Intelligence Isn’t Everything

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I’m one of those moms who had their kids tested for intelligence at a very young age. I insisted they be placed in gifted programs as young as kindergarten. I made sure they had music lessons, Eric and I coached Arielle’s Odyssey of The Mind team, and I insisted on straight A’s for many years. Why? I knew my kids were capable of the work and I didn’t want them to be slackers in school like Eric and me.

Eric is one of the most all-around intelligent people I know yet in school he did next to nothing and was once sent out of class because he was reading instead of paying attention and accidentally laughed out loud interrupting the teacher.

As for me, well…I never picked up a book, rarely did homework, wrote my term paper in one night and thought college was a place teens went to party. Since I wasn’t interested in partying–I wasn’t interested in college.

No one told me I was capable. I knew I learned differently from others. Every time someone would give me directions I often had trouble understanding exactly what they meant because I could see many different ways to interpret their instructions. I was too shy to ask questions and I thought I was dumb. Teachers stuck me in the “average” class so I performed average to less than.

There were two exceptions, however, that may have been the sparks to leading me to believe in myself. One was a fourth grade teacher named Mrs. Paterno in Vineland, New Jersey. She placed me in a group for creativity. It was the first time I felt good about school. Thank you, Mrs. Paterno! The next was a stranger. He was an acting teacher in New York City. I was 17 and determined to move to the city to pursue acting. I spent the afternoon auditioning and being interviewed by this man. When my father came to pick me up he told my father that I was “a very smart young lady.” I was shocked! No one had ever told me I was smart. Did he really think I was smart? Maybe I was just that good of an actor.

Anyway, it is for those reasons that I have a bit of an issue with leveling classes. I think it’s more important to try to get students to believe in themselves while teaching multiple intelligences rather than placing them in full-time classes based on a test score. Let’s face it. No matter how we try to hide the level of class to students they know where they fall. I did. Lippincott. It was the name of the highest reading group in elementary school that I was not placed in. Do the students who are in high level classes become more successful adults? What is it that makes people successful and what defines success? Many parents will say they want their children to be happy. That’s success. Absolutely, but we also want them to be able to pay their own bills and contribute to society.

I’m confident with my choices I made for my own children. I was involved and my kids had and have great teachers! It’s the students who don’t have parental support that I worry about. I was a teacher and I know it’s impossible for teachers to take the place of a parent that isn’t involved in their child’s education. How many of those children believe they are dumb, incapable of learning,  simply because their intelligence is stronger in something other than reading and math? Maybe they see the world differently and feel like a fish in a room full of owls. How many of those children can we inspire by simply teaching  about True Grit and how passion and perseverance in every aspect of life from education to friendship to making a difference can outweigh intelligence? Perhaps True Grit is its own intelligence…

A benefit to having a daughter in college is that she can share with me what she’s learned. Arielle and I had a conversation about True Grit and she told me about these videos. I think it’s the future of education and in our fast food world an essential lesson for students. Passion and Perseverance. True Grit.

It’s a holiday weekend which means I’ll only be writing my new novel not a Sunday post. Every time a student asks when the sequel to MYSTIC will be out I panic. I’m working on it. I promise! I’ll be back here on Wednesday probably with a chocolate pie recipe if all goes well. Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Featured Image by Stuart Richards

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