Too many of my students have failed in the past, and not just academically. Many have suffered rejection or have been taken advantage of by others. Some have been hurt by the very people who should have been protecting them.
School starts tomorrow, and I want to begin the year by letting my students know that everyone’s good at something–including them. I think they especially need to hear it. If they don’t come to class this year knowing what they’re good at, I hope by the end of the year they’ll have gained knowledge about their strengths that they can be proud of. And I don’t want to forget to tell them I’m proud of them, either.
We had a speaker-artist at our district’s back-to-school kickoff this week who demonstrated the importance of focusing on your strengths. I hope to pass on that message. It’s sometimes hard as teachers to take our eyes off of our students’ weaknesses long enough to help them see their strengths, but it’s important that we do.
When my students come tomorrow, and after the initial introductions and housekeeping that inevitably take up much of our first day together, I plan to tell them a few stories from a book called Fires in the Mind about other teens who have found things they’re good at. Some have been so inspired by recognizing their strengths in things like sewing, sports, writing, or tinkering with car engines that they’ve committed themselves to becoming experts. The enjoyment they feel from using their talents motivates them to practice, practice, practice–something that too often discourages others.
Then I will ask my students this question: What are you good at? And I will ask that each student answer the question on decorative cards I’ve created for this purpose. There’s something about putting something in writing that makes it real. Then, we’ll put them on the bulletin board at the front of the class so we can celebrate all the talents these girls bring to our school. And I’ll get my blank bulletin board decorated in the process. Bonus!
I’m hoping this activity will inspire and encourage my students, but at the start of a new year, I can use some inspiration as well. After all, you’re never too old or wise to consider this question. The answer may change many times throughout your life, too. My three very different careers (so far) are a testament to that.
If I were to ask you, what would you say? What are you good at?