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Teach With Your Strengths Review by Ruth Hoskins

Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller with Jennifer Robison
Gallup Press
1251 Avenue of the Americas
23rd floor
New York, New York 10020

As a teacher myself, I always like to find things that I can use to inspire my daughter and give her the initiative to want to always do her best. Teach With Your Strengths is a book about finding your strengths in teaching and creating an environment that can appreciate a great teacher.

There are a total of 34 Signature Themes discussed in this book. These themes are found by taking the Clifton Strengths Finder Test. After taking the test and finding your strengths you are well on your way to learning how to be the best teacher you can be. Just to give an idea about the Signature Themes that are discussed in this book, I will list 3 of them and give a description of how each theme can be helpful and how it can help you to have better habits, not only with teaching, but in every aspect of your life.

1. Achiever - People who have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.

2. Ideation -
People who are especially talented in the ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connection between seemingly disparate (completely different) phenomena.

3. Strategic -
People who can create ways to proceed even though faced with any given scenario at any time, they can quickly spot relevant patterns and issues.

By understanding that weaknesses can be built upon, as well as the idea that strengths can knock you down, these themes can be used to build effective teaching methods and make learning easier for everyone. Here is how this works -- someone who is considered an Achiever has lots of stamina and works hard is always great to have on the job, however, this same person could have a weakness in that same area because they cannot redirect their focus onto other tasks that are just as important. A person with Ideation would be just as great to have around because their full of ideas and seem to have fresh thoughts on things anytime it's necessary; however, this person may not have good communication skills or does not develop the ideas well. The last theme mentioned is a Strategic theme and the person who has this talent may be a great planner and organizer, herein lies the weakness from that, this person gets things too advanced with strategies and follows through too soon without an adequate plan or amount of time. What does one do with this information? Follow and nurture your strengths along with someone who has the strength that you might lack in, according to the authors of this book. Finding balance can be a struggle for anyone and I'd say is for most people. This program could be extremely expensive if paired with the Strengths Finder Test and would not be affordable for most individuals. I would highly recommend it if cost was not a factor.

Product Review by Nancy King, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2008

For those who love learning and love to read about teaching, this is a very good read. The subtitle is "How great teachers inspire their students." This book is not directed specifically toward home educators, but toward classroom teachers. Many if not all of the examples and quotes are from classroom teachers.

If you love teaching, Teach With Your Strengths will inspire, help and encourage you to find the best of who you are, and unashamedly teach with those talents.

The first couple of chapters deal with unorthodox great teacher behavior and why it works. This chapter dispels some of the myths that we are inclined to believe about teaching, and how these teachers reject the myths, thereby making them great teachers. Some of the myths are:

• The more education or experience, the better the teacher.
• Keep a professional distance.
• Set high expectations.
• and many more.

They challenge the "myth" that most people can do anything they set their minds to. The authors point out that "you can't be world-class at everything. In fact, you may never be more than mediocre at some things, no matter how hard you try. Why? Because you can't have the talents to be world-class at everything. On the other hand, you do have the talents to do many things very well and some things superbly. At the heart, this insight, which is the essence of strengths psychology, is far more inspiring than the 'you can be anything you want' myth." (p.48)

That is the basis of this book.

The authors assert that it is important to understand your talents, weaknesses, and strengths. It is the understanding of these three qualities in your life that will help you to be the best teacher that you can be.

After much introduction, you are sent to the website where you are to take the "Clifton Strengths Finder" test. It is a 30 minute assessment that measures the presence of talent in 34 themes. The id code that you need to take the test is included with the book. The rest of the book deals with putting your "found" talents to work for you. Pages 65-171 are definitions, adaptability action items, and examples for each theme. Knowing this information is what should help you teach with your strengths.

The last part of the book is an action plan to get you started using the information that you just learned about yourself. Also included in the appendix is a frequently asked questions section, and a more information page that has a listing of web-sites.

This is definitely a teachers book. I consider myself a teacher at heart so I enjoyed it. But again if you are looking for something specific to the challenges of a home learning environment, all of the talk about "classroom" use might be a distraction.

Product Review by Ruth Hoskins, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2008