Juggling Complex Needs: Applying circus skills to address mental, physical and psychological barriers.

As the term circusconjures the idea of embracing diversity and giving merit to those who dont fall inmainstreamsociety, this workshop strives to help the teacher/counselor discover innovative ways to help their students from a wide variety of learning profiles to enjoy the learning process. This workshop embarks to help participants experience first hand what their most vulnerable students may feel on a regular basis in our school system, and give participants new strategies to connect with them and build capacity. It is designed to gather a cross section of learners and put them on a level playing field, with the value being placed on the learning process and work ethic instead of achievements and natural talents. The workshop promotes practical ways to create a culture of belonging and safety, with fringestudents having equal merit to those whose lives face less oppression or adversity.

Participants will be walked through how a counselor or classroom teacher can use circus in their programs to help students who typicallyhateschool, physical activity, or suffer from emotional issues, to find sincere ways to feel connected and want to be there and try. This workshop is designed to offer practical tools to address the current expectation of instant gratification, or masterywithout putting the time and effort in, and how to help students understand confidence is linked with not giving up. Through experiential learning, participants will understand the mindset needed to be a learner, and will hopefully gain a better understanding of how the culture and climate in the classroom impacts the capacity and gumption to want to learn. Participants will look at the role of emotions in learning barriers and achievements, and apply the philosophy of the 5 Ps of Circus—Positivity, Patience, Practice, Perseverance, and Passing it on—to understand how people can flourish in their personal growth.

Target Audience



Friday 1:00 PM - 4:15 PM
Room Concorde Room

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  • Tiffany Wightman

    Tiffany Wightman is a Counsellor, Teacher, Sexual Health Educator, and is also the creator/director of the Circus Program at Saltspring Island Middle School (SIMS) in School District 64.

    Ms. Wightman has had a variety of Counselling positions in School District 64 (from elementary to high school), with her primary position being at the middle school level, as she has been counselling at Saltspring Island Middle School for 18 years. 

    In addition to her formal Teaching Degree and Masters in Counselling Education, Ms. Wightman has informed her practice through many other professional development opportunities, including specialized Certification as a Sexual Health Educator through Options for Sexual Health. With a flourishing Counselling program at SIMS and being on the Wellness Team in her District, Ms. Wightman has been dedicated to health and wellbeingeducation for her entire career. 

    More recently, Ms. Wightman has created an innovative program that combines all aspects of her training into one place: circus. As a Physical Education teacher, with formal training in aerial circus arts, Ms. Wightmans program allows students to push through personal barriers both emotionally and physically, and to express themselves in ways that are outside of their usual setting. Her program helps students grow socially, emotionally and physically. It is a setting that encourages self-expression where their differences and individuality are celebrated and that embraces their uniqueness as a whole.  Anxiety, ADHD, and isolation being common issues so many of our youth are experiencing to high degrees, are addressed head on, allowing participants to face their fears and address their needs without traditional talk therapy methods and the stigma associated with counseling if that is their barrier. 

    In the counseling setting, Ms. Wightman has designed groups who work together to gain juggling, hooping, staff and diabolo skills (among other props), which commands focus, teamwork and a growth mindset. Ms. Wightmans own skills have developed along with her groups, demonstrating how no one has to start as an expert, but rather as an active and open learner. Students also learn about checking in, about consent, as well as about clarifying and asserting boundaries when learning the basics of partner acrobatics. Self awareness, focus, connection, growth mindset and energetic discharge are all dividends of the circus-counselling experience.

    Ms. Wightman has presented various Professional Development workshops to teachers and staff in her district, including Sexual Health Education, Mental Health, and most recently, Circus. For many years, Ms. Wightman was the Professional Development Representative for her school. Ms. Wightman is a passionate leader in her field, and loves to share her interest in finding alternate forms of emotional and physical support for families and youth in the rapidly changing, and often sedentary and anxious, world.