Ask any one on the street what he or she thinks is the state of education in America and you will likely receive an endless variety of answers. The truth is, no one really seems to have a clear grasp of the situation or how to improve things – or even if they need to be improved. Test scores seem to point to a problem somewhere in the system, but it is unclear where the trouble lies.
Many school systems seem to think that tweaking the curriculum is the best approach to solve the test score problem. However, the teaching to the test mentality only proves that kids can be taught to memorize but not internalize a lesson. Other systems have tried re-inventing the wheel when it comes to teaching the core subject. Thus, Common Core was born. This is not proving to be a cure-all either. There is one school in California that is experimenting with a totally different approach.
This school system is experimenting with a “strengths “- based approach. From as early as preschool, teachers work to identify what each student’s stronger character traits appear to be. As they advance in grades, those strengths are honed through encouraging each child to analyze their approach to life through testing and exercises in class. The idea behind this particular teaching method is that children will experience great academic and social success when they are able to use their stronger character traits when approaching different tasks.
Teachers continually reinforce those strengths while also coaching and encouraging their students to work on those character traits that are not as dominant in their life at that time. There are many critics of this teaching approach. Many refer to it as ‘kitsch’ and touchy-feely nonsense. However, many students seem to be thriving and gaining confidence through their academic achievements.
Teachers have not adjusted the curriculum and the ‘strengths’ based approach is not incorporated into the actual lessons. Students are simply assisted in self-evaluation so that they can build confidence in the goals. Teachers themselves are given the test to ascertain their own strong points and they often share their results with their students. Even discipline is approached through a positive means. Students who are engaging in inappropriate behaviors towards others are reminded to not over-use the ‘strength’ that may be leading them to becoming overbearing.
There are tools that are being marketed by several companies to assist educators in incorporating character building exercises in their classrooms. One of the top companies at the moment is Gallup. It provides varying levels of resource materials for teachers who are seeking more information. The program varies in costs, and this is a possible stumbling block for many school systems that may be tempted to give this method a try with their own students.
The verdict is still out on whether this is an effective teaching tool. For the moment, though, students in this particular district are enjoying school and that makes a huge difference.
Writer Bio: Angela Mose
I am a mom of 7 who has successfully homeschooled for 20 years. I was married for more than 25 years and have recently started my life over. I have a passion for writing and music and when the two can be combined, it is utopia. A Maryland native, I am planning to relocate north in the near future and will continue to strive to learn and experience new things on a regular basis. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home while exploring new ways to increase my knowledge and skills and help improve the lives of those around me.