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Strengths

Bold Steps for Making Kids’ Strengths Count

As parents, we have lots of experiences in finding and uncovering the problems and faults of our kids but we spend much less time identifying and developing their talents.

And while we seek out and pay for advice and resources to solve our kid’s problems we often spend little time and effort in growing their talents into strengths.

Below are some great resources to grow your kid’s talents.

Kids don’t need fixing

Instead of recognizing public schools are the problem, kids or parents are blamed. 

For example, does your kid know his letters, is she able to sit still, does she know her numbers, is he able to hold a pencil correctly, and countless other so-called standards and expectations parents are told their kid should know by age 5 or 6.

Here are some great resources

via amazon

Parents take charge

The public schools will not change on their own.  Like any large bureaucracy, its interest is to become more powerful and bigger. School change, especially any major changes, must be driven by parents and kids working together with forward-thinking teachers.

Public education remains entrenched in the factory deficit-based system.  The deficit-based model focuses on what kids need to learn; what kids do not know, and cannot do. The bottom line is the public schools emphasize student deficits over natural talents and strengths.

The deficit-based model is based on what is believed to be student weaknesses, problems, and deficiencies.  Ironically, focusing on weaknesses actually makes it harder for kids to perform.

Strength-based education builds a curriculum around the natural talents and strengths of our kids.

Here’s what research says:

 

Creative Playtime

What the public education establishment won’t tell you is that starting academics earlier, such as the teaching of phonics and other skills do not necessarily lead to better results.  In fact, regardless of a kid’s economic condition, what kids need most is creative playtime.  Finally, if you are interested in taking a deep dive into the research, here is an excellent study which shows the powerful relationship between strength-based education and student engagement, enthusiasm, and success.

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All children, everywhere, have the potential to be successful.  It simply depends on our point of view. If we focus on deficits, we see problems, obstacles, weaknesses, and flaws.

If we focus on strengths, we see opportunities, success, and ways to grow talents into strengths.

Unlike deficit thinking, a strength-based approach invents, creates, and produces results based on what works and individual talents.

We have the power and resources to create a Strength-Based Public Education School in every city and community in America by emphasizing the talents of our kids over problems and deficits.

By emphasizing the natural talents of our kids, we can create opportunities for success for all kids.

Strength-Based Education does not just change our schools, it transforms public education in America.

Guided by kids, parents, teachers, and community members, Strength-Based Education consists of four interactive steps:

  1. Discovering and valuing talents
  2. Creating opportunities for success
  3. Developing a curriculum of knowledge and skills to grow talents into strengths
  4. Narrowing opportunities into aspirations for success.

Seven Factors Driving Success

Strength-Based Education is based on seven factors driving successful opportunities and aspirations for all kids. 

The factors fall into two categories: School-Community Climate and Culture. 

Climate factors represent the basic character of the school, describing how kids, parents, teachers, administrators, staff, and community members engage with each other. 

Specifically, climate describes how school-community members organize together to accomplish goals.  Climate is about what it feels like to teach and learn in a strength-based school-community. 

Climate structural factors include:

  • School-Wide Relations
  • Student Relations
  • School-Family Relations.

Culture is described as the foundation upon which Strength-Based Education is built. Culture develops over the longer term and consists of the values and implicit-beliefs, norms and traditions that student talents should drive the curriculum.  

Cultural values factors include:

  • Student-Centered
  • Work Ethic
  • Future-Oriented
  • Results-Oriented

The push for academics

When our five and six-year-olds enter school they are learning all the time and every place. 

Many young children are developing resilient and independent behaviors.  K

Kids are eager to know more about themselves and the kids they meet. 

Our kids are learning to play with others, beginning to communicate their thoughts and desires, and ready to engage the world around them. 

Failing is not part of their vocabulary where trial and error is how they learn. 

What happens when our kids enter school? 

When kids enter school, their passion, joy, and curiosity are confronted with standards, tests, and outcomes; even in kindergarten.  The push for academics has replaced the normal, natural behavior of our kids.

More kindergarten information

Play-based learning 

Small but committed groups of parents are speaking up against the one-size-fits-all schooling model and want educational options for their kids.
From all walks of life, parents are seeking alternatives to a system they believe does not meet the educational and/or social needs of their kids.
While school vouchers and charter schools are prominent in the world of educational options, a growing number of educational alternatives are being used and considered by parents.
Public concerns regarding the schools are growing according to recent findings from the “2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey,” conducted by the Cato Institute, where the majority of Americans (58 percent) support taxpayer-funded K-12 private school vouchers.

Parents as partners

It’s time to reverse course and encourage parents to take an active role in their kid’s education.  Both research and common sense tell us when parents spend time with their children educational success goes up.
With the Internet, learning has no bounds and can take place in the living room.  When you consider the billions of dollars being spent on public education, taxpayers should demand educators and parents form a new partnership in the education of kids.
Let’s provide parents with resources to work with their children.  Let’s make sure every kid has access to the Internet at home and let’s restructure public education so that parents play a legitimate role in the education of kids.
Before you begin to think such ideas are revolutionary, with a little tinkering here and there we can redefine public education in the following ways:
  • Expand the school voucher movement to pay parents for teaching their kids.
  • Create new homeschooling and traditional school relationships where parents share equal responsibilities with teachers.
  • Convert charter schools into school-community co-ops where parents join together to teach kids.

Contact your kid’s teachers

If you have read this far, it means you are interested in finding out more about what you can do to have your kid’s strength count in school.   So let’s begin

Step one is to contact your kid’s teacher.  It’s best to do this in writing so you can clearly articulate your ideas.  There will be plenty of opportunities to discuss face-to-face. 

