Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Undiscovered Talents

The past few days, a couple of different random thoughts have led me to writing this post. They are...

1. Caitlin's post on self doubt, which led me to reflect on what areas of my life I experience self doubt.

2. My observation yesterday by my principal.

3. This little girl in my class who is very good at drawing.

I understand if the connection does not seem clear yet!

Starting at an early age, kids start to realize what things they are good at, and what things are hard for them. This year, I've actually been stressing this point a lot with my class because I have some students who's challenges are very out in the open, and I want my students to understand that EVERYONE has things that are hard for them and things they are good at. There are actually many advantages to helping children and adults see their own areas of strength including...

1. It builds confidence and encourages a child or adult to pursue that area further and become even better at it.

2. It helps to diminish jealousy among siblings and friends because everyone sees that they have something to offer.

3. It helps children and adults get through challenges to know although this might be tough, there are other things that are not tough.

However, last week I was playing a game with my kids and I started to wonder about some of the disadvantages. In this game, every child put a shoe in the center of the circle. Each child had to pick one shoe and give that child a compliment. I chose a shoe of my most artistic child. I said, "okay I have to think about this because I want it to be good." One of my students, thinking I was having a hard time coming up with a compliment, shouted, "how about J is a good artist?!" I replied that I really wanted to do something different than that. I decided instead to talk about how great J. has become at speaking in front of the class. By great, I really meant that she now will somewhat do it where as at the beginning of the year she would not. However, I meant it as a genuine compliment because her improvement in this area has been amazing and I am proud of her. Is it useful for J to continue to hear what a great artist she is, or is it important for people to notice other talents she has and help her to see that there is more to her than being a great artist?

Then yesterday I was observed by my principal. It went fine, but of course there were a few things I would've changed. After I was a little mad at myself that I picked to be observed during math (a new thing we are teaching in math no less) since my principal always makes a big deal about how great I am at teaching reading. Does it make me feel great that she thinks I am a great reading teacher? Absolutely. It's easily my favorite part of teaching, and I've worked hard to be good at teaching it including getting my Masters degree in Reading. But, does it make me feel like maybe I'm not such an awesome teacher of math? Does it make my coworkers feel like they might be awesome at math, but reading, not so much?

In reality, our Kindergarten team is amazing. We ALL work very hard to get our kids where they need to be in reading, math, social skills and independent work habits. I have got SO many awesome ideas about all these subjects, including reading from them. While I think we are all proud of having a subject in which we are seen as the "expert," I just wonder if this sometimes creates doubt in other areas or perhaps undiscovered talents?

Some "undiscovered talents" in my life include...

*Finishing a triathlon. Okay, so maybe it's not a talent, but it is an accomplishment. Let's just say no one ever complimented me on my swimming, biking or running ability- at least since I learned to ride a two wheeler anyway :)


*Starting a Blog. When I was younger I always wanted to be a writer and people would tell me I was a good writer. But then, I went to a really competitive high school where writing was ALWAYS about a book we read and much as I love reading, I have NO discovered or undiscovered talents in figuring out what the authors "hidden meaning" is...

Do you have any previously undiscovered talents you have just started to realize? What are the things people ALWAYS compliment you on?


  1. Very nice Post Kelly. I think you're right, while it's great to hear about something you are good at, over and over again, after a while you start to think, "am I good for anything else??!!". People always tell me I'm a good writer, but I know they say that simply based off my blog. But then the other day my mom said I used to be GREAT at writing poems. This made me smile, because it was different, and something I had never thought I was good at before. I loved to hear it.
    I think it's great that you wanted to tell your student that she was good at something other than art. I'm sure she will remember that for years to come.
    Oh, and I hated it when my teachers made us figure out the "True meaning" of poems and other literature, too. UGH!!

  2. Interesting. I think some people do get sucked down the road of specialization within their field and that really limits them in terms of their other potential talents. I always try to keep my options open so I don't miss out.

  3. I'm still looking for mine! I try to expose my daughter to as much as I can even if they aren't something I would like always. I want her to be able to find her "thing"! So far, lucky for me, it's running!!

  4. Kelly, great thoughts. As a parent, I always struggle with the differences in my children. One child is obviously smart, athletic, funny, (he's got the whole package), and the other one I feel like we are constantly telling her she's so good at drawing, and math. (she struggles in school, but she likes the idea of math). So what am I left with? The one who is so good at everything is a people pleaser, the other could give a crap.
    I think I'll try your idea to pick something either one would not expect. Will be interesting for me to commend them on something new!

  5. This is such an interesting post.

    I am learning about a new-to-me leadership training program that focuses on Strengths and not weaknesses as many leadership programs do.

    I have learned that it takes more energy to improve a "weakness" then to fine tune a strength. Is it more important to enhance a strength and be able to contribute a lot in that area or focus too much on our weaknesses?

    It is a very interesting question!

  6. Oooh I like this post!

    I definitely think it's good to work on things we are good at and continue to excel at them because it makes us feel good/accomplished but I think working hard at things we're NOT good at and getting complimented when we do well on those things is important too!

  7. I often get complimented on having a huge heart and being a very compassionate person. Sometimes works against me, but overall I like it. I also get complimented on my ability to be creative in the kitchen!
    This is a great post. It is so important to recognize that all kids are different and that not every one should follow the same path. We are all great at something!

  8. I'm good at training for races and consistently improving my time.

    I'm good at forming friendships with people, which sounds like a given, but i did not have alot of friends growing up since I was sort of an outcast in school since i was not athletic... So I feel like I have come into my own in terms of forging bonds w/ people as an adult.

    Great post, Kelly! I bet your principal was super impressed and I think it's great that you went out on a bit of a limb and had him observe somethign that wasn't a 'slam dunk' like reading would have been!

  9. I'm sure you did much better on your "review" than you think you did! It's interesting how some of these talents start to pop at such an early age even if we never choose to develop them. When I was really little people used to tell my parents that with my legs (I had ripped calves for a two year old) I should be a runner. It took me a LONG time to come to that conclusion myself!