I don't like most career/personality tests. Maybe that's because the one I took at school when I was sixteen told me I should be a mortician (I swear I am not making that up). I think most of those tests are blunt instruments that either tell you what you already know about yourself, or give you results that you can't really use.
But I feel a lot differently about the Gallup Organization's "StrengthsFinder" test. I've taken it, all the Collegewise counselors have taken it, and I made all my friends and family members take it. I've yet to recommend it to a single person who wasn't fascinated by their results.
And they have a version that's specifically for teachers.
What are strengths?
Gallup defines strengths as natural recurring patterns of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied. The StrengthsFinder test identifies your top five strengths and describes exactly what they mean.
For example, the test won't just tell you you're outgoing (if you're outgoing, you know that already). It's more specific than that. It will tell you if your strength is winning new people over, or developing deeper relationships with people you already know, or gaining the respect of those you admire, or appreciating what is unique about each individual, or bringing people together so everyone feels included. You're more than just outgoing. Each of those is a very different and uniquely valuable strength. You might have one but not the others.
Or maybe your strength is a sense of confidence in yourself, or an ability to arrange and manage complex situations, or a desire to continually learn new information, or an ability to draw on past experiences, or to fix situations that are broken.
Whatever your strengths are, the test identifies them.
How does Gallup tell you to use your strengths?
What I love most about Gallup's philosophy is that they don't believe in expending time and energy to fix weaknesses. We're taught in American society to believe that: that if we just try hard enough, we can be great at anything. Gallup says that that just doesn't hold up, and they're right. I'm never going to win a gold medal in the Olympic marathon no matter how hard I try. Yes, you can get better at anything. But if it's a weakness, something that you don't have the innate talent for and almost certainly wouldn't enjoy doing all the time, don't bother. It's not worth it. Gallup argues that it is much more effective and gratifying to spend that time learning to maximize your strengths.
Why is this exciting for teachers?
One of the criticisms of the StrengthsFinder book (you buy the book and get an access code to take the test online) is that once you learned your strengths, there wasn't much advice about what to actually do with them. But "Teach With Your Strengths: How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students" lets you take the same test, then tells you how you can apply those strengths in your teaching and your career, with examples of how great teachers are putting each of the particular strengths to work.
If you're a teacher or a counselor, I think it's a great read.