Think of this letter as a gift to your kid’s teacher; what you are doing is providing strength-based insight into your kid.  If every parent did this our schools would change overnight.

Remember, the public schools can’t change on their own; no giant bureaucracy can.  And while your neighborhood school may seem inviting and supportive, the fact is that the talents and strengths of kids are usually never considered when compared to the directed curriculum.

So let’s get to it. 

The purpose of your letter is to set the stage for a strength-based relationship where your kid’s strengths play a key role in the teaching and learning process.

Your letter should request a meeting between you your kid’s teacher to discuss your son or daughter’s strengths.

By sending this letter you establish your position as your kid’s best teacher and an essential player in the education of your kid.

Here are some points you may want to include in your letter:

  1. Describe your kid’s past school positive experiences.
  2. Describe what your kid enjoys about school and what makes your kid most interested in school.
  3. What does your kid enjoy most about learning?
  4. When is your kid most excited and interested in school?
  5. How would you describe your kid’s learning style?  (hands-on, visual, etc)
  6. Describe the environment your kid learns best in?  (structure, more independent, calm)
  7. Describe in detail your kid’s talents (potential) and strengths, (what your kid does really well).
  8. List your kid’s hobbies and interests.

Notice that you are not listing weaknesses or past school problems.

This is probably different from what you are accustomed to when discussing your kid with teachers and administrators.

The goal is to emphasize talents and strengths over weaknesses and thereby create numerous opportunities for success.

Form a Strength-Based Team

After you contact your kid’s teacher it’s time to form your own parent strength-based team.  The purpose of your team is to develop a small group of parents who believe in and support Strength-Based Education.  Through your leadership, move your team to action.   

Obtain a list of all school and district-wide committees. 

Determine which school committees have the most influence on the curriculum and what kids learn. 

Remember, emphasizing the strengths of kids is not just good for your child, it’s good for all children. 

Have members of your team join school and district-wide committees.

Begin educating parents and teachers about strength-based education and how the strength-based approach will help all kids be successful.

Use the committee structure as a platform for increasing support for Strength-Based Education. 

Establish a Strength-Based Education committee

It’s time to expand your Strength-Based Parent Team to include members from your school and district committees. 

By doing this you can begin to create a broad-based network in support of Strength-Based Education.

Organize and hold a general workshop on Strength-Based Education with the goal of establishing a school or district Strength-Based Education Committee. 

Develop a school or district community petition in support of the committee. 

Circulate the petition and when you have sufficient signatures present the petition with a recommendation for the establishment of a Strength-Based Education Committee to the school board.

In your petition, you can indicate the most accurate predictor of academic success is not socioeconomic status, nor how prestigious the school is that a kid attends.

The best predictor of student success is the extent to which families encourage learning at home and involve themselves in their child’s education.

Do a strength-based presentation for the school board

Speaking out at community, town, or school board meetings is as American as apple pie. Local boards provide a glimpse of democracy at its most basic level.

Speaking in public, however, is for many people a frightful and difficult thing to do.

Here are some tips for getting organized:

  1. Recruit a group of prepared parents to attend the school board meeting with you.
  2. Contact friendly school board members and educate them on the strength-based approach.
  3. Have a few key parents speak in support of the Strength-Based Education Committee.
  4. Invite the media to attend. Give them a copy of the recommendation.
  5. See the sample recommendation below to help you get started.

Sample Recommendation

As concerned parents of our District, we believe our kids’ talents and strengths should drive the curriculum. Too often, the curriculum has little relevance and importance to what we believe our children should learn. Too often, the curriculum is politically charged and has little to do with our community priorities. Most importantly, the curriculum ignores the talents and strengths of our kids. In other words, too often our kids are treated as empty vessels where the school pours a curriculum into their head. We want this to change. Therefore, we recommend that a District-Wide Strength-Based Education Committee is established with parents as the majority members to transform our schools from a deficit-based teaching environment to a strength-based learning environment. It is our hope that the school board will support us and establish the District-Wide Strength-Based Education Committee.

Keep your comments short and to the point. While no one wants to hear a long speech, it’s important to make your points several times.

You will also want to make sure all board members have your contact information.  This should be written on the recommendation.

Conclude by hoping to hear back as soon as possible but make sure you indicate you hope to hear back no later than a specific date.

Remember to ask board members if they have any questions.  Continue reading

Keep the momentum going

Following the Board Meeting hold a community meeting to discuss the recommendation and Strength-Based Education and why it’s important for kids’ talents and strengths to count. 

Recruit parents to keep the momentum going. 

Obtain contact information and encourage parents to hold their own neighborhood meetings. 

Communicate updates on the progress being made.  Use social media to publicize your campaign as you expand participation.

If the school board ignores or refuses to support your recommendation, you have three possible options:

First, you can escalate your efforts by involving more parents, expanding your Strength-Based Education Committee throughout the school district, and holding various public relations efforts.  You can also present your recommendation to the school board again, this time with more parent support combined with additional facts and research.

Another possible action is to work within the school district framework.  Basically, what this means is to co-opt the district and/or school committee structure, little-by-little, influencing decisions so the talents and strengths of kids play a more significant role in the teaching and learning process.

A third possibility is to recruit strength-based parents to run for the school board.  This action offers the greatest potential for success in creating a strength-based district where kids’ strengths not only count but drive the curriculum and learning.

One More Thing

Contribute to the Strength-Based Education Movement.  Add your comments below.  What are the great things your Strength-Based Parent Team is doing?  Connect with other parents around the Country. 

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