A special thank you to Teacher Hiam Awni, SVEA/CTA/NEA Member, for bringing this important study to the IFT. It's not a question of what's right or wrong, it's a question of where do we want to invest our time, energy, and resources. The research study ...


INVESTING IN STRENGTHS by Donald O. Clifton and James K. Harter and more...

INVESTING IN STRENGTHS by Donald O. Clifton and James K. Harter

A special thank you to Teacher Hiam Awni, SVEA/CTA/NEA Member, for bringing this important study to the IFT.

It’s not a question of what’s right or wrong, it’s a question of where do we want to invest our time, energy, and resources.  The research study below describes a solid framework for moving public education from a deficit-based model to a strength-based teaching and learning environment. Instead of emphasizing an externally driven curriculum, it makes sense to begin with the talents of each student.  But this would mean a complete transformation of public education, where CTA members would create a curriculum around student talents.  As a result, there would be less dependence on education bureaucrats and curriculum developers that are outside of the classroom. Most important, is that all students would have a pathway to success.  Your comments are appreciated.

INVESTING IN STRENGTHS - For more than thirty years, the Gallup Organization has investigated the nature of human talents and strengths. By interviewing the approximately 2 million people in a wide range of roles and industries, Gallup has discovered that our talents--defined as our naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior, that can be productively applied--are our greatest opportunities for success. Further, by refining our dominant talents with skill and knowledge, we can create strength--the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in a given activity.  Continue reading.


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Redefining Student-Centered Through Strength-Based Justice

By creating successful learning opportunities for all students, Strength-Based Justice redefines student-centered teaching and learning.  Strength-Based Justice (SBJ) is grounded in the belief teachers can create a culture of success for all students. While SBJ and social justice have the same goal, SBJ emphasizes student natural talents over individual and societal deficits (problems). SBJ creates an independent, accountable, and self-reliant environment for students.  SBJ believes every student is valued for the contribution each can make to society. 

In a Strength-Based Justice classroom, teachers produce a curriculum around student natural talents which leads to student opportunities for success. As talents are transformed into strengths, students develop aspirations to produce their own culture of success.  By emphasizing student talents over deficits, Strength-Based Justice promotes the view that all children will benefit when teachers have the opportunity to use their strengths, positive experiences, and expertise to create a curriculum based on the requisite knowledge and skills to transform student talents into strengths.

But to create a SBJ classroom requires a complete redesign of the public schools where the strengths of teachers, students, parents, staff, and school community members are emphasized over externally driven standards and curriculum.  For SBJ, we build a curriculum around talents and strengths --- not the other way around.  

If we want all students to feel successful it makes no sense to subsume their talents under an externally driven curriculum.  Further, to ignore or marginalize student talents  what they are good at  or their passion — what they love — discounts and devalues their personhood. If we truly want all students to be successful and valued in a just manner, it simply makes sense to create schools that are based on what students are good at and what they love.   Thus, the goal of SBJ schools is to build a curriculum around student talents so all children and young adults have an opportunity to be successful.  When our schools value the unique talents of every student we truly create a just society.  


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Strength-Based Justice: Creating a Culture of Success for All *

One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong. Only through the bringing together of head and heart-intelligence and goodness-shall man rise to a fulfillment of his true nature.   —-  Martin Luther King, Jr.


Introduction to Part One

Strength-Based Justice (SBJ) is fundamental to a prosperous and successful society.  Unlike social justice models which focus on societal problems and challenges, SBJ seeks to create a social order that maximizes opportunities for all so every person can reach their full potential.  SBJ is based on the reasoned belief individual success is the pathway to a just and flourishing society.  Justice exists when all individuals have the opportunity to develop and apply their natural talents and society flourishes from the strength-based contribution made by each individual.  

No place is SBJ more important or essential than in the public schools.  Public education represents in many ways an institution whose purpose has often changed throughout history.  Pushed and pulled in multiple directions, our public schools have been both the means and the ends to political, economic, and social causes.  Through various structural and governance changes, public education has, however,  been continually characterized as the great equalizer.  

