Where I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

This past week, my methods class took the Strengths Finder 2.0 Test to determine our strengths.  They varied in categories, but there was one trend that I found particularly interesting–

In talking about our strengths, we all seemed to focus on our weaknesses.

For example, I noticed that my strengths tended to be authoritative, leadership-based strengths.  And I thought to myself, “Wow, I’m going to have a harder time relating to students and being compassionate.”  Other students felt the exact opposite–that their strengths were all relational, and they would have a hard time establishing a classroom setting where they were respected.

This got me thinking about what our strengths really mean, and what this means for our students.

I believe that giving students the opportunities to investigate their strengths will allow them to learn their weaknesses, and this is where the growing can occur.

Don’t get me wrong, I ABSOLUTELY think we should encourage student strengths in the classroom, and I think students should know what they’re good at and keep it in mind.  Students bring so much to the table, and knowing what you bring to the picture is critical in building good teamwork and a good classroom environment.

But in order to grow, you don’t need to work on what you’re already good at.  You need to work on what you can improve.

Realistically in the classroom, I think this starts with some self-honesty.  It is up to no one but yourself to determine your weaknesses.  So no, Sammi Jo over there cannot say to me, “Naomi, I think your weakness is that you’re lazy!”  That’s not the classroom we want, nor is it a classroom we will tolerate.  So what are we trying to do?

We are looking for an environment where weaknesses are embraced and improved upon, and this can be some tricky stuff.  Which is why it’s smart to start with the strengths.

Personally, I enjoyed the Strengths Finder 2.0.  I felt that it asked questions well and gave me a general idea of what I’m pretty good at right now, and how I can use what I’m good at to help the world around me and to help me as a teacher.  However, it also gave me an idea of what I’ll have to work on.

I’m good at spotting the problem and fixing it, but I struggle with letting a healthy amount of frustration work its way through people.

I’m good at sticking to my core values, but I struggle with embracing thoughts and ideas that may challenge those.

I’m good at working hard to achieve a goal, but I struggle understanding people who don’t put in the work.

Here’s the thing about all the weaknesses I just listed:  they aren’t bad things.

Notice the wording.  “I’m good at…but I struggle with…”  This, I believe, is the key to a successful classroom full of self-growth.  Defining what you’re good at and listing what you might need to work on isn’t tearing yourself down or nitpicking on the negatives, it’s acknowledging that you aren’t perfect.

Not only does recognizing weaknesses cultivate growth, but it can also build community in the classroom.  I notice that I’m not as good at being patient with people, so I partner up with a classmate who is extra-patient so I can learn from them.  Humbling myself to learn from my peer not only allows me to grow personally, but allows a relationship with that person to blossom.

Here’s the thing (especially in science classrooms): you can never grow by never failing.  Failing is just a big ol’ hunk of “WEAKNESS” thrown in your face, and yeah, it honestly sucks at the time.  But the reality is, in the long run, this is so, so good for all of us.  Why?

Because where we are weak, we are strong.

Weakness is the place where we can acknowledge we need help.  We can build community and lean on each other.  Weakness is the place we can grow.  Weakness is the uncomfy place, the one we don’t like at ALL, but the one we emerge from stronger than before.  Our weaknesses don’t have to become our strengths, but they do have to become understood.  Acknowledging weakness allows us to capitalize on our strengths and learn and overcome.

So learn your strengths, learn your weaknesses, and jump right into the process of growing.  We all have a place to start–and now is the time to do it.

-Naomi

About Naomi Patten

Future Science Educator Miami University Class of 2019 Follow me on Twitter @MsPattenScience
This entry was posted in Strengths in Science Classrooms and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Where I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong

  1. Naomi Patten says:

    Katin–

    I agree, I think it is SO SO SO important to frame your weaknesses in a positive light. Weaknesses aren’t anything to be ashamed of, but rather something to be embraced and just worked on. Strengths are great for this!

  2. Naomi Patten says:

    Shay–

    Good question! I think I need to work on relating to my students better and trying not to jump to “fixing” the problem when they’re struggling. Allowing students to work through and process things on their own is tricky for me, because I want to just tell them the right way to do it so they can effectively get their work done, but I know healthy frustration is really good for the classroom!

  3. Shay says:

    Naomi,
    I think it is awesome how you focused on how your weaknesses are where we need to improve. Focusing on what you are good at can help you find what you are bad at and can help you improve yourself. What are some things you feel you need to improve in to be a better teacher?

  4. angelokm says:

    Naomi,
    I really enjoyed your blog post this week! I thought you did a great job of reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses. I really liked your statement saying “I am good at… but I struggle with…” By stating something someone is good at it empowers them and then saying struggle (not bad at) with is important so someone can realize they have flaws that can be improved over time. I also thought you did a great job explaining weaknesses. You talked about how they can be used to improve yourself overall and to make yourself stronger. Overall, great post!
    Katin

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