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Multiple Intelligences--And the Average School Board

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The eight official multiple intelligences are really the beginning of the list.

Number nine--I found my daughter. And while it's fairly easy to find someone who has a mesh of multiple intelligences, some individuals can be "delightfully pegged." Now, how can she dare say that? Because parents tend to be thrilled when something in their educational wanderings finally says it or someone finally understands.

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What is number nine? The Existential learner. Every classroom has its walls mandatorily-filled to beyond capacity. And then there is the students' work hanging above the desks. But, for the Existential learner, all that's got nothin' on the "silent, invisible" birds, the "invisible" cherry blossoms and the "silent, odorless" garbage trucks outside the nearest window. And they've got nothin' on an even bigger competitorthe child's imagination. It's called being delightfully human"uh, a little too human. Now, do we really want to put a halt to an overdose of humanity?

What are the eight official multiple intelligences, and why doesn't the average school board allow and/or encourage teachers to provide for all this uniqueness among students? Here's the list, but the explanation behind each is at least as important:

Verbal/linguistic intelligence, Logical/mathematical intelligence, Visual/spatial intelligence, Body/kinesthetic intelligence (this one pegs my son), Musical/rhythmic intelligence, Interpersonal intelligence, Intrapersonal intelligence and Naturalist intelligence. So, what do you do with this?

If you were to come upon a class that was based on these concepts, the classroom might resemble an academic circus. It would certainly beg the question, "Who's in charge?" Everyone would or should be doing their (own) thing, while meeting the same requirements as everyone in a mainstream setting by the end of a course of study. Someone might be lying on a couch, under a blanket, reading; someone might be playing the oboe; someone might be doing an interpretive dance to the oboe; someone might be planting a vegetable garden; someone might be building a volcano; someone might be writing a story about the volcano; two people might be devising a new kind of moving vehicle; two people might be acting out a play that they wrote; someone might be painting an image of the vegetable garden and someone might be writing a song for the oboe player. Where's the Existential learner in all of this? They're the one under the blanket. Why?

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I can offer a theory. While the learner is blocking out the obvious distractions"they're more easily coveting the more "helpful ones" (within the assignment). What a non-Existential learner would view as distractions (words surrounding key words within the reading material, potentially considered to be less significant, even boring, words) may, in this case, be embellishment of the subject matter for the Existential learner. Existential learners may, ultimately, be better readers.

In truth, we all possess all of these intelligences. Why, then, should we need such an unusual classroom environment? Because we don't possess an even amount of any of them. We specialize while, by necessity and nature, incorporating the others when they either fall into place"or are summoned by sheer effort.

Where did the opportunity go?

Frightened school boards. They are usually concerned about classroom management. Under such unique circumstances, though, students tend to be pretty good at managing themselves because they're learning what they need to and on their own terms. It's win-win.

Training is, potentially, a bone of contention, as teachers need to be willing to give these students room in pursuing which intelligence(s) they need to "use" in exploring and attending to the curriculum. The teacher needs to know when to back off from both tradition and the activities of the students.

Your average school board and its top-down approach.

As a parent, I've heard from almost every teacher my kids have had, "The school board made me do it." It isn't only the school board, though, that needs to put greater emphasis on learner needs. Teacher-training programs need to do a much better job of inspiring courage within the training curriculum. Many teachers relatively new to the field are too scared and/or straight-laced to go against their school boards, in a kosher fashion, in order to accommodate their students. Luckily, there may be supervisors along the way to give these teachers encouragement, with any amount of permission feasible. Still, the school board always finds its way into the classroom"late in the day for learning.

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Instruction through multiple intelligences affords a directness, and even a simplicity, much harder to find in traditional education, if at all.

 

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Rachel emigrated to Canada in the summer of 2006.- She has an M.A. in Teaching ESOL, and her poetry, short stories and articles have appeared in print and online. Rachel is a member of Fair Vote Canada.

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