On one of his first days in Pre-K, my son and his classmates were asked to write their names and draw self-portraits as a beginning of the year assessment. Among a display of names painstakingly written in bright marker across the top of the page, our son’s work boldly stood out:
His name actually isn’t Self Potrait, though my husband and I had a good chuckle when we saw this. Yet, a little voice in the back of my head also whispered worries. Why can’t he write his name? Why doesn’t he recognize that those words aren’t his name at all? What if he’s behind already?
But I caught myself. Months before, at the very beginning of my doctoral program, one of my professors overheard a classmate and I lamenting over the fact that we had both received StrengthsFinder results with absolutely no Relationship Building strengths. “You’re stuck on deficit thinking,” she warned us. “This isn’t a deficit model. You need to look at what strengths you do have and use those to become even better.”
Now here I was, months later, allowing deficit thinking to invade my thoughts about one of the most important people in my whole life. And it had to stop.
I looked again at his work. At the letters he wouldn’t have even attempted to form just six weeks before. At the face with eyes and a smile. At how he had so carefully copied each and every letter in order from the heading at the top of the page. At the promise his work held.
It is so easy to get stuck in the trap of deficit thinking. To look at our bank accounts and see how much money we don’t have. To check our watches and see how little time we’ve got to spare. To judge our spouses and think of how infrequently they empty the dishwasher or fold the laundry. To analyze a pile of student work and think about all the things they didn’t learn, all the work they haven’t done, and all the challenges they bring to the classroom.
But what if we stop thinking this way? What if we start, one day at a time, looking at what is there instead of what isn’t?
What might we be able to accomplish if we let our deficit thinking go?
I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday and daily during the month of March in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.