"Like the study of science and art, accounts of historical events can be intrinsically fascinating. But they have a wider significance. I believe that people are better able to chart their life course and make life decisions when they know how others have dealt with pressures and dilemmas---historically, contemporaneously, and in works of art. And only equipped with such understanding can we participate knowledgeably in contemporary discussions (and decisions) about the culpability of various individuals and countries in the Second World War. Only with such understanding can we ponder the responsibilty of human beings everywhere to counter current efforts at genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to bring the perpetrators to justice."
"...we humans are the kinds of animals who learn chiefly by observing others---what they value, what they spurn, how they conduct themselves from day to day, and especially, what they do when they believe that no one is looking."
----Howard Gardner, from The Disciplined Mind, published in 1999

Monday, July 2, 2007

Through a Glass Darkly; or, How I Did On My Presentation

Last Thursday was our last day of our summer session class. We took a final; the professor passed out our grades for our presentations.

Yes anyway, how did that go?

Dear reader, I must begin the account by telling you that I am inordinately excited by the implications one can glean from spending time with Gardner's multiple intelligence theory. Really, really excited. Eight different ways to be intelligent. Eight. (Gardner now cops to 8.5: waiting for more hard data on the intelligence he calls existential)

What else?

The theory posits that each and every one of us possesses each and every intelligence. This isn't up for speculation, it is a given. A given! How beautifully generous is that? Every person has it all. It's hardwired within the brain.

Great, yes! What is even greater is to consider the other part of this axiom: each intelligence operates as a separate modality. Each has its own input that it alone can process; and indeed, it is the presence of the input for which it is wired that activates that particular intelligence.

So of course, I am really, really excited for many reasons.

As I have the pleasure of sharing a classroom with children who are not "neurotypical," this knowledge, this familiarity of the nature of intelligences as laid out by Gardner, in conjunction with the knowledge that all the intelligences can and will be activated in some capacity, given the proper input---it is as if MI theory is the "cash on the barrelhead," the insurance, if you will, that backs up what we as teachers believe about our students: they are smart, they are special, and they will succeed.

Operating with Gardner's theory as home base, our students can believe us when we say that they can and will be great students. We're putting our money where our mouths are when we meet our students "where they are," and provide an environment that allows their unique intelligence profiles the most fitting expression. It's not a matter of speculation or faith; it's a given. There is a lot of relief in that, and in that, a release from pressure: a lot of lovely, lovely room in which to expand and explore.

Operating with Gardner's theory as home base, we have a construct with which to advocate for our students to others who do not know our students in the same ways that we do. Simply put, there are many in public schools who are lacking the confidence to be able to meet our kids where they are. Appy a label to a student, and that label can nag and pick away at our feelings of efficacy in relating to that student. Apply a label of autism, I've found, and this effect is often greatly exacerbated. MI theory is beautifully suited to shifting our thinking from labels and concerns about our abilities to thinking about how a student's intelligences manifest. It shifts our thinking to the student's abilities, not our own.

So of course, when I presented this paper, my heart rate was already up, for I'm just so excited about MI theory. My cello intro was full of vibrato, but it came from my bow hand. Time seemed to go very quickly. I talked, and did my slide presentation on the big screen. I was very excited about the ideas. At one point, and I believe this is what happened, two sentences hybridized themselves in my brain: "we give our students expectations," and "we set expectations for our students," and what I did in fact say was that "we give our students sex."

(Oh, really, Neroli. Way to go. Not.)

I tried to do my best to be articulate. Everyone seemed to regard me with a neutral to bored expression. No one but the professor had comments or questions when I was finished. I didn't feel positively or negatively about the presentation: just empty, as if I had taken such a large breath, and had left it all out slowly. So when my friend the Artist FKAPW asked me about the presentation, I truly didn't know what to say.

So it was with trepidation that I looked at my grade on Thursday night. It was an "A." The professor noted that he liked the use of the cello, the pacing was good, my answers to his questions were well thought out, and he liked the point of MI theory as a way to enable students to have power within the classroom environment.

I was surprised. But glad. And glad to know that I still have some work to do when it comes to perception.

It is another beautiful sunny day here, as it has been for some days. Yesterday as my Little Guy and I went to sit on the back stoop by the apple tree to wait for his brother, the Big Guy, to join us, LG said, well, let's just sit out here and enjoy ourselves.

Yes, I said, let's do. You do, too, dear reader.


Joshua said...

It's so nice for me to have found this blog of yours, it's so interesting. I sure hope and wish that you take courage enough to pay me a visit in my PALAVROSSAVRVS REX!, and plus get some surprise. My blog is also so cool! Don't think for a minute that my invitation is spam and I'm a spammer. I'm only searching for a public that may like or love what I write.

Feel free off course to comment as you wish and remember: don't take it wrong, don't think that this visitation I make is a matter of more audiences for my own blogg. No. It's a matter of making universal, realy universal, all this question of bloggs, all the essential causes that bring us all together by visiting and loving one another.

I think it's to UNITE MANKIND that we became bloggers! Don't see language as an obstacle but as a challenge and think for a minute if I and the rest of the world are not expecting something like a broad cumplicity. Remenber that pictures talk also. Open your heart and come along!!!!!

min said...

Bravo Neroli for having an open mind, for hour glassing down the Gardner concepts and having the courage to adopt and apply them.
An "A" is excellent (I guess you can't do better than that), but the energy you spent breaking it all apart and re-assembling is worth so much more than that. You have the power to impact so many.

neroli said...

Dear Joshua, welcome.
Thank you for you nice words; I'm glad that you've enjoyed your time here. It is good to meet new people, isn't it?
I'm having difficulty reading your blog, yes; but I do so enjoy the pictures. They do indeed talk.

Thank you!

neroli said...

Dear Min,
I feel as if I have so much to know and to learn, and I find that very exciting.
In MI terms, I must be receiving the proper input to activate my unique profile...
And if it works for me, well, then it can work for anyone---the proverbial "win-win" situation---and there's so much joy in that!

The Artist formerly Known as Purpleworms (!) said...

Congratulations! Welcome to the world of teaching! We stand up before the public, teach our hearts out and hope that somebody cares enough to listen. I would think teaching autistic children could be a welcome change in that they have good reason for not paying attention. I am disgusted and discouraged by your colleagues, but very happy that your professor found your presentation to be so excellent! Good job!

neroli said...

Dear Artist,
Thank you for waiting so long for my reply to your question.
The kids in my class are, I think, a fair representation of
K-1 kids in general: excited, funny, passionate, and completely themselves. If anything, they are perhaps a little more so---and so keep us honest with the learning---you know pretty quickly if you're not delivering something well-designed! (smiling)
As for the other students, my fellow grad students, they were probably bored. I was near-last of a long succession of presenters during a compacted summer session. I think I just get too excited about MI---and I think everyone else should, too!
The other colleauges, well, it's a skill set: and as such, very much open to learning.
I've got great hope.