A few years ago, Alex, a veteran teacher, asked me to watch one of her lessons and provide some coaching on integrating Common Core Standards. She focused mainly on the content she was covering and not on her students’ engagement. Alex clearly loved her students. I could tell because of the time she put into the lesson, and the care she took to create a beautiful, peaceful classroom. But she knew that something wasn’t clicking for her. She admitted that she just couldn’t put her finger on it.
Alex wasn’t using her strengths, her teacher superpowers. Every teacher has one. At least one. Alex’s strengths were her love for children and her creativity in her classroom environment. She wasn’t working from those talents when she was teaching her children how to think, following a new curriculum.
The most effective teachers use their superpowers—their key talents—to guide and power their classroom instruction. Do you already know your strengths, the powers that flow naturally from your talents? Check the teacher superpower list and take the quiz below either way. Determine your particular teacher strengths and insights, and how you can use them in your classroom.
Visionary. Visionaries know where they want their kids to be, at what level their students need to be working, at the end of the day, week, and year. They see easily the long-term impact of integrating effective teaching strategies. And just as importantly, they can change lives through teaching.
If you’re a visionary, you are probably fascinated with the whole process of education. You wanted to make a difference. Your whole day is made when you connect students to higher-order ideas. Maybe you really enjoy teaching social studies through its connection to history, or teaching one of the sciences with its basis in reason and logic.
As a visionary in the classroom, connecting to higher ideas strengthens your instruction and the connection to your students. It also serves to motivate you in planning your lessons.
Getting through the details is not your strong suit. But, by focusing on the long-term effect you want for your students, you’ll make the details enough of a priority. Thinking long term, if you didn’t take care of the paperwork of being a teacher, how would that work out two weeks from now, or at the end of the year? The details are important, too.
Manager. Managers really enjoy the organizational aspects of teaching. Maybe as a child, you set up a classroom in your room so you could teach your dolls. Maybe you played school with your friends. Managers like order and reason and routine.
If you’re a manager, you were drawn to teaching because you enjoy organizing lessons, you pay attention to detail, and you love a well-run classroom. Those little organizational bins at Target are right in your sweet spot. Color-coding files, having your list of school supplies at the beginning of the year, and arranging your students in number order everyday is the way for you.
As a manager, the system of your classroom and your student’s growth through using clear and specific goals motivate you. If you have test scores and specific standards, you’re motivated to find the right resources to match. For example, if you know they need to focus on math fluency, you’ll create math fluency centers and ways to integrate fluency work everyday.
A big picture view, however, is not your strength. Sometimes you get so focused on details, it’s difficult to envision where your students might be at the end of the lesson or year. Having a strong planning partner that’s a visionary or a nurturer will help you get even more out of your students.
You may also find it difficult to connect to your students as individuals. But since you’re detail oriented, finding out about your kids’ interests and quirks will be easy. And fun. Adding their interests to your lessons makes it more engaging for them, grows them, and inspires you.
Nurturer. Nurturers are the mom-types of the classroom world. Nurturers are not always actually parents, but they connect to their students through listening to their stories, knowing their student’s interests, and taking care of all their children’s needs.
If you’re a nurturer, becoming a teacher was simply all about the kids. You love their laughter, their excitement about the world, and their overall cuteness factor. You enjoy decorating your classroom with totally kid stuff like Clifford the Big Red Dog or Charlie Brown or all the cute alphabet decorations.
As a nurturer, your strength is your relationship and connection to your kids. Because you care deeply about your students, you’ll work hard and focus on both the details and big picture to get your students where they need to be.
Sometimes nurturers get discouraged or feel burned out from all the structure, the rigor, just the system that is education today. It’s not easy connecting with your kids when you’re staying late planning extensively detailed lessons or worried about assessments and evaluations.
The easiest way for a nurturer to maintain focus on their strengths is to always bring the question or challenge back to their students. If you’re stressed with all the details, look at your students. Watch them move around the classroom, work hard on their lessons, and smile at all the little things. Listen to their sweet stories in the morning. You’ll always do and know what’s right for your students as a nurturer. All you need to do is to connect back to them.
Hipster. Hipsters integrate the latest app into their planning, use iPads and laptops with their centers, and the smartboard is their best friend. Hipsters love the use of technology in their classroom and use it to make every lesson more fun and motivating for their students.
If you’re a hipster, you know it. You may be more of a tech geek or lean towards cool nerdy-ness, but you are definitely motivated to teach using technology and new ideas in your classroom. Flexible seating is a must, and so are innovative centers and the latest ideas.
As a hipster, your strength is on display, evident to everyone. You’re on the latest educational app or software, and use technology in your classroom better than most everyone else, all to grow your kids. You may even write grants to get the best ergonomically designed chairs for your kids or buy a class set of laptops. All tech is all fun for you.
While you love the latest trends, you may sometimes fail to use the apps successfully for student growth instead of just as a superficial fun tool. However, you can use your strength to combat any weakness you may have. Using the latest technology, you also can use the latest effective programs. By looking at user ratings and top rated programs for education, you put your tech savvy research to good use. The bottom line: when you use technology, make sure it’s proven to be impactful to student growth.
Artist. Artists love most the creative aspects of teaching. The artist was likely attracted to teaching by the idea of creating crafts with kids, developing innovative lessons, and designing a beautiful classroom.
If you’re an artist, your classroom and bulletin boards look amazing every year. Every artist isn’t painting or drawing, but every artist teacher is creating wonderfully engaging materials constantly. You may scour Pinterest but you also grow your own innovative ideas. You love doing “craftivities” with your students. You have great ideas for lessons using that creative side of your brain.
You artists don’t need me to tell you that your strength comes from your creativity. You have a well of ideas daily for lessons and classroom design. Relying upon those ideas connects you to your highest teacher self.
Artists don’t often get burned out because they usually have so many ideas for any given situation. However, when artists feel like they cannot use their creativity, they can lose their motivation. The artists are not usually into the details of a well-structured lesson. By partnering with a manager, artists can create the most effective lessons from their creative side and rely upon the manager to keep track of the details.
If you have difficulty figuring out which superpower is yours, take this quiz or ask a colleague. They’ll know. It’s easy to see in others what we fail to see in ourselves. You might be that detailed person who can connect a standard to a lesson and detail each portion in the plan book. Or, like Alex, you might be super-creative.
I know that my strength is not being detail oriented. I forget small things every week. I’m more a big picture person who can envision where I want my students to be at the end of the day, week, or year and create the steps to get there.
I’m lucky to have my colleague, Becky, to balance me. She’s super detail-oriented. So while I think of the big ideas—our long term goals—she records all the little steps we need along the way. And she wont let me forget the details. Like the Book Fair on Wednesday at 1:00.
By using your strength—your superpower—you’ll stay motivated and engaged throughout your planning and your teaching. You’ll also feel inspired in your teaching, daily. Now, that’s a super power.