Most parents and teachers tend to focus and spend a lot of time talking about learners’ weaknesses or challenges.
Educationists however differ, noting that it will be of more beneficial if instead, they focus more on their strengths. According to them this helps learners succeed in their academic life.
At GS Rwiri, Ngororero District in Western Province, the school has adopted a model known as Sandwich, which is meant to help learners succeed by focusing on their strengths only.
According to Jean d’Amour Niyigena, a Languages teacher at the school, normally, they start by observing students strengths, and then focus on how to correct their mistakes or weak areas.
“By doing this, it’s just one way of encouraging students to do their best in whatever they are doing. Again, through this, they will learn that they all have capacities to do better in areas they feel they can’t handle or are hard for them,” he says.
Niyigena reveals that this is just one of the techniques they use at school to give constructive feedback to the students during their lessons.
Why it’s important
John Nzayisenga, Director at Good Harvest School in Kigali believes that despite the teacher’s experience, they will always face a dilemma of helping some students in their line of duty.
He says that to be able to handle this, as a teacher, they should be in a position to first look at such student’s strengths and focus on them instead, rather than dwelling on their weakness.
“By doing this, it will help a student feel comfortable with the teacher, enabling them freely express what is hindering them clearly,” he says.
He adds that this will in return, give the instructor a clearer picture of how to develop a plan to help such individuals.
Nzayisenga notes that from his personal experience, this tactic has always yielded benefits whenever it’s applied.
“The thing is, every individual is different and they all function or work differently based on their personalities. It is important to know them well and their capacities as teachers,” he says.
On the other hand, Aminadhad Niyoshuti, an English teacher at Apaper Complex School in Kicukiro says that by focusing on strengths, it encourages a learner to work hard and know that they are not weak but can improve in anything.
Depending on how long the teacher will be assessing this, he says they have to set a maximum period of time, whereby they will just be focusing on this.
“If any learner especially by looking at their strengths, is helped to improve especially in academics, most of the time all of them move at the same pace; which is hard to achieve when we focus on their weak areas only,” he says.
For Kenneth Ndayisaba, a teacher at Mother Mary Complex school in Kibagabaga, Gasabo District, learners strengths are things they can leverage on, and things they can use to push themselves further as far as academics is concerned.
He on the other hand, notes that students’ weaknesses are not supposed to be their downfall.
“Teachers should use this opportunity to make sure the learner’s weak areas are worked on and improved by looking at their strengths. They shouldn’t consider them (weakness) as something they lack but something they need to develop and build on,” he says.
How should it be done?
Niyigena says that for instance, a teacher should start by identifying at least two strengths in a certain student that they have.
He adds that after pointing out areas where such students can improve, it’s easier to find a way of helping them do even better.
Identifying and observing in any student those things that come easily by them is vital. This should take them time to observe this and it requires a dedicated teacher, according to Niyigena.
He further explains that these are the areas such students are good at, and it won’t take much of their time trying to correct or work on them.
Niyigena says that focusing on student’s strengths is about seeking opportunities instead of problems. Instead of focusing on the negatives, as a teacher focus on the areas such students are good at.
He however points out that if a teacher or even a parent decides to dwell on only the weakness of the child, it will minimise their self confidence, enthusiasm and overall performance.
Jacky Irabagiza, a matron and counselor at Martyr Secondary School in Remera says that if more time is spent on a student’s weak areas, it can make them do worse than they used to.
She adds that being aware of this is important because it helps all the learners to be in an environment where they are comfortable, thus better results.
“From my experience, not much is done by focusing on what students can’t do or perform well,” she says.
Irabagiza also notes that another strategy is that teachers should find time to interact with the student, and this should be in a place where only the two of them are present, to avoid disturbance.
She says it shouldn’t be around other students or even teachers as it could interfere with the conversation and the student may as well fail to open up.
Apart from that, Niyonshuti notes that by doing so, it helps get the attention of the student thus individual attention may work best.
“Start a general conversation and find out if they are having any problems and which areas. These questions may reveal strengths and weaknesses on their own, thus easier to provide the help needed,” he says.
Why working as team is vital
Parents on the other hand, Nzayisenga says, should be able to interrogate their children on different issues, so that they find a way of helping them.
He says that for instance, they should observe what their children can improve if they get help needed or listen to what they say and not always demand or command.
He adds that they shouldn’t criticize or compare them with other children of their age.
After this is done, Nzayisenga says parents can work closely with the teachers so that they can help such learners work or improve on what they are good at.
Similarily, he says if a student doesn’t seem to be interested in particular areas, or doesn’t understand, encouraging them to focus on what they are good at is vital.
He explains that this is so because not everyone is good at everything, and that forcing a learner to be good or do better in areas that they feel they can’t handle, is just a waste of time.
Niyigena notes that because teachers tend to spend much time with learners more than their parents, they should always share student’s success or failure with the parents so that they also create time to discuss about this one on one.
Keizer Gwiza, university student
I think a teacher, getting to know your students well is vital. This is so because in case of any problem or issue, it’s easier to handle because it won’t require much time to know what kind of student they are dealing with.
Franklin Munyeshuri, computer science teacher
When it comes to child academic guidance, parents should always avail themselves so that they work closely with teachers to help their children. Being an absentee parent sometimes is a big blow to the success of any student.
Elicana Umuhoza, student at University of Kigali
It’s also vital for schools to look for mentors who can help learners in different areas. Such people should act as role models in certain areas and should be an encouragement to the learners especially those on the verge of giving up.
Joseph Sibomana, parent
Students need to learn from their parents how to manage their responsibilities, which is a vital life skill. And, parents should strive to be good examples to them.