Sunday, August 14, 2011

Teach with Your Strengths

I have been in school with students for eight days now. The dust is just beginning to settle from all of the beginning of the year craziness. One of those beginning of the year things on my "to do" list was to meet with my principal to discuss my goal(s) for this year.

Prior to our meeting, I thought and thought about what I wanted my goal to be this year. I did what came naturally to me (unfortunately) and went straight to what I thought was my weakness as a teacher. I know that I am good at many things as a teacher but I also know that the area I could most use improvement in would be in assessment.  I thought about it a lot but I really didn't like that as a goal. It sounded so dry and boring. Finally I told myself to just grow up and do it.

I went into the meeting with my principal and told her my goal would be on assessment but that I hadn't narrowed it down yet. I also told her that I wasn't very excited about it but knew that was what I most needed to work on. She looked right at me and said that assessment could not be my goal. I was puzzled but kept listening. She said that she wanted us to be excited about our goal and that we should teach with our strengths. So we talked a while longer and came up with the goal of working on developing my PLN and helping other staff members do the same. Now this was something that I was very excited about doing and could really see as a very valuable way to spend my time. My principal said that we would all still work on assessment as a staff but that she really wanted us to have "juicy" goals that would propel us forward and she wants us to lead with our strengths. I was very happy as I left her office.

As I walked back to my room though, I began to wonder about my own thinking. My goal last year had been to help each student lead with their strengths and passions and not to dwell on their weaknesses. (Post about that here.) I know all the reasons why this is good practice. I do not want students to feel like school is the place where they only notice what you do not do well and make you do it over and over until you get better. I know that passion and excitement bring about motivation and a desire to learn more. I know that we need to see the strengths and passions of others in order to understand our strengths as a community. I feel like I do a good job of building on students' strengths and noticing what they can do. What surprised me was that I did not apply this to my own learning at all. I see now that I still have more work to do on shifting my mindset to one that builds on strengths - including my own.


  1. Sounds like a fabulous principal. Wow.

    I don't have to set a goal each year for my administration, but often do set goals for myself. This year I want to work on parent communication, something I do not do well. Now I want to think of a more fun goal to go along with that one.

  2. Jenny,
    Parent communication is always so hard because every parent wants something different. I would love to hear about what you choose for your fun goal.


  3. Hi Jill~
    Glad your year is up and running well, meeting a new group of kids is exciting and daunting all in one!
    Love your goal! Isn't is always easier to problem solve for others? (lead with strengths for kids)

    Looking forward to connecting our kids in their very own PLN soon!

  4. Love this post, Jill! I'm a new instructional coach this year, and one of the reasons I went into this role was for exactly this reason. How can teachers be empowered and motivated by their strengths and passions--rather than their perceived weaknesses and fears. You have given me some great ideas! Thank you, and good luck with your goal!