Thinking about “Strengths Chasing” – Part II

“Simply put, strengths are the things that we do that make us feel energized and alive when we do them. Every single person has strengths. Children’s innate strengths are like live wires connecting their unique inner qualities to their promise as adults. Those wires have life’s most potent energy flowing through them, and we as adults have the power to amp up or damper down the energy flow. When the energy is turned up and strengths are developed to their fullest, people’s passions light up. -Jenifer Fox, Your Child’s Strengths

Strengths. Passions. Talents. How do we help children identify that which gives them energy and encourage them to pursue a path marked by purpose, connectedness, resilience, and fulfillment? Last summer, Trinity’s faculty and staff were asked to read Jenifer Fox’s book, Your Child’s Strengths, and even in the Spring, I continue to reflect on the ideas presented in the book. I’ve written (here and here) about the text, and I’m continually impressed with how much of it connects to the work we’re doing with personalized learning based on Trinity’s Strategic Vision, “The Child at the Center.” I wanted to share a few more thoughts and a reflection (written by a sixth grader named Josh) which perfectly illustrates the power of strengths-based education.

Fox encourages adults to engage in what she calls “strengths chasing.” An active process, helping children discover their strengths requires careful thought and deliberate questioning. When a child takes great pleasure, for example, in organizing books on a bookshelf, it is essential to distill the reason for the organizational habit. Is it enjoyable to alphabetize the books? Or is it that an organized bookshelf is helpful to other people? Or could it be that spending time arranging books and studying titles allows for creativity in future writing activities? It is important that we, as adults, help children chase down their strengths until it leads to what Jenifer Fox calls a “strengths epiphany.” Josh, a Sixth Grader, recently wrote a blog post about the process of finding his true passion. He writes eloquently about how both he and his parents engaged in strengths chasing. In a conversation with Josh, he expressed his love of swimming but explained that his experiences in the swimming pool have allowed him to discover a strength that translates to other areas of his life.

A Word: Passion

I get onto the field, I put on a helmet, and I pick up the bat. Then, I take a few steps onto the triangular shaped mat by the big, tall fence. I lift the bat onto my shoulder. The ball flies towards me. I see it, I swing the bat, and I miss the ball. Two more tries and still, I miss the ball. I walk back to where my team is sitting. I go through the season and it is finally over. I practice some during the winter and I try again in the spring. At practice and at the games, I’m not enjoying what I am doing. Then I realize something. Baseball is not my passion.

This is not the sport for me.

The next spring I decide to play soccer. I get all my gear and I am so excited. I jump into the car and head to practice. For the first few practices I like kicking the ball, shooting goals, and running with my friends. By the end of the season though, I again realized something.

This is not the sport for me.

I try tennis that winter, and I show up to all the practices. I then decide to start competing in tennis. I go to matches. I win some and I lose some. I am excited for some and not for others. This sport is fun, but I’m not passionate about it.

This is not the sport for me.

Then, my dad says that I have to stick with tennis. I beg him and ask him if I can try one more sport. He finally agrees. I think long and hard about a sport to try. I try to think what I will like. Then I decide. I was going to try swimming.

I have my first practice. I leap into the water and feel the cold water rush by my body. Chills are going up my spine. I am so excited. I attend all the meets and I love them. I get best times. I work hard at practice. After a long time, I had finally found it. Even though it is a vigorous sport, I think it is so enjoyable. I have a great passion for swimming. I realized something.

This is the sport for me.

That was four years ago. I have been swimming ever since and I love it. I truly believe that if you are passionate and you work hard at something, you can be the best that you can be.

Once a strength epiphany such as this has occurred, the real learning begins. Josh’s reflection and his description of leaping into the water and feeling the chills run up his spine beautifully illustrates the power of a strengths-based education. How can we better work with students to discover other tasks and areas of interest that engage certain strengths? How do we partner with parents and children in dialogue that evolves and develops throughout a student’s “school life” and culminates in an understanding of self they will carry with them long after they leave classrooms and hallways?

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2 thoughts on “Thinking about “Strengths Chasing” – Part II

  1. Pingback: The “First Day”

  2. Pingback: CHANGEd 60-60-60: SCALING UP STRENGTHS CHASING « Toward Wide-Awakeness

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