Each year in lieu of a New Years’ resolution, (which I can never manage to keep) I select one word to inspire me, guide my thinking, and keep me grounded. Last year I choose the word “small” to remind myself that it is the small things that lead to big changes and lasting impact. I might have missed the mark, as 2020 certainly required big shifts and dramatic changes. This year I have chosen the word “strength” for many reasons.
First, I want to remind myself of my own strengths and abilities. Too often we focus on what we are not doing well or need to improve upon. The deficit model can leave us feeling defeated and like we are never good enough. Taking the time to recognize our own strengths and capacities is crucial; when we can recognize what we are strong at we are able to share that strength with those around us and strengthen our community.
Second, I will look for the strengths in others and help them to celebrate and share that strength. Thankfully, we are all blessed with a variety of gifts and talents, and seeking out help from others with different strengths helps to make us all stronger. I think the vulnerability required to ask for help from others is another way in which we show strength.
As an educational leader, it is important that we also look for the strengths within the system in which we operate. This past year has tested this system, but it has also highlighted where we shine. Being able to identify the places and spaces where we are finding success is crucial to replicating that success and scaling it up into different areas. Being able to analyze what is working well and why allows us to really dig deep and reflect on how we can continue to meet the needs of our students.
Lastly and most importantly, it is imperative that the work we do each and every day with our students and families allows them to identify, celebrate and share their strengths. Our students come to us each day with so much to offer, we need to celebrate that, recognize the strengths they have and help them build upon those strengths. Their sense of belonging, pride, and accomplishment depends upon it.
Much like a delicate piece of paper, focusing on our weakness is like crumpling or tearing, but when folded just the right way can be strong and solid, and even better when that paper is stacked side by side with others it becomes supported and unable to be torn.