Instead of eliminating our shortcomings or perceived deficits, how do we instead use our “weaknesses” to our advantage? The College Foundation of North Carolina created a short career interest survey to help elementary aged students find their area of interest broken down into six easy to understand categories.
My brain went into overdrive when four of my most rambunctious students were classified as “enterprising.” The characteristics for enterprising consist of a student who identifies as energetic, competitive, and has a desire to lead. Those same students might also be described as inattentive, argumentative, and uncooperative, but what if we helped them and their teachers reframe their difficulties and leverage this new found vocabulary?
B.F. Skinner taught us that positively rewarding someone for good behavior will lead to more rapid and effective learning than punishment for the same behavior, which is why it is imperative that we find a way to see our students through rose-colored glasses. No, I’m not trying to imply that a student who graffiti’s the school bathroom should be seen as an artist (necessarily), but I am suggesting that we stop trying to curb the negative and start praising and enhancing the positive.
If you have a student who is building a tower with his markers instead of doing his math work, could we tap into his desire to be more hands-on (realistic) and give him manipulatives instead of paper? The answer is “yes” one hundred times over! I’m in the trenches and I know the difficulties of differentiation and I can’t pretend that I’ve got it all figured out, but I will say that using tools like the interest survey and the corresponding categories has helped me find strengths in students that I hadn’t seen before.