Teachers on Fire | Focus On Your Strengths | Superhero eduNATION | Audioblog Episode 13

Listen to Audioblog Episode 13 Teachers on Fire Focus On Your Strengths Here

Teaching in Classroom

Why should you focus on your strengths?

CliftonStrengths by Tom Rath


My five strengths are:

  1. Achiever 
  2. Futuristic
  3. Learner 
  4. Ideation 
  5. Intellection


People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.


People who are especially talented in the Futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future. 


People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.


People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.


People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

IDK what name we will come up with this audience, I call my Organic Gardener Podcast listeners Green Future Growers, and I also have a thing for Rockstar Millennials, which I am sure many of you are but I don’t want to call teachers’ rockstar teachers. I always think of teachers as SuperHEROES so maybe SuperHero Nation? Superhero eduNation? 

I thought this was interesting because I am certainly into teaching, and learning and visions for the future.

I read this book by Barbara Sher called Refuse to Choose: Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the LIfe and Career of Your Dreams  that works well for me.

Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear

And also Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic says don’t require your creativity to support you, at least not before it’s ready.

And by FOCUS I mean

  • Follow
  • One
  • Course
  • Until
  • Success

PLEASE THANK John Lee Dumas for this amazing acronym.


Your Unique Strengths Help You Perform At Your Best

 From the Clifton Strengths Assessment Website:

“They know that the CliftonStrengths assessment is essential for empowering people to set and achieve their goals and accomplish great things. People who know and use their CliftonStrengths are:

  • 6x as likely to be engaged at work
  • 7.8% more productive in their role
  • 3x as likely to have an excellent quality of life
  • 6x as likely to do what they do best every day


It isn’t until people know what makes them talented and unique that they know how to perform better in their job. Or how to find one that’s a better fit. And to build better relationships and be a better teammate. And to feel like they’re improving, every single day.”

CliftonStrengths by Tom Rath


So how do you FOCUS on your STRENGTHS?

Dr. Alice Boyer wrote in Psychology Today that you can take this simple actionable step today to start focusing on your strengths. She says make a T-chart listing your strengths and 1-2 of your weaknesses and then start connecting them showing how you can use your strengths to overcome your weaknesses.

When I was a teacher I always felt like I was awful at classroom management. I felt like I could have an MBA in Classroom Management theory but putting the things into practice successfully was a challenge. Then I met my most recent principal who I called the Teacher Whisperer.

Teaching Strengths

She made me see that I had a lot of management strengths. I was:

  • organized
  • I knew the curriculum inside out
  • a stickler to the schedule
  • a data junkie
  • good at making anchor charts
  • reflective
  • willing to work harder then anyone on the staff
  • posted my expectations and reviewed them daily
  • using a timer
  • consistent at using sharing sticks

Teaching Weaknesses

My weakness were really discipline, confusing choral answering with blurting, and holding students accountable.

So I could use my strengths – creating anchor charts and posting expectations to write specific steps on the board to help students see what I wanted them to do in each moment.

  • Take out your notebook and pencil
  • Have your textbook on your desk
  • Open to page 245.
  • Fold your hands.

Get Visual

Usually I would just give these directions orally and then wonder why 2 minutes later students were still asking “IDK what to do?” or “What page are we on?” Instead of getting frustrated and repeating myself I could simply point without interrupting my flow and reduce the need to discipline a student who was probably just day-dreaming about last night’s ball game or why his parent missed his big basket when I was telling students what page we were on.

This also helped me hold them accountable because if they did not have the 3 things listed on the board accomplished within the allotted time frame (I usually counted down from 220-200) then I could follow the discipline plan and apply consequences.

Expectations That Are Understood

Students knew what was expected, I knew what was expected and everyone understood what would happen if everyone wasn’t on the correct page. I would also award bonus stars to students who were correctly prepared so they could earn a treat or something at the end of the day/week. If the entire class was quietly ready, students could earn a point towards a class party.


Another thing I struggled with was getting the students to clean the room. I would end up picking up pencils, papers, etc at the end of the day before the custodian came. She said I wasn’t holding them accountable and I should get them to work as teams, assign different tasks, etc. It wasn’t until I created a anchor chart on the wall that it finally worked (and it took me all year to figure out the chart).


I couldn’t believe how the students would clean the room. We tried, red team does front of the room, blue back, green under desks, it never worked. We tried racing the buzzer. Didn’t work for more then a day. We tried putting the pick up the paper song on the Apple TV that I recorded them singing in the music room which also only the first day.


But once I came up with this chart it worked for the rest of the year, students seemed to think it was fair and they could look at it themselves or the teacher helper could read it out loud for everyone.

This helped our classroom feel tidier, students feel more successful when the principal came and commented on a cleaner classroom, and gave them the confidence they could do it.

Core Content Weaknesses

My last example is about teaching core content. I cringe when I hear teachers say, I hate math, fractions confuse me, I don’t like teaching math. For me the subject was science, even though I could probably have a minor in science from college for all the botany and forestry classes I took (I love trees and wildflowers) doing experiments in the classroom, or explaining how magnets or gravity works gives me the willies.

But I had several students who excelled at science and they really loved it. So, I came up with the position of grad assistant. The grad assistant would help me with a lot of tasks like creating bulletin boards, tutoring poor performing students (and boy did this help her learn as well) and putting together the science labs for the week.

She would prep the materials, organize the supplies, and clean up at the end.  She would even study the teacher’s manual and write the notes on the board for students to copy.  I gave her a special desk and she was so proud to be the graduate assistant her confidence grew exponentially.

Of course I still had to do most of the teaching but it freed me up to monitor the classroom more while she gained from sharing her knowledge and the extra studying she did preparing.


Here’s a good article from Forbes that talks about not just focusing on your strengths but focusing on just one or two Strengths and really fine tuning your skills.

Someone asked on Quora Is it better to focus on your strengths or on your weaknesses? 

Answer by Auren Hoffman, former LiveRamp CEO, on Quora.

“The best improvement strategy is to focus not just on your strengths … but on just 1 or 2 strengths. Focus, focus, focus on making your strongest traits even stronger. Especially once you are over 30 and you have more of a clear assessment of your skills and abilities…. but … he says you could grow much greater by focusing on just 1-2 strengths and getting even stronger.

The most successful people in the world (think Bill Clinton and Steve Jobs) have glaring weaknesses … and it is unclear if they ever seriously worked on those weaknesses. Would they be better if those weaknesses went away? Of course. But then they might not have focused as much effort on their strengths.

If you are a terrible public speaker but great at communicating by writing, then focus on getting even better at writing. Strive to become the clearest writer in the world. Take really hard concepts and clearly state them. Don’t succumb to pressure from your coworkers, friends, etc. to get a speaking coach and spend hours becoming a better public speaker. Focus instead on what you are already naturally talented at go from good to great.

Two books I have to mention here are Good To Great by Jim Collins and also  Hitting Your Stride by Nan Russell

Does this mean we can just ignore our weaknesses? NO of course not.

But you can move farther ahead by using your strengths and focusing on what you are good at instead of constantly beating yourself up for not fixing your weaknesses. There are always going to be things you are not great at, do your best at those but really try to improve your strengths and expand on them to reach true success.

Teachers on Fire

I’d love to know what your strengths (and/or weaknesses) are and how you use them in the classroom. You can connect with me on Instagram or Facebook

So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation John McCarthy

So All Can Learn: A Practical Guide to Differentiation by John McCarthy


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