While the origin of this perspective, can be debated, it is most often attributed to Horace Mann, the first major advocate for public education.  Mann believed education should be free and universal, nonsectarian, and reliant on well-trained, professional teachers.  Mann found “social harmony” to be the primary goal of the public schools.1 The words of Horace Mann are clear, “Education, then, beyond all other divides of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men—the balance wheel of the social machinery.” 2

Unfortunately but understandably, public education, as the great equalizer, has often been interpreted in deficit-based terms.  Deficit thinking focuses on problems, weaknesses, and obstacles to student success; success which is often measured through the lens of a standardized curriculum.  Faced with a curriculum which may hold little relevance, a growing number of students lose interest and withdraw, causing them to become alienated and indifferent to public education.  Using the deficit model as their guide, social justice advocates have identified and described these students in marginalized terms to include persons of color, students living in poverty, immigrants, students having limited English proficiency, and students having learning or developmental disabilities. 3 

A goal of the social justice movement has been to fix the problems and challenges these students face in order to create a just and successful learning environment. Because it is believed the problems are caused by various forces within society, social justice advocates are working for structural and governance changes through litigation, regulations, and legislation to create a more equitable and just teaching and learning environment.

While SBJ is aligned with the goals of social justice, SBJ focuses on the individual and not society.  Instead of attempting to change society, SBJ focuses on individual talents and strengths, personal responsibility, and resiliency. SBJ is grounded in practical and pragmatic solutions by focusing on “what works” and what teachers view as successful practices for increasing student opportunities.  

SBJ emphasizes strengths over weaknesses and opportunities over obstacles.  Promoting optimism and confidence, SBJ seeks to create a public school environment where student talents drive the teaching and learning process.  Beginning with student talents, supported by the strengths of teachers, parents and community members, teachers create opportunities for students to transform their talents into strengths.  

In such a learning environment, each student has the opportunity to discover their talents and the possibility of finding their purpose and productiveness in life. This is the true nature of genuine self-esteem, where students enhance their own image by valuing their strengths and the strengths of others.   Continue reading



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What Are You Thinking? Post Your Great Ideas!

Need a place to start?  How about the Seven Factors that create a culture of success?  Or, what about strength-based member engagement?  Better yet, give a “shout out” to a colleague who you believe did some great things with students during the past year.  Write your post here.  It can be a paragraph or a few pages.  

Below are some helpful links.  The most important thing is to place your ideas on paper.  Start a conversation.  Share your teaching with colleagues. 

Helpful Hints!

7 Tips for Writing that Great Blog Post, Every Time | HuffPost


How to Write an Awesome Blog Post in 5 Steps | WordStream


How to Write a Blog Post: The Definitive 10,273-word Guide


How to Write Your First Blog Post (57 Best Ideas and 65 Expert Tips)


How to Start a Blog: A Step-by-Step Guide [+ Free Blog Post Templates]



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Seven Ideas to Teach Students Work Ethic

What Can Teachers Do to Encourage a Student Work Ethic?

  1. Hold Teacher-Parent Conversations
  2. Create a Parent Newsletter
  3. Develop a Parent Network
  4. Organize a Parent-Student Forum

(Guest Writer: Tim Elmore)  I celebrate it whenever I meet hard-working students. I see them on almost every university campus I’m on, and in almost every high school I visit. These adolescents just “get the system” and realize you can achieve almost anything if you work hard enough. On the other hand, I also see far too many students growing up in a world of speed and convenience who’ve never developed a work ethic.

May I suggest a couple of reasons why this might be?

From a recent survey of parents, 82 percent said “doing chores” was a normal household experience for them growing up. However, only 28 percent of these same parents say they ask their kids to do chores. For some reason, it was good for us, but not good for them. We feel we’re not good parents if we stress them out with chores.  Continue reading


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