The legacy of the school accountability wave of the last decade is a focus on weaknesses. The push of tracking subgroups and focusing on bubble students was well intentioned, but had a hidden cost. We have become so effective in remediating difficiencies that we’ve lost sight of the importance of identifying and capitalizing on strengths. Each human being is unique and is great at something. Some of these are highlighted in academic settings while others are not. All have value.
What would happen if our Professional Development focused not on strengening our weak teachers, but building upon their strengths? What if school was truly an opportunity for students to find out what they do well and get better at it? What if we nurtured the the student who we say talks to much, and viewed his ability to communicate as an asset? We say we are preparing students for the “real world”, but often we are preparing students to perform better in the school context. This is a disservice to the student who may leave school with a High School diploma and no idea what they are passionate about or great at.
I believe we can do better. I encourage you to reflect on your school. As Simon Sinek talks about in his famous Ted Talk, we must start with asking why. I remember sitting in class unengaged in High School Geometry. I “wasn’t good at math” and my teacher accepted this and struggled to pull me through. What my teacher didn’t know or care to ask was that I loved seeing the big picture and was creative. I could have fallen in love with the content if only she would have tapped into this and helped me see the connection between Geometry and architecture. This was a missed opportunity because I was never able to explore my strengths in the context of mathematics. Don’t miss these opportunities with your students and remember it all becomes possible when you build strong relationships with kids.