Who am I…???!!!!!!

They (whoever they are) say that college is all about finding yourself, and getting to understand who you really are.  Tasked this week with finding my real teaching self was quite fun.  All Les Miserables jokes aside, it wasn’t too terribly easy trying to understand or even grasp what my ‘Authentic teaching self’ was.

I enjoyed the literature this week, it was great, and I really liked what Sarah Deel had to say in ‘Finding my teaching voice’ about the struggle between being the cool professor and being your true self.  I found that very interesting and intriguing.

Dr. Fowler’s outline was incredible and I think I need some more time to really chew on that before giving the outline the blog post that it deserves.  I absolutely love the idea of not thinking about doing something ‘to or at your students’ but doing something ‘with your students’.  I completely agree.  When I look back at the professors that have shaped me, they certainly accompany me in the learning process as opposed to strictly facilitate and observe the process.

Pampert’s idea of yearners vs schoolers is one that is quite familiar to me.  When Pampert brings up the point that yearners are apt to homeschool their kids or seek alternative schools as sources of education it reminded me of a documentary I saw a few years back.  The documentary, entitled ‘Waiting for Superman’ illistrates the woes our inner-city educational system is facing, the fact that we are turning down good quality education from all children due to budget cuts and geography.  I don’t want to go into a huge rant on the documentary, if you have some time please watch it, it is very moving, but I believe that we need more parents to become interested and involved in their child’s education past reviewing spelling words after dinner.  If the education industry is going to face a renewal, it needs to start with the grade school system and that means convincing schooler parents into yearner parents.

However, I want to focus on strengths for this week.  A few years ago Virginia Tech adopted Gallup’s Strengthsquest and I have been involved in that realm for quite some time.  I feel that strengths play a huge role in our daily lives especially when we are trying to find our true voice as educators.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Gallup’s Strengthsquest, I will try to give as brief an overview as possible and I HIGHLY suggest taking the assessment yourself.  Gallup carried out research for years of very successful people in a wide array of fields.  The root question was, ‘What are the traits of naturally successful people and how can we emulate those traits?’.  What he found was remarkable, that there are not specific strengths or traits that each individual shared, however each individual has a unique combination of 34 strengths and it is how they are aligned and used that have the ability to make them truly successful.  This is a very brief explanation, please see the Virginia Tech page on Strengthsquest for a more detailed explanation, it is linked above.

Knowing my top five strengths (Communication, WOO, Harmony, Activator, Adaptability) I know EXACTLY who I am in the classroom.  To be my true self (which Dr. Fowler outlined as being important) I need to rely on my top five strengths and connect them with my students.  So, this is how I see my strengths played out, as an instructor.

Communication:  Relying very heavily on the communication of others, and enjoying communication as a way to express myself I will focus on discussion based learning.  Since this is my number one strength, is is truly something I can be excited about and something that I can bring to the classroom that will engage students and will not be a passive eye-rolling discussion.

WOO:  Woo stands for Winning Others Over, that means that I truly enjoy people.  I will use this in the classroom, I think, as being the ‘cool’ professor that Deel talked about.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that other will like me all the time, but that I will always strive to have those around me engaged and drawn in to what I am doing, which I feel is incredibly helpful in the classroom.

Harmony:  I see my harmony in a different way than normal.  Educationally, I see my harmony being used in a ‘no learning style left behind’ kind of way.  I want each individual to thrive in the classroom and I will use whatever I can to foster that relationship.

Activator:  With Activator, I am constantly excited and pushing forward towards the next thing.  I feel that this will manifest itself in the classroom with a desire to push my students to see them excel through the topic area.

Adaptability:  In academia, a class can go a million different ways, especially when the students are the ones steering.  My adaptability will allow me to ride the learning wave during the class while maintaining an effective outline and mastering the topics necessary.

As strengths have been a huge part of my life and my academic career, I feel that they will continue to be a large part of my journey further into academia.  What do you think?



  1. Ashish · September 30, 2015

    While it is good to focus on one’s strengths, I would like to highlight the issue with such tests which tell one’s strengths. One, there are huge issues with reliability/validity of such psychometric tests. This means that a lot of times, what these tests which tell us are incorrect. Two, these tests treat strengths as a static attribute. I think a person’s strengths evolve with time, these tests do not capture that. Third, a lot of times, these tests make a person look at themselves in terms of the strengths which they highlight. Thus, one might stop looking at other strengths which they might have and were not highlighted by the strength-finder test. Finally, Gallup created this particular test with a corporate setting in mind. I wonder how much the results of this test transfer to any other setting.

    I hope you consider these points while thinking about your strengths as told to you by Gallup’s strength finder test.


    • zachd1 · September 30, 2015

      I would encourage you to review strengths more. This is not a personality test, it is very different. There is a handbook that accompanies the assessment which highlights the idea behind the assessment and it is far from a personality test. You hit on that point exactly, tests like these are static, however the research has shown that the strengths that are highlighted through the gallup method are those with you for life. That is, an individual evolves into and around their strengths as opposed to evolving and changing beside ones strengths.

      Also, I only highlighted my top five strengths, as I feel that was all that was necessary. Gallup orders all of the traits for you after you have completed the assessment. In the handbook, Gallup emphasizes analyzing the shadow side of ones strengths. That is, what traits of an achiever can get in the way to success. I feel that the idea of a shadow side of a strength really addresses your point about only focusing on these five strengths.

      Check out the research, you be not be disappointed.


  2. Yanliang Yang · September 30, 2015

    Thanks for sharing this Strengthsquest resources. I kind of seeing Ashish’s point, that is, being conservative/critical with those reports. But still, such report is a good start point. We can share this report to our families, friends, mentors, and coauthors to see how they feel about it (as was recommended in the video of Strengthsquest page). By that, we can have more comprehensive understanding about our strengths and weaknesses.


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