Talents and Gifts

Think Pieces@2x

Apr 29, 2020

About a year ago, I was in DC for Dr. Ivory Toldson’s* book talk for his new manuscript, “No BS (Bad Stats): Black People Need People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear about Black People” (love that title). 


‘Students should leave school knowing their talents and gifts, not just their failures.’


Ivory (paraphrasing) said something like this and it shook me. My brain froze and I felt the trauma of past educators. Think about it.

Did you learn more about your challenges in schools than your gifts?


Did anyone tell you what you are talented at? You had so many teachers. K12, likely 50+. Now add college degrees and all your professors. Add to that all of the counselors, aids, and support staff that worked with you. How many knew you well enough to even do this? Did anyone take the time to tell you that you are good at something?


Or did you leave classes or grades or degrees with just the trauma of critique? I did. And my graduate programs were the worst of them.


We need to shift our culture from critique to constructive criticism and exploration – to show our students that we value their work – but also to help point them towards what they’re good at. Too often, students don’t know what they don’t know. As in the classroom, it is our great honor to guide them towards enlightenment.


After Ivory’s talk, I went home and applied this to my own students and have ever since. So today, as I work on each of my student’s grades, when I provide their final grade, I will include in the comments:

  • what I think their gifts or talents are,
  • what I appreciate about them and/or their work, and
  • any shared memories.
  • And I will thank them for what they have taught me. 


Does it take time? Sure does. Is it worth it? Absolutely.


This is an investment in humanity. In their futures. And all of ours as well.


My charge/challenge for you: 
  • Pick three people in your life today and txt, call or Zoom with them. Anyone. I’m not playing. Tell them what they are good at. Seriously.
  • Thank someone who has helped guide you (you can do so by sharing this post and tagging them in it).
  • Now, try to do this with your students. (Do you know them? I’m not judging, I’m asking.) How can you be their guide towards a future they’ll succeed in?

*Dr. Ivory A. Toldson is a professor of Counseling Psychology at Howard University, the president of Quality Education for Minorities, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Negro Education, and executive editor of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Research, published by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.


I recommend his book:

No BS (Bad Stats) : Black People Need People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear about Black People

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