Strengths as the Focus

Are School Marks Everything they are Made Out to Be???

Have you ever been in conversation with another parent and that parent just goes on and on and on about how wonderful their child is in school as you sit there nodding your head and smiling, afraid to comment much? Or perhaps you read post after post from a friend of yours about their child making the honor role or that they are celebrating yet another A+. Meanwhile, your own child’s marks are average or below average. Does this mean there is something to be concerned about? Does every child have to be gifted in school to be valued in society?

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students in a classroom

Maclean’s magazine printed an article in August, 2007 that goes against the majority of society’s belief that school marks are a predictor of future success. In this article, Michael Thompson, co-author of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys quotes, “School is a place where former A students teach mostly B students to work for C students.”

Whoa… say what?!?

Yet, if we really think about this, we can appreciate the quote. There are many people that are extremely successful today that did not breeze through school. Some, such as Jennifer Aniston, Sir Richard Branson and Henry Winkler struggled with dyslexia. However, they did not become defined by the dyslexia, and instead allowed their strengths to shine!

Temple Grandin is another example of someone who is successful today, yet struggled with many aspects within the traditional school setting. Thankfully, however, she has learned to not only let her own strengths shine through, but she now focuses on helping others let their strengths shine through as well.

demonstrating ability through individual strengths

Academics and Strengths

Academics ARE important and necessary. When we focus on strengths, we motivate the students to learn in a way that works for them, diminishing feelings of inadequacy or feeling “stupid.” Instead of their weaknesses being the focus, their strengths are regularly celebrated. They still need to learn concepts that may be difficult for them, but know that they can achieve both in school and in life because they feel success in other areas.

It is of extreme importance to focus on our children’s strengths. All children have strengths! For some, reading and writing will be a breeze! For others, it won’t be. We need to help where we can, but we also need to honor our children for the natural strengths they DO have. Reading is NOT a natural process, meaning that if we were left to our own devices, we would learn to walk and make verbal sounds, but we wouldn’t learn to read without being taught. Some grasp this easily and others do not, possibly due to factors that are interfering with the process.

When there are factors interfering with one’s reading ability, it can easily appear that the individual is not trying. Yet, this makes no sense. Why would someone be in a building for so many hours each weekday to not try at all? As one of my former academically struggling high school students who did his assignments, but rarely handed them in, stated to me, “This way, I have control over my marks.”

That student certainly cared and put effort into his assignments. Furthermore, he successfully held down a part-time job while attending school, something not every student does. It is tragic that his confidence in his academic ability had been so beaten down that he would rarely hand in his completed assignments. However, he did have strengths! He was artistic, could build structures like no other and was a strong verbal communicator! I sincerely hope he is allowing these strengths to shine in his adult life today!

How About You?

I would love to know your thoughts or experience with this. Please let me know in the comments below.

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