How Teachers Can Make the Most of Their Students’ Unique Talents!

We as educators do believe that school is the best place for success. We believe that school  provides learners with both knowledge and skills to succeed in their personal, and family life. In the beginning of my teaching years, I admit that I was a type of narrow-minded teacher. To me, the school was the place where students learn the four skills; they learn basically how to read and write. On top of that, for many teachers, slow achievers at school may have no room for success in their life.

After five years of teaching in Moroccan public high schools, I started to ask myself questions that never left my mind: What is the purpose of the school? Is it just to teach the skills or to uncover and tap into their individual combination and interests or both? These questions agitate also scholars, teachers, statesmen, in fact every group of thoughtful men and women.

I think that my opinion today, and most people’s opinions, is that the purpose of education is to support learners in developing the skills, the knowledge, and the dispositions that will allow them to be active citizens and bring about positive changes in the society—their democratically-informed community.

Teaching basic skills and subject matter—the fundamental responsibilities of teachers—can be abundantly satisfying if done creatively and successfully. But finding and nurturing special gifts in youth, and observing those learners and their talents blossom, are among the great ecstasies of teaching. In fact, our task in school should be to do both—to teach basic skills effectively  as early as possible, and to identify and nurture learners’ talents as well.

As an educator and the co-founder of Global Bus Foundation, I would like to share a very inspiring story that has taught me that my job as a teacher is not merely to teach the basic skills but discover and boost children and youth’s creativity. Global Bus Foundation aims to empower both youth and teachers with the necessary skills to be global citizens and bring about positive changes in the community. In collaboration with the delegation of education in Salé city, GBF took the initiative and organized the Students’ Got Talent competition.

Public high Schools across Salé competed in poetry, public speaking, theater, drawing, singing and dancing. SGT is to be considered a unique educational and cultural festival in the Kingdom of Morocco, under the motto Talents of School for Promoting Civic and Peace Education. This initiative came as a reaction to a number of violent videos and stories exhibiting violent acts in Moroccan public high schools which went viral not only on Moroccan social media but also across the globe.

This contest is to foster the new narrative about youth, that they are creative and full of talents and go beyond the discourse that displays youth as violent and passive. To confirm this new discourse about high school student’s youth, Global Bus coordinated with civic institutes in the country like parliament, Search for Common Ground and Villa of Arts Rabat to host student Got talent Morocco finalists.

What is interesting about this competition is that first it took more than 3 months of qualifications, visiting more than thirty Moroccan public high schools and the twenty students who qualified to the final were low achievers in academic performance but…who all had great talents.

As a teacher and founder of SGT competition, I informed all students about the requirements of participation. My student, Salman Gzizir, was convinced by his classmates to participate in the break dance category. He was not good at English and other school subjects. He was a calm and depressed student due to his discouraging school results. After qualifying to the semi-final, Salman was on his day to show to the audience, the school administrators, parents, teachers, as well as the journalists that the school’s purpose is not only to teach learners the basic skills but to uncover their talents as well.

I really could not believe myself that the young learner who was performing on the stage was Salman. I surprisingly asked “how come”! Salman is a very shy student. How come! Salmane is not good at English! How come! Salmane is a low achiever in all subjects. Students’ Got Talent initiative corrected all my wrong beliefs. The jury voted for Salmane as the best talented break dancer; his performance was outstanding, portraying an amazing story entitled “Stop the War”. The way he danced and acted made all attendees stand up and applaud. Some even cried for the inspiring story he made.

In the end, we shared the recorded video of the competition on several social media platforms. I liked Salman’s performance so much and I shared it as well on my Facebook account.

After a couple of months, I got a long message on my messenger from Salman stating:

“Hello teacher! I hope you are doing great. I will never forget about what you have done for us. You opened a new door for us to succeed by uncovering and nurturing our talents. My teacher! You won’t believe it my teacher but I am now in Turkey working in a big hotel. You are the reason, my teacher, because some Turkish hotel recruiters saw my participation in the SGT competition that was shared on social media and contacted me to work with them. Thank you so much teacher! I won’t forget that!” Salmane Gzizir

Teachers should play a major role in the discovery of the hidden talents in their children and youth as they observe them and know their strengths and weaknesses. Salman’s inspiring story has profoundly impacted my teaching philosophy. Educators should not only lay much emphasis on teaching the basic skills but also discover the latent talents of their students by organizing various competitions such as Students’ Got Talent and encouraging them to take part in those. They should persuade the students not to get bogged down with competition and to enjoy the contests. The purpose of these contests should not be to intensify a sense of competition or rivalry among the learners but to push them to see their hidden talents and gifts lying within them.