StrengthsFinder new and useful tool for Christian educators
The introduction of StrengthsFinder 2.0 at this summer’s Educators Leadership Development Institute (ELDI) generated new ways of self-discovery for the participants.
The ELDI was held in Ontario for the first time Aug. 11 - 15 and is designed to help classroom teachers consider God’s calling to administration. The Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) was one of the ELDI partners.
Bruce Hekman, Calvin College adjunct professor of education and ELDI co-director, led a session that examined leadership styles and views of leadership. Prior to arriving at the ELDI, participants bought the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and took the accompanying online quiz.
The online quiz is comprised of 177 questions to discover your top five strengths out of 34 of the most common talents. Examples of the talents include analytical, communication and input.
StrengthsFinder is based on the idea that people have more potential for growth when developing strengths rather than correcting weaknesses.
“One of the premises of ELDI is that leadership comes from the inside,” says Hekman. “What you do tends to flow from who you are and self-knowledge, to know yourself honestly and well, is just essential.”
Hekman says self-discovery is a lifelong process, and StrengthsFinder is a tool to help in that journey.
StrengthsFinder popped up on Hekman’s radar when he was looking for some tools for a graduate class he was teaching.
“I found it very helpful for my own psyche and I introduced that to my students,” he says.
Though there are many other personality-type tools to choose from, such as Myers-Briggs, Hekman says StrengthsFinder was something new for most of the ELDI participants.
“I like (StrengthsFinder) because I think it nicely fits our theology, which is that we’ve been created in an image of God and endowed with particular gifts and it’s in the corporate use of those gifts that the work of the Kingdom gets done,” says Hekman.
“Not everybody has the same gifts; we bring different gifts to the table and school is all about relationships,” he says.
Finding neutral language to figure out how to better work together and understand one another and to find out the strengths needed to get certain things is very helpful, he says.
During Hekman’s session participants brought the names of their top five strengths and completed a worksheet in small groups. The worksheet asked participants what makes you stand out, what you need from other people and how others can best work with you.
“I found it really interesting,” says Jessica Geleynse, an ELDI participant and Grade 5 teacher at Knox Christian School in Bowmanville.
She says her initial reaction was uncertainty about some of her strengths, but when talking about it with others and sharing with her principal discovered that other people could recognize the talent in her.
“I found that really affirming to explore, because with administration … you have to use your strengths and your gifts in that role,” she says.
Anita Prange, an ELDI participant and supply teacher, says finding out your strengths is helpful on a personal and organizational level.
“I think (personality-type tools) definitely help acknowledge what your strengths are but also help you acknowledge what your strengths aren’t, and then (you can) find people to fill the gaps,” says Prange.
She says StrengthsFinder is useful language to use in an interview setting or when thinking about exploring different career paths.
Hekman is charting the strengths of the ELDI participants for some ‘curiosity research’ — to see if there is a set of strengths that tends to be present in people who are headed into leadership roles.
There is also a student version of StrengthsFinder. Hekman notes he knows of one school in Michigan where students are using it.
“I think one of our roles in a Christian school is to help kids unwrap and develop their gifts, and if you can find a tool that will help them and give them some language for that, so much the better,” he says.
“People are playing around with (StrengthsFinder) and they are beginning to use it so it will be interesting to see what comes of it,” says Hekman.