Don't Go #BacktoSchool without Knowing How Every Child Thrives

Don't Go #BacktoSchool without Knowing How Every Child Thrives

I’m not alone in my experience of education: I made it all the way through college without discovering what talents, passions, interests, or abilities I might have.

As a result I graduated college with a diploma in one hand and with the other hand scratching my head in puzzlement. What on earth I was going to do with my life? This happened because, for the most part, school is not engineered to uncover a student’s genius. It is designed to uncover and reward specific academic talent.

If you don’t think textbooks, teaching and testing your knowledge of unwanted subjects will strike a chord with you, you might consider staying well away from traditional school. Consider students like Aaron Iba and Nick Perez, who were considered failures in school despite having a passion for and achieving success in their real-world pursuits.

This is a problem people like Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame often points out. He started a movement (learn more at Profoundly Disconnected) to address the problem of a school system and national curriculum that are not designed to prepare students for fulfilling and independent lives. Worse, it completely dismisses, disregards and disrespects them.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Walk into a school practicing the schoolwide enrichment model and you’d find a that every child there develops and shares their passions and talents. They can explain how their teachers, mentors, and helpers in the community help them grow their talents.

Enter a Big Picture Learning school, and you may be surprised to find on certain days their are no kids in school. That’s because they are out in the world about three days a week discovering and pursuing their talents and interests. They are supported by mentors and a school advisory. Rather than sit through a one-size-fits-all standards-based curriculum, students choose seminars that will help them excel in areas customized to their interests. There are standards tied to the student rather than the system.

Unfortunately, in the current standardized, test-dependent public school system, such models are rarely seen or they are relegated to after school programs. Schools are not designed to recognize the genius of those like Albert Einstein. He was considered a foolish dreamer by his teachers, and one teacher even asked him to drop out of his class. That didn’t stop Einstein. He just taught himself subjects he was interested in such as calculus which he began studying independently at age 12.

But what if there was a way to change this for every child? What if there was a way to discover, honor, and develop a child’s strengths, talents, and interests? Isn’t that exactly what students and their parents want?

Now there is. It’s called Thrively.

Thrively gives every child a strength-based assessment that uncovers the student’s talents, interests, and abilities. It also shows them via short videos the kind of lives and careers others have pursued who have similar strengths. Next, Thrively shows them how to pursue their interests via face-to-face and online activities, videos, experiences, and apps to inspire and challenge students- all personalized to their unique strengths. Finally, Thrively provides a digital portfolio for students to capture and share their accomplishments.

Back in 2008 I worked on a similar project called the Personal Success Plan which was aligned to the Renzulli Learning System engine. It was a great tool that helps students to identify their interests, understand how to develop these interests into talents, associate themselves with role models, and — ultimately — create meaningful, attainable goals and plans.Unlike that platform, however, Thrively is available free of charge either to individuals or students in a classroom. The platforms matches students talents, interests, and potentials with all that will get them there. It is powered by the same technology that powers Pandora Radio.

This video provides an overview of Thrively:

There is finally a free tool that enables us to know and grow every child’s genius. Not only that, you can help students learn in ways that are tied to their interests and strengths. Another plus for teachers is that you can group together students who share strengths and learning styles to work collaboratively on projects of interest.

Sound interesting? You, your child, or students can get started by visiting and joining, then take your free strength assessment.

You can see mine here. Here is a snippet.

Here is what a teacher sees at a glance for each student.

Check out Thrively now. Do your profile. Create your class. Have a look around. If you have contact information for your student’s families, reach out and have them start on their profile. You’ll know a lot about your students before the year starts. If you don’t, Thrively is the tool you should be using to start your year and drive your planning.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator. Nielsen is the author of several books and her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Tech & Learning.  

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.