Strengths-Based Schools Better Prepare Your Child for the Future
By Sharon Newman, head of school at Buckner Fanning School at Springs
The strengths-based approach was developed with the intention of targeting a child’s strengths in the learning environment rather than weaknesses. It is a research-based approach to identifying strengths in children. It begins with an assessment that is used to determine students’ strengths which include curiosity, creativity, love of learning, kindness, and social intelligence. The results of the assessment provide teachers with a group of specific strengths that enable the educator to provide more individualized instruction.
Strengths-based education works as a collaborative approach between the child, teacher, and parents or guardians. Once each child has taken the assessment, the teacher is able to design individualized lesson plans focused around each child’s strengths. The instructor, along with the parents will unlock and identify the strengths of the student together. Working as a unit, they are able to collaborate to achieve growth and success for the child. I recommend a parent training which provides ongoing suggestions for developmental growth and enriches the conversation between parents and teachers. It also helps the child become the best that he or she can be and brings joy to the child, the family, and the classroom.
The strengths-based method focuses on what children do well, rather than focusing on what they do not do well. If they feel good about themselves and their strengths, the goal is encouraging children to work on areas that need improvement. This approach helps to address the overall needs of the child including academic, emotional, and social skills. For instance, if a student does not do well in math and hates doing math homework, he or she may begin to dislike school in general. Following our approach, it is important to focus on what the child does best which may be reading comprehension rather than math. It is designed to help students feel confident and established in their skills for reading comprehension, which will help them to enjoy academics overall. The same method would be in place for athletics, creativity and extracurricular activities. If your child does not enjoy athletics, but rather enjoys strategic or creative processes, he or she will be placed in an activity that works towards establishing strengths including chess club, drama club, or band. The goal is to create a more well-rounded child by providing every opportunity to grow and motivating him or her to improve in areas of weakness. It also teaches them how to navigate situations that make them feel uncomfortable. The strengths-based method is going to make the child happier overall and more able and willing to address some of those skills that present a challenge. It also works to create and lay the foundation of a strong community, which can be defined by the strength of its families. In San Antonio, our school and its programs are the only one of its kind. It is geared towards strengthening the family unit and works to provide a solution to the challenges of child development and parenting.
Families can feel safe sending their children to our school during this time. We are incorporating COVID-19 safe practices and procedures in our classrooms including masks requirements and social distancing, temperature checks upon arrival, a two-week quarantine before returning to the classroom, setting up classrooms outside, lunch protocols, classroom disinfectants, and more. Teachers have been trained on COVID-19 safe protocols and will consider what’s best for each individual child in the classroom, especially for younger children who may experience a harder time wearing masks throughout the day. Additionally, we have doctors on our board who are consistently updating our procedures and protocols based on state guidelines and medical best practices.
Sharon Newman is the head of school at Buckner Fanning School at Mission Springs in San Antonio. She received her master’s degree from Southwest Texas State Normal School (currently Texas State University) in educational leadership and is a trained life coach and certified Incredible Kids Coach. She has nearly 39 years of experience teaching and leading public schools, and almost 8 years of experience leading Buckner Fanning School at Mission Springs.