s one thing, oh well I can do that.

[00:43:58] I’ve got two minutes. Like, thank you. Thank you for that. I love it. That really

[00:44:03] Sam Young: helps. It’s just a way that I think about things. I dunno, but, you know, if that makes sense. But

[00:44:09] Sophia Elliott: yeah, no, it does. I, you know, I, hopefully in a few months I will be able to, uh, we we’re doing some moving around the house and I will, More of a dedicated space.

[00:44:20] And what I’m imagining is actually a wall where I get to pin the things, you know, instead of piling them up so that I can see them. There’s gonna be crazy wall business going on, but I’ve been thinking about the way my brain works and how I can set that up for success, you know, and and kind of get over some of these pitfalls.

[00:44:43] But, and, and that’s the journey, and I think it’s sort of like, It’s really nice to acknowledge, first of all, that. You know, we have these kind of quirks or our brain works in a particular way, but there are other people like us too, and , and it’s actually just about, it’s this little puzzle about thinking about, okay, well actually, what is it?

[00:45:06] Oh, it’s a visual thing, right? Well, how can we get creative and meet that? Do you know where it’s at? And problem solve that. And it becomes quite an exciting little adventure of, Right, okay, this isn’t working. What is it about it? Oh, I can’t see the leftovers. Right? Okay. How are we gonna solve that problem?

[00:45:23] And it’s you know, parents are kids. I think it’s the same for all of us. We’ve gotta think about. How it all works and breaks down and stuff. And, and

[00:45:35] Sam Young: that really brings, you know, that brings me to a really good point, which is that a lot of the times I think, you know, to kind of go full circle, when we think about like the deficit model and moving away from strengths, it’s, it’s that it’s, it’s, we say like a square peg in a round hole, right?

[00:45:48] Like, like mm-hmm. twice exceptional gifted or a divergent kids or square pegs in a round hole. And, and it’s a great metaphor, but we don’t want to round out our students to fit mm-hmm. , right? Because when you, when you say, Our students have such unique strengths and interests, the worst thing that we could do would be to shave those off, right?

[00:46:06] That’s what makes them them. So the problem, the number one, the number one problem without a doubt, with the deficit based model, is that it shaves off our students’ edges, interests, quirkiness, et cetera, and it makes them normal, right? And, and, and to quote Jonathan Moony, Normal sucks. You know, we shouldn’t converge to the.

[00:46:28] we need to stay off to the fringes. Our students have extreme interests, extreme talents, extreme curiosities, extreme creativity, and that is what will make them successful. Unless your goal is just to turn out a great student, which I beg you, please don’t do that because being a student doesn’t necessarily prepare one for success, then it’s important that we continue to move to the fringes and that we continue to develop the things that make us quirk, that make us tick, that let our fire and understand that that will better serve us in life beyond school.

[00:46:59] Becoming good at school. Cause that’s just one form of giftedness, schoolhouse, giftedness, but it doesn’t necessarily apply to the real

[00:47:04] Sophia Elliott: world. Absolutely. And that idea of a good student, uh, a friend of mine actually, we were talking about school reports one day and she actually said what she looks for in the school report is, you know, if her child’s getting an A, it’s kind of.

[00:47:27] Well, they need to move up. It’s, you know, it’s kind of like too easy. And what she wants is her child to be in like the b, c, you know, kind of space, because then that tells her that the child is working in a space where they’re having to put some in. But if that child’s getting all A’s, Well, then it’s just like, well, this is way too easy.

[00:47:49] We actually don’t want straight A students. We want them in a space where they’re actually having to put some effort in. And unfortunately for a lot of gifted kids, that means. Moving up and around in different levels and finding that space, which is more challenging and and doesn’t always fit in the mainstream system, but it’s kind of really challenging that idea that the ideal is a straight A student.

[00:48:11] And it’s kind of like, well, is it though? So, Yeah, exactly. So yeah.

[00:48:16] Sam Young: That’s a great perspective. Yeah. You know, my dad always said like, you never wanna be the smartest person in the room. Right. If you are, you need new friends, , you’re not being like, you’re not being stimulated. Right.

[00:48:28] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s the best thing when you’re in a group of people who can really like Yeah, really have you on the edge of your, of your seat, you know, with the.

[00:48:41] In a nice way, challenging and, and kind of getting that debate. I love that. But yeah, my, my friend with the report, it really made me look at school reports in a whole new way, uh, and reinforces that idea that.

[00:48:55] When it comes to gifted kids and twice exceptional kids, we’ve gotta be very cautious about applying these sort of mainstream mm-hmm. ideals that, you know, we should question anyway. But and it is just, yeah. Another thing as a parent of a gifted or twice exceptional kid that we kind of have to learn to shift our mindset around.

[00:49:16] Sam Young: Yeah. And, and there’s so many, right, Like failure, I mean grading inherently punishes failure. Hmm. Right. And like I, as an entrepreneur, if I don’t fail once a day, I’m not trying hard enough. Yeah. Like if I, I, my, my coach is like, You don’t fail enough. You’re so scared to try something new. It’s deeply rooted in me wanting to be a student and successful, but I could have shaved years off my growth if I would just try bigger, scarier things mm-hmm.

[00:49:46] and let them flop every so often because, Through that, I’m going to learn at a way more accelerated rate than I would by incrementally turning up, you know, the heat. And so it’s really important that like, again, these are lessons that apply to school, but they’re so much bigger than just school, but mm-hmm.

[00:50:04] Yeah. If you wanna truly move beyond grades, and again, grades have their place, it does give us good data and they can serve us well they can also be quite harmful. But it’s so important that we move to a place where students are really learning, really taking risks, and we’re, and we’re alleviating them.

