Year of Discovering Strengths

A-Girl can’t read—not much anyway. Oh, she can recognize a few words here and there on a page of text, but reading a sentence like the one I am writing is beyond her capabilities.

A-Girl has stumbles over phonemes. She often confuses /d/ and /b/. Her tongue often trips on consonant blends, so /th/ becomes /h/. In other words, she pronounces that as hat.

For all her reading difficulties, A-Girl is a good-natured kid. The most trouble I’ve had with her in the past two years is refusing to spit out her gum when I told her to do so—and that happened only a couple of days ago!

So being good-natured is one of her strengths. (I was taught to look for strengths in every child—and in every family unit, no matter how dysfunctional—when I worked as a family advocate some years ago.)

Monday, I discovered another of A-Girl’s strengths. She had selected the book from the library and was stumbling over too many words, so I took over reading. We came upon a drawing of a magnificent fox in full color.

“I could draw a fox like that,” A-Girl said.

“Really?” I said.

“Really,” she said. “I’m an artist.”

“Then why don’t you take the book home and draw a fox tonight?” I said.

“OK, I will.”

The next day she returned with her pencil drawing of the head of a fox. It looked remarkably similar to the drawing in the book. (It’s the illustration at the top of this story.)

“Wow!” I said. “That’s great!”

“You can keep it,” she said.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. I did it for you.”

A-Girl may not be able to read very well, but am delighted to discover that she has other strengths. Obviously, she can draw. She also has a high degree of self-confidence in her artistic ability. She also has a generous spirit.

How many more strengths does A-Girl have? I don’t know, but I’m eager to find out. The Chinese have their Year of the Rat, Year of the Horse, and Year of the Dragon. I’m going to make this my Year of Discovering Strengths, not only in A-Girl, but in all my students.

Posted on October 6, 2010, in reading, strengths, teaching. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. This is terrific — your student’s artwork, her strengths and the idea of your Year of discovering strengths. Just terrific!


  2. Wonderful. P. Buckley Moss, a well-known artist, in some circles, had a terrible time with reading and with school. She pursued her art and has found her success that way.

    Go, A-Girl!

  3. How lucky all of your students are to be with you as you discover something wonderful about each of them.

  4. Bravo! Could she create a four panel “comic” page with text? Baby Steps ! Baby Steps!

  5. This is a wonderful story about A-Girl and your idea of a Year of Discovering Strengths.
    I love your creative way of approaching teaching, MMT!

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