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New Rhema principal explores Strengths movement

Written on October 20th, 2008

Building on strengths in education requires a differentiated classroom: Slofstra

Joel Slofstra discovered what his top five strengths are and says he is interested to explore the strengths movement in more detail and discuss with other staff members how it applies to teaching and learning.

Slofstra, the new principal at Rhema Christian School in Peterborough, says when he heard about the Educators Leadership Development Institute (ELDI) session on StrengthsFinder he decided to try it himself.

“I had actually read the article on the OACS website and decided to purchase the book myself and take the test,” he says.

The StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and accompanying online quiz is used to discover and learn about your personal top five strengths. These strengths are broken down into 34 of the most common talents, including analytical, communication and input.

StrengthsFinder is based on the idea that people have more potential for growth when developing strengths rather than correcting weaknesses.

Slofstra says when he found out his top five strengths are it further confirmed what he already knew about himself.

He says it is interesting to talk to other people who have taken the quiz and find out what their strengths are.

“You start to look for strengths and how you can best use people’s strengths,” he says.

Slofstra says he wants to explore with staff members taking the StrengthsFinder quiz and discussing what it means.

“We’re all educators and we’re all at Rhema, but we all have these strengths and what does that mean?” he says, “is there a way we can use each of our strengths now that we’ve identified them to our advantage to the school, and what does that mean to the kids in our class?”

There are different teaching styles and ways of learning and the question is how to capitalize on that, he says.

Slofstra is currently reading Jennifer Fox’s book Your Child’s Strengths. The book discusses how the traditional educational setting looks at weaknesses whereas the strengths movement focuses on developing strengths.

“That means looking at your children or your students and looking for things they are good at, things that make them feel engaged in what they are doing, make them enjoy what they are doing and areas where they feel strong,” Slofstra says.

The interesting take-away from building on strengths at school is it confirms the need for differentiation in the classroom, he says.

“Every student is going to have different strengths and to be able to capitalize on the student’s strengths you are going to need to differentiate what you do in the class,” Slofstra says.

To learn more about the strengths movement visit