Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Let's Focus More On Our Strengths

In education, we like to talk about weaknesses.  If you have been part of a team discussing a particular student, how much of that focus is spent talking about the weakness?  How much time is spent talking about that student's strengths?  I have been a part of many of those types of meetings over the past 15 years and I would say a majority of that time spent is spent talking about and developing a plan to "fix" the student's weakness.  Have those talks ever involved developing a plan to further enhance their strengths?

We love to focus on weakness in education.  Whether it is test scores, teacher evaluations, or curriculum, educational reformers take great joy in the analysis and dissection of data to point out our weaknesses.  In Ohio, educators have been ridiculed due to the low scores students have received on the Ohio Graduation Test, yet as student performance across the state has improved, state legislators are now replacing the test because it is "too easy."  Not sure why it was not viewed as too easy eight years ago.

I am not suggesting we ignore our weaknesses.  To ignore them would be careless.  I am simply saying that we should not be so enamored with them that they become the focal point of every decision or plan we implement.  I am also not suggesting we sit back and pat ourselves on the back as we look at the great things we do.  Instead, let's work on improving those great things.

Imagine if Derek Jeter focused on his weaknesses as a high school basketball player, rather than further improve his talents as a baseball player.  Would we even know who Derek Jeter is?  What if Bill Gates spent less time working on computer programming in high school so that he could improve upon his weakness as a musician?  Imagine if we put a focus on further improving the strengths of a teacher rather than always targeting their shortcomings.  Acceleration Plans could be more powerful than Improvement Plans.

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