Rector's message - September 2018

By Nick McIvor | Posted: Sunday September 30, 2018

We all have strengths and weaknesses. In schooling, ‘strength-based education’ focuses on strengths. Applying a bulk of our attention to expanding strengths over trying to weed out all weaknesses. It’s better to emphasise strength development over trying to eradicate all faults and flaws; to focus on what youngsters are doing right before focusing on what they’re doing wrong; on strengths before shortcomings. Is this correct? I believe so.

A strength has three key parts: performance (we’re good at it), energy (we feel good doing it), and high use (we choose to do it frequently). So a strength is something we do well, often, and with energy. These are also the everyday clues to an emerging strength. It follows from this that our performance, energy and use won’t be nearly as high if we’re not working from our strengths. At Timaru Boys’ our challenge is to employ strategies that support young men to discover, develop and display their strengths; to become more systematic in how they gain strength, with attention and a positive push from us when needed. If we help students to internalise the fact that they have strengths, that these strengths are what energise them and so function as their inner resources for developing optimism and resilience, it will lead to them seeking what they want to achieve in life.

There are numerous strengths we can each play to. They can be our skills, abilities, interests, characteristics, talents or traits. Broadly speaking, they are either character strengths or performance strengths that benefit us and others. They are character strengths like kindness, gratitude, courage, wisdom, perseverance, temperance/self-control, fairness, love, and the capacity to find meaning in things beyond ourselves. Or they are performance strengths, such as physical strength and skill or specific cognitive abilities like computing with numbers or using language well.[1] These two types of strengths can reinforce each other. Performance strengths can, for instance, grow from character strengths. Character strengths can, in turn, be improved by performance.

To take all this another tentative step, other than what we do well, often, and with energy, strengths are also, according to positive psychology, what we:

    - use in productive ways to contribute to our goals and development
    - build over time through innate ability and dedicated effort
    - have recognised by others as praiseworthy qualities, that contribute
       positively to the lives of others.[2]

Looking closer to home, if wanting to know what your son’s strengths are, ask yourself: Do I see performance? (Above-age levels of achievement, rapid learning, and a repeated pattern of success); Do I see energy? (They have abundant energy while doing it, and in the way they speak about it); Do I see high use? (They choose to do it often – perhaps in their spare time too). As educators these are the questions we can also address in our teaching and learning at TBHS when nurturing boys’ strengths.

As this latest Newsletter shows once again, we are a school of manifold strengths. We have a myriad of boys and staff who carry individual and collective strengths, sometimes remarkable strengths, that contribute to who we are as a school in pursuit of the best education for boys.

Nick McIvor
Knowledge is Power. Mā te Mātauranga te Mana. Scientia Potestas Est.

[1] Waters, Dr Lea The Strength Switch (Penguin, Australia, 2017) p62-63.
[2] Ibid. p7.