Ever heard a student say, "this just isn't my thing"?
This student is usually looking down, lacking confidence and sure that he/she has nothing of value to share.
Well, they are just plain wrong.
All students have something they are good at, perhaps they just haven't figured it out yet. It's our job as educators to help them see.
Teachers are keen observers. We watch students for a living, interacting with their process, trying to help them grow at the pace that works for them.
It's a delicate balance between pushing and listening, convincing and supporting and mostly showing them that we notice.
We don't want them to be what we want, we want them to be the best versions of themselves that they want. No more cookie-cutter images made of ourselves; how boring would that be?
So here's how we can help discover and nurture natural talents in our students:
Provide students ample opportunities to makes choices on their own.
Try to say "yes" more than you say "no", even if it doesn't work out. Let them see it through until the end.
Brainstorm with students when they can't find a way to start. Engage them in a dialogue that doesn't seem like work, but rather like a conversation that has to do with what matters to them.
Encourage them to take risks: small ones, big ones - whatever they are comfortable with and more importantly support them when the risks don't work out. Help them parse out the positives while they reflect and problem solve how they can fix what didn't work.
Provide many opportunities for reflection with low stakes attached. Kids need to feel like every try is an opportunity without fear.
Once the talent is known, spend time with the student nurturing the gift. Offer them chances to practice and push the boundaries to truly master what they have.
Provide constant feedback until they achieve the goals they set for themselves.
Allow them to share their strengths with peers and use this strength to pair students. Students can then become partners in learning and teaching.
All students have something to offer that is unique to their learning. Let's help them learn to cultivate this talent.
How can you help students develop their own strengths? Please share
This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog, Work in Progress in December 2014