Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Genius Inside

Have you ever seen the movie Good Will Hunting? You know the one with Matt Damon, where he is a janitor at MIT, and he ends up solving an incredibly complex math problem on the wall, leading him from rough, Boston kid, to math genius? If you haven't seen the movie, you should definitely check it out. But this blog is not about that movie. What I get from that movie is an idea that is far too often deemed impossible. Don't get me wrong, the idea of me being a math genius, is definitely impossible. But the story about a kid who is given an opportunity to show his/her ability in an unlikely scenario and proven his/her talent in a specific field is not impossible.

Each year, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Berkeley, Cal Tech, and other prestigious schools admit thousands of students. These are the "best of the best." These are students with high SAT scores and GPAs well above 4.0, from every AP or IB class imaginable. Most of these students are on a steady path to success from the day they are admitted. By all traditional standards, these students are considered the most "intelligent." In the minds of students, these are the smart kids. But what if we looked at it differently.

Howard Gardner proposed the model of multiple intelligences in 1983. The theory is fairly easy to explain and believe. In a nutshell it states that there are several intelligences that people can have including but not limited to verbal-linguistic, musical-rhythmic, visual-spacial, interpersonal, kinesthetic among others. So in other words, there is not one type of intelligence. So the questions that arise from this are how do we teach students to find their intelligence and how are we as a society or in the education field, measuring this?

It is the sad truth that we only measure a few types of these intelligences in education. We tell students that they should go to college, but the only way that we give them a chance to get there, is by measuring a select few intelligences. Therefore, a large cross section of students are not given a chance to reveal their intelligence and are not given a chance to expand their ability in that area. If they are not college bound, they have to sit idly by to wait for their time to thrive. We as teachers, schools, and parents, need to do all we can to change this.

Schools should become places where students find their intelligences rather than finding out that they are "not intelligent." We need to give kids choices and opportunities to expand their horizons, understand their opportunities and begin to practice those skills. For too long we have held students back from doing this. We have prepared them for tests, given them meaningless homework, and ranked them by their GPAs. There are so many examples of success in the world from welders, to artists, to cooks, to heavy equipment operators, and more. What if they discovered this earlier and had a chance to explore while still in school. We have to push to make this happen in our schools.

We definitely won't all end up like Matt Damon did in Good Will Hunting. But we can give kids a similar story in that they will find their intelligence and thrive. We have to give them the opportunity and spread the message that the world doesn't consist of intelligent people and unintelligent people. We need to challenge the college bound students while also challenging the work bound students. The world is made up of people who found their intelligence and are using it and people who have not found it yet or are not using. Where do our kids fall? Leading is Teaching.

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