How to use children's strengths to strengthen their weaknesses

Learn about: How to use children's strengths to strengthen their weaknesses from Joel Pelcyger,...
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How to use children's strengths to strengthen their weaknesses

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Very often, because I speak about children's strengths, people will say to me, aren't you ignoring their weaknesses? My point is you start from strength, and you build out from that to get to the weakness. Really when you think about we know what we know when we have an opportunity to teach someone else. You start with what you know to get to what you don't know. So many people are math phobic. And if you just simplify the math problem to something that they know, they'll get the answer correct, but they won't know how it is they did it. So they did it and then they apply that skill to this preposterously long number that just confuses them completely. I'm not saying ignore the weaknesses. But you have to start with the strengths to get to the weaknesses. You build out from something that somebody can do. It's not often applied in education, but it's absolutely applied in life. Because as adults that's what we do. Somebody presents something to us, and we think about it in a certain kind of way. We apply the skill that we have, because that's all we have to rely on. But we're not looking to a teacher in any kind of way. It's just a coping skill that we develop. And we all have them. We reach to what we know to get to what we don't know. All we're doing is having schools imitate life. If you emphasize what someone is good at, aren't you then ignoring what they're not good at and you're encouraging them to not be multi-faceted, not be fully developed, ignore the weaknesses they have? No. I don't think so. First of all, I think education, especially elementary education, it's a time to be able to fall flat on your face. To make mistakes. We learn more from our mistakes than from anything else. As broad a base of education we can have, the better it's going to be. But there isn't a one-size-fits-all piece there. So I couldn't say, yes, this child should only develop this one skill and ignore everything else. But there might be an individual child for whom that's best, because the weakness is so debilitating that you want to almost ignore it. But there can't be a one-size-fits-all piece. I think the goal would be to try to do your best in all different areas and what you can do. But then you have to start individualizing. You have to think in terms of your child's different passions and enthusiasms and how you can support that. Sometimes you do that by bringing in the things that they're weak. And then they start seeing that they have some strengths that they can develop on the weak side through the strength that they have. And sometimes you'll just lose them if you're doing that. That's the art of teaching. That's the knowing when it's important to push and what you can do. You can't say that one size fits all.

Learn about: How to use children's strengths to strengthen their weaknesses from Joel Pelcyger,...

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Joel Pelcyger

Head of School

Joel Pelcyger is the Founder and Head of PS1 Pluralistic School, an elementary school for grades K-6. PS1 was founded in 1971 and is a family-oriented, independent, and non-profit school located in the heart of Santa Monica, CA.

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