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Reforming Through Our Strengths

Our Strengths

In the recent past, I have been reading endless blogs and seeing news headlines (and Oprah shows) that focus on all the problems with the current education system (much of these focus on the US system but there is a relation to the Canadian system).  We are bombarded with examples of educators that have been fired, test scores that are too low, and students who cannot read.

We often look at our students in this same way – through deficit thinking, the idea to try to bring up the weaknesses. Lately, a lot of schools and teachers are doing not only this but focusing more on the opposite; instead of bringing up the weaknesses, they are focusing on the strengths.

After reading Pernille Ripp’s post today, I thought: what if, instead of focusing on the weaknesses and problems with our current system, if we started to highlight the great things that are happening in schools every day throughout Canada and the world?

By walking through our school, being on Twitter and reading blogs from some fantastic educators, I see and read about amazing things that happen in schools every day – blogs that don’t focus on test scores, data, violence, or punishments.  These educators are writing about Identity Days, encouraging students to be proud of who they are, amazing things grade 1 students do in their first week, seeing students for who they truly are, and tapping into the leadership of our students.  What would happen if stories like this dominated the media?  Would we see a more positive education reform by showcasing examples of deeper learning and strength-based education?

I realize that we cannot ignore the problems that are embedded in the education systems of Canada and the US but we cannot forget the endless wonderful things that happen each and every day in our schools.  Many students ARE learning and participating in engaging lessons that focus on the learner.  Many teachers ARE looking beyond the external behaviours and forming relationship to show how much they deeply care for their students.  Schools ARE transforming from factory-models to learner-centred environments that put the students first.

So instead of slamming the deficits, why not reform through focusing on our strengths?

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Chris Wejr

Proud father of twin girls. Currently working as the Principal of James Hill Elementary School (K-5) in Langley, BC, Canada. Passionate about strengths-based education and leadership, assessment, and human motivation.

22 Comments

  1. Wow! What an incredible post. Thank you for mentioning my blog as part of it. You’re right: the education systems aren’t perfect, but some great things are happening in Canada and in the United States too. I see that every day thanks to my Twitter PLN. I think that we need to celebrate these successes too, and you’ve definitely done that here!

    Aviva

  2. Couldn’t agree more. Focusing on the positives is such an important part of teaching, and it frustrates me to no end when teachers get bogged down by the negativity that we hear all around us. I refuse to let it get me down. There’s too many awesome things going on in my school!

  3. I hear you Chris! I have been saying this forever that instead of focusing on the negatives (which brings everyone down), lets talk and share about the good things that are happening in our schools. If you have great things happening, I want to hear about them so I can implement them in our school in a way that meets our student needs. In our world today, there is no reason we should not be hearing about the great stuff that is happening in schools around the world.

    Thanks Chris for being such a positive leader!

  4. Three cheers for highlighting the great things seen in schools around the globe! Chris, what you’re speaking to is really the perspective we choose to adopt: positive or negative, half-full or half-empty. There is always plenty to complain about, but it’s the moments of the learning successes (not failure) that are worth celebrating and sharing. Every teacher is dealing with pressures of student performance, class size, class composition, the “teacher placement process” and a host of other things. In my mind though, the true educator will recognize the gravity of all of these, rise above the external things (that are difficult to change anyway) and deliberately choose to do everything in their power to put the needs of each student first. No one said the path would be easy, but at the end of the day, isn’t it the students that make teaching worthwhile?

  5. Thank you Chris for writing this post, it was one of my most favorite pieces in September. You say exactly how I feel; we must focus on our strengths, acknowledge our weaknesses, and then find a way to duplicate the good. If we only focus on the negative we will never be satisfied. There are so many hard working people in education that do amazing things every day, let us boost them up rather than tear them down.

  6. Chris, Love the post. With the attack on public education taking place at this time, it is critical that we stay positive. Ms. Ripp, George C., Kelly K., and many others are providing that spirit. Hats Off to all of you. This positive attitude is a must of students, teachers, parents, and all of public education. I find the educators in Canada leading the positive push. Thanks again Chris and all the best to you and your students.

  7. Thanks so much for all the comments! Teachers often have a difficult time “bragging” about the great things that go on in their school/classroom. I do not feel that bragging for the sake of highlighting oneself is the way to go but highlighting great things that encourage deep student learning and engagement must be shared!