[00:50:17] The freedom. Making mistakes. Like if you fail in my debate class, Bravo, you took a risk. You know? Yeah. If you’re not failing, then you’re probably kind of failing yourself because you’re not trying hard enough, You’re not taking on something that’s really big. Right. So it’s really important to sort of alleviate that anxiety and empower our students to take bigger risks.

[00:50:38] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:50:40] You know, as a reformed perfectionist. I hear ya, . I totally hear ya. Yeah, it, it’s knowing and, and such an important thing for our kids to learn how to get it wrong and being brave enough to get it wrong, you know, and if we’re too wound up on the, on the outcome, there’s no space for that. And so it’s really, it’s really better just to play it cool and provide that space to, oh, you gotta.

[00:51:10] Tell me about that. What’d we learn outta that? What happened there? You know, let’s be curious. What can we learn outta that? Mm-hmm. . Yeah, absolutely. Uh, so yeah, as we wrap up today, uh oh. There was something, Oh, okay. First of all, hang on, stop everything. You referred to a podcast. Tell us about that. You, you referred to doing interviews.

[00:51:37] Do you do interviews?

[00:51:38] Sam Young: Oh, yeah. So I, well, I’m, I have a once a month show that I do. It’s really just kind of for fun. Um mm-hmm. , it’s not, By any means on the level of which you’re doing, which is commendable, uh, I, it’s called Illuminating Interviews. You can find the videos on the Young Scholars Academy site, uh, young scholars academy.org.

[00:51:59] And it’s under, I, I kind of consider it like a blog passion project, but, uh, every other month I’ll interview either an expert or a student or a panel of students. And when I say students, these. Young adults now, but they’re former students of mine. Cause I think that’s something that a lot of our kiddos need is seeing older versions of themselves, as we said, but not as old as me.

[00:52:21] Right. . So someone who’s, someone who’s maybe, you know, 23 mm-hmm. , who’s just finished school and now they’re doing something and they’re twice exceptional or they’re gifted, or they’re NeuroD and, and giving them the space. Someone’s a little closer to them in age and talk about their struggles, their accomplishments, and everything in between.

[00:52:39] And then I’ll interview people. I think last time I saw you, Sophia, I had just interviewed that morning, Joseph Zuli, Dr. Joseph Zu. I can’t remember. Yeah, you mentioned that. I was like, I’m still coming off that high. So yeah, share that episode next week, I think. Yeah, I had like the shakes during that. So very excited about, about that too.

[00:52:56] So I’ll bring in different people, but the goal is really just to kind. Just pick different people’s brains and try to get little clips and snippets for people who want like a sort of a quick insight or a quick thought provoking like your one friend, right. Sometimes mm-hmm. , one person can say one thing and it can completely transform our lives.

[00:53:15] Yeah. And uh, so I’m just kind of conversing in, in the wilderness, I guess, with different people. trying to find. Provoking thoughts and so it’s awesome.

[00:53:26] Sophia Elliott: Thank you. So check that out on your website and I’m gonna check that out and I will start sharing those cuz they sound amazing. And so how can people get in touch with you?

[00:53:36] Sam Young: Yeah. So you can check out Young Scholars academy.org and if you hit the Contact me button, you, that’s me right there. Uh, also on Facebook at Ysa Enrichment, so that’s for Young Scholars Academy and then on Instagram at Young Underscore Scholars Underscore Academy. And anyone doesn’t know the underscore, it’s like the lower hyphen.

[00:53:58] I always say the hyphen on the

[00:54:00] Sophia Elliott: ground, you know? Yeah, I like that. Yep. And, and, and you, I mean, you’ve touched on sort. Very briefly, uh, some of the. Things you do, but important for everyone to know that you offer a whole range of classes on different topics and all sorts of things. So really check out the website for more detail on all of those

[00:54:21] Sam Young: things.

[00:54:22] Yes, please do. We have winter camps. Summer camps, and then we run courses every eight weeks and we’re usually running 20, 25 courses. Mm-hmm. , uh, at a time. So we have a tremendous amount. Opportunities and we try to do everything that no one else is doing. So crypto, you know, debate investing, virtual robotics, anything that you can think of.

[00:54:43] Book clubs, psychology, college level courses, things that fire.

[00:54:49] Sophia Elliott: That, that sounds amazing. So a great opportunity for young gifted kids to find their peers in a strength based environment. Sounds perfect. And you, like, just very quickly, you mentioned in the d and d podcast, uh, you were telling us a story about, uh, you know, the, the d and d group, but like they’re from all over the world getting together and playing this game on a regular basis, which, Just feels like a really beautiful thing to share.

[00:55:17] So a great opportunity to meet people potentially from all over the.

[00:55:22] Sam Young: Absolutely. And I don’t know if I shared this story with you. This is a 32nd story, but I had two students actually meet in a park. Did I tell you this one? It’s beautiful. Yeah. Tell and recognize one another. So like that just happened?

[00:55:34] Yeah, about a week or so before you and I connected, so yeah. Amazing. So yeah, there’s a virtual community and sometimes people trip across from real people too. . Yeah.

[00:55:43] Sophia Elliott: Uh, well thank you so much for making time to talk to us today. I feel like that was a really great convers conversation about strength based learning and a few other tangents in between.

[00:59:21] Sam Young: I’m always gonna be good for a tangent. This is great. Thank you so much. Me

[00:59:25] Sophia Elliott: too. Thank you. It’s been delightful to have you back, and hopefully you won’t be a stranger and we’ll, we’ll see you again on the podcast.

[00:59:33] Sam Young: Absolutely. Cheers. Thank you.

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