Report Cards!  That proverbial time when we reflect on the weakness of our students, sharing summative data that many times is not even appropriate for the ELL or cognitive level of the student.  Is there a better way?  This year I decided to focus on strengths instead of weakness.  I still had to fill out the deficit based report card with its checks and comments.  However in conference I shared the abilities that helped create a unique person.  For example, I would briefly show a score, then show the parent the test with its endless acronyms and difficult directions.  I would then take this same parent on a journey through the person that I saw.  No matter the strength I would focus on this.  Friendship, kindness, art, physical ability, creativity.  Who is to say these are not valuable traits that will enhance their future?  Thrively is a wonderful tool to help  validate strengths.  In one of my conferences with a rather Gifted Student her father asked me why he should care about Thrively.  I asked him to think about a time at work when he needed flexibility, organization or creativity?  He had to admit there were many.  This is their future I declared.  The wonderful part of this conversation is that this was a student who was receiving all advanced grades.  Some might say she was at the top of the class.  However I saw a gifted person who could enhance her understanding by extending her learning into music, which was one of her indicated strengths.   In another,conference with a translator my “resource” student and her parents left smiling, realizing their child had strengths that might not be measurable on a test.  Later the aide who had translated found me and said she had never been in a conference like that before.  I explained my belief on strength based learning and she agreed that this is exactly what is needed in education.  While I was not looking for converts, I was pleased she could recognize the difference.  In my perfect world there would be no report cards measuring scores based on “benchmarks.”  There would be videos, projects and stories about ways that these students worked to make a difference.  There would be discussions about the future engineers, teachers, electricians, and perhaps even plumbers.  A final story.  I had one studnet who is basically giving up.  Yet he scored really high on his benchmark,  Honestly I suspect he may have cheater, but I decided to not mention this knowing it would be detrimental.  Instead I praised him for now making an effort.  I thanked mom for helping him to do his homework.  Guess what happened?  He started doing his homework.  He comes to the front of the room during math instruction.  He is happier, more engaged and focused.  I told him Friday I had a note for him.  His face fell (thinking of years of negative notes home.)  In my hand was a blue invitation to the academic awards session.  He smiled and asked me what this was.  (No pretty sure he has never had one before.)  I told him how proud I was of him.  How kind he has always been but now he is extending this kindness to me by listening and doing his work.   I cringe to think of the results if I would have accused him of cheating.  I don’t know if he did or did not.  That doesn’t matter.  Strength focus works.  Thanks for reading.

About the author: Camie Walker
I am excited to join other educators in a quest to create a strength based educational movement. All children need to know they are successful, loved and appreciated for their talents, dreams and ideas. I have embraced the NGSS philosophy because I have seen how it allows students to thrive and develop their strengths. However along with strengths, traits such as empathy, creativity and compassion for others can be cultivated using service opportunities aligned to the NGSS human impacts. Success is not an end, but a journey. Finding happiness ins the present is my focus for both my students and the teachers. I appreciate CTA for providing this forum to build strengths and develop both professional and social connections. Let's learn and grow together.