Strength 3: Individualization

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

This strength involves my ability to see people as individuals rather than a group. I don’t like generalizations and I have the ability to see what’s unique about a person, including their strengths (121 Rath). It may seem like I have high patience, but really I have high understanding (which leads to having patience). According to this video on individualization, “it is the ability to personalize and customize.” Rath asks the question “What is your best method for building relationships?” (122) For me, it’s games. Depending on the game, I can get to know certain things about a person, or in a game of chance that doesn’t involve a lot of thought, I can get to know whatever I want through conversation. Having fun together builds relationships and playing co-op games can really build relationships.

Maybe one of my reward systems can involve getting to play a game with the teacher instead of doing whatever review the rest of the class is doing. These would have to be students that understand the current material well enough that I’m not worried about them reviewing – so I will have to be careful that everyone gets included somehow. I’ll also need to be selective that the games accomplish my goal – for us to get to know each other better in some way, build our relationship, and encourage teamwork.

I’ll also need be sure to explain to my students that it is completely fair to treat everyone differently (123 Rath). They need to know that I will treat them fairly, but not equally because they are all unique individuals. I should incorporate a way to remind them of this regularly – perhaps in my lesson or in an activity that shows how equal does not mean fair.

When I lecture (yuck), I should try and relate what we are learning to my individual students (123 Rath). This would probably work best by asking them “has anyone ever _____?” and maybe having one or two share a story, then explain how that was related to the subject.

The most obvious way I can utilize this strength is by differentiation. However, I’m not quite at that point yet. I am hoping I will be able to at least figure out three different levels that students are at and have different assignments based on their level of understanding, but we will see. I definitely plan on incorporating more differentiation in the future, but for now I have enough to focus on.

What suggestions do you have for incorporating games into the classroom? I would also love to read your suggestions on enforcing that idea that fair doesn’t mean equal or how to relate lessons to individual students.