  8. Thanks for recognizing that we are doing wonderful things in our schools, and by connecting and learning from one another, we will begin to truly transform our schools and do the best for our children. I agree it is often difficult for teachers to celebrate and “brag” about the good things they’re doing in their classrooms. Thanks for reminding us as educational leaders that we need to encourage our teachers to share and inspire others!

  9. As administrators we hear a lot about evaluating data to focus on our school’s “needs”…what a perfect sentiment to remind everyone that we need to also celebrate and focus on our successes! I agree that it’s sometimes difficult for teachers to “brag” about what goes on in their classrooms. I see a lot of teachers not wanting to “outdo” a colleague by sharing their ideas. This type of sharing is absolutely essential in strengthening our organizations. This is one of the reasons why I push so hard for my teachers to spend time collaborating. The collective wisdom of our teachers will truly enhance learning experiences for students!

  10. From Lyn Hilt,

    As administrators we hear a lot about evaluating data to focus on our school’s “needs”…what a perfect sentiment to remind everyone that we need to also celebrate and focus on our successes! I agree that it’s sometimes difficult for teachers to “brag” about what goes on in their classrooms. I see a lot of teachers not wanting to “outdo” a colleague by sharing their ideas. This type of sharing is absolutely essential in strengthening our organizations. This is one of the reasons why I push so hard for my teachers to spend time collaborating. The collective wisdom of our teachers will truly enhance learning experiences for students!

  11. Well said Lyn – there is nothing wrong with collaborating and pushing each other to be better! Your blogs, as well as the many others that I read push me to be better every day… most importantly to the benefit of kids!

  12. Great post! I was glumly thinking about how long education takes to change and wondering again how to build capacity for change. Then I realized than there have been times when education changed. While the teaching styles might still mimic those of the 50’s , some teachers have transitioned from slide rules to calculators to interactive geometry software and taking attendance online. The changes that have taken place need to be taken into consideration. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thanks Jaclyn, I guess it is how we look at it. Although some would love for change to happen much more quickly than we see today, however, change that is too fast is not always good and can create problems in education. It is important for use to showcase those teachers that are doing great things and use this to create progressive change. Thanks for commenting!

  14. Chris – This is a great post. I want to thank you for talking about all of the postive things that are taking place in our schools in the Fraser-Cascade School District. As I travel throughout our district I recognize that we have so much to be proud of. Each of our schools have welcomed students, staff and parents back to school through special events that have been very well-attended. Administrators and staff are excited to be back and are implementing exciting programs to engage students in their learning. I hope that we can continue to focus on the positive aspects of education throughout this coming year.

  15. Thanks Karen. I would like to see us share the positive things we see in our schools within our district. I know you are trying to do this but I often know more about people’s schools in different countries than I do in our own district. Blogs are a powerful way to showcase the great things happening in our district. Thanks for taking the time.

  16. Excellent job again Chris on bringing forward an issue which can make such a difference to others!It is exciting to see more and more teachers highlighting the outstanding work being done in their classrooms. Discussing the positive aspects of education is essential for building a strong foundation to which educational reform can stand upon. Reform which occurs from a negative context can miss voices. Real change takes the ingenuity of everyone, particularily from students since they will be the recipients of our discussions. Assumptions should be forgotten as we listen to what brings them acedemic confidence. Also, I think we need to share more of our successes with parents. A true partnership discusses all of the events which impact their children – I think a little bragging qualifies!

  17. I don’t know how you administrators make it through the day with all the pressure about test scores and statistics and budgets. One of the reasons I will never be an administrator is because I don’t think I’ll ever care about that stuff. Good for you for holding onto your teacher-self and not letting all that stuff steal your joy. We get to partner with our students’ parents and become a teaching team with them, and in so doing we experience the joy of their child’s growth with them. No parents gets bummed out when their baby walks because they’re in the 75th percentile of babies who walked by their first birthday. When they take their first step and say their first word, YAY!! That’s just how I feel when little Johnny, who knew 10 sight words last week, now knows 15. That’s how I feel when Susie gets all of her six times tables right for the first time — YAY! If any of my co-workers have positive stories or ideas that help my students experience success, they have my gratitude for adding to my joy.

  18. Anna, your comment about parents is so true! We need to open up our learning environments to include parents – this can be done through technology and through conversations!

  19. Thanks so much for commenting Rebekah!!! (Rebekah is a new teacher on our staff and a great addition to our team). It is those little ‘victories’ that happen throughout the days that we celebrate and then look back on at the end of the year! As you will soon learn, I care very little about standardized tests but I do care a lot about learning – we are definitely on the same page there! Looking forward to a great year celebrating our strengths!

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