January 21, 2014

It Matters

I’ve been privileged through Kathy’s instruction and mentoring to know about multiple intelligences – the eight ways in which every human being is smart – since my college days. Thus, I was able during my years as a classroom teacher to notice my students’ varying propensities as they tackled the language arts content set before them. And I’ve had the joy of observing each of my daughter’s particular strengths take root and now begin to blossom as they approach adolescence.

There exist, of course, myriad ideas about how to be an effective classroom teacher. And between self-help books, interested friends and family, and the tidal wave of information available online, ideas about what constitutes good parenting abound. I’ve listened to and read my share of all of it. But it’s not too much to say that having a grasp on the theory of multiple intelligences was the key to my success as a classroom teacher and has been the single best practical technique I’ve utilized as a parent.

The reason? Simply put, understanding that each young person is a unique individual ­– imbued with a personalized combination of “smarts” that doesn’t exactly match anyone else’s – has deeply impacted how I interact with them. Because I know what I know about multiple intelligences, I realized it would be both ineffective and inhumane to expect all of my students to learn the same things at the same time in the same way at the same rate. And I can embrace the fact that each of my daughters has a God-given right to develop and maximize her particular combination of smarts – to become what He intends, not what I might have envisioned before they were born.

Because I know, I understood that Antonio wasn’t “stupid.” Word-smart was not one of his key strengths so traditional school subjects were tricky for him. But I used my knowledge to help him navigate in a word-smart heavy environment. And I affirmed his intelligence – he remains one of the most people-smart individuals I’ve ever known – and encouraged him to make the most of it.

Because I know, I created projects to enable my picture-smart students to demonstrate their understanding of the books they’d read.

Because I know, I realized that Rachel didn’t have ADHD when she could only master counting to 100 by skipping around the table or dancing across the living room. She is simply body-smart.

And because I know, I grasp that self-smart Abigail isn’t evasive or aloof. She simply needs time and a clear indication of my willingness to be available, and she will bare her soul.

I could give dozens – hundreds – of examples like this. And it’s really true that the key to my acceptance of each child’s individuality has been my knowledge of multiple intelligences. The concepts are that powerful and that important.

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo


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