“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein
I was having a really interesting conversation with a parent about technology and the thought that it is leading to the decline of intelligence. She shared with me her belief that many students struggled with reading and writing because of a dependence of use on things such as spell check, and that kids just didn’t seem as “smart” as we were in our youth. Then she asked me about where she could learn more about this idea, and I simply said “Twitter”. She responded that she had no idea how to use it, to which I asked her, “Do you think some kids could show you?” Obviously she responded with the answer “yes”, to which I replied, “to some of those kids, they would think you are the dumb one.”
I didn’t say this to berate her in any manner, but to challenge her thinking that sometimes we base someone’s intelligence on the information we value, not necessarily on what they value and/or know. To the person that can fix my car, I see them as a genius. I honestly don’t know if they finished high school or what their grades were, but looking at them as someone who is expert in an area that I have no clue. Because you know something that I don’t doesn’t make me less intelligent, and vice versa. We all have different strengths and knowledge, but the question we should focus on is how do we tap into people, instead of trying to fit different shaped pegs into a single standardized hole?
That’s why I look to people like Chris Wejr, who not only focus on developing strengths into students, but also in staff. Staff that are recognized and encouraged to develop their strengths, also treat their students with the same regard. So instead of focusing on what people don’t know, schools would benefit from focusing on what they do know and helping them develop those strengths as long with their weaknesses.
It is easy to constantly focus on what is lacking, but it also loses people along the way who do not feel valued. Knowing and tapping into someone’s strengths often leads to the confidence and competence to learn in other areas. As learners, we are individuals, and should always be treated as such.