Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaching with my strengths

Whether I am the receiver (as student) or the giver (as teacher) of information, I am amazed at how the human brain works in regards to learning. While growing up, I often experienced teachers who always taught their classes in the same way, never varying in approach or style, regardless of their intended audience. While some of my classmates "got it," there were many others who sat in a state of total confusion. (Most likely I fell into the category of the later.) Had I stuck it out with my original plans of completing college in the mid-70s, I surely would have become the type of educator who force-fed my students with a one-size-fits-all attitude. Thank goodness fate intervened in my behalf and I've now become aware of past errors by others. But I'm also told by neurologists that by the time a person reaches 25 years of age, the construction work on our human brain is pretty much all done. The neural connections, be they slow and narrow or broad, fast, and easy to navigate, will take us where we need to go. These "roadways" within the brain determine who we are in the way of our personal talents, each person being blessed with skills which are unique in their own way. A recent reading encourages me to work to my strengths, rather than attempting to fix my weaknesses, primarily because when trying to fix a lesser talent, I am simply ignoring my far more effective talents, perhaps even ignoring some fully developed strengths. In the early years of my selling career, I ignored any thoughts about building upon my strengths in favor of attempting to trying to fix my implied weaknesses. Now I'm being told that weaknesses are my brain's "rough roads and overgrown paths, and trying to make them useful usually isn't worth the effort." In other words, working on my weaknesses means that I keep doing, with dogged paid and determination, what I don't- and can't- do well. And so, with all that effort, I am being told that the best I can hope to become is mediocre at these so-called weaknesses.
A good portion of my emotional drive is based on the heavy allotment of German blood which flows through my veins. Some refer to it as persistence, others (my wife included) call it being stubborn. Regardless, I am always attempting to correct personal flaws in my human character, and I'm not yet willing to concede on this until my last dying breathe takes place. I feel it is important to know one's personal strengths and weaknesses, not so much so I can learn to run the 100-yd dash in record time, but understanding what it takes to become a disciplined runner. It's not about finding out how I can make fortune in real estate, but developing the means to inspire all of my students to higher levels of thought. It's not about taking advantage of the latest opportunity in business, but seeking ways to repay the many acts of kindness provided to me over the course of a lifetime.
It's knowing what I'm good at....and getting even better at it, knowing these strengths are what got me to this point in my life. It's knowing what I need to get better at, not so much that I can excel at those traits, but so I might find subtle ways to seek improvement with my personal and professional performance. Good teachers don't necessarily set high expectations, but they certainly set the right expectations for each student.