"Your children are in a 'gifted' class." Those were the word other parents and I heard on curriculum night from my daughter's teacher.
Gifted? Really? My daughter?
Don't get me wrong, I love my daughter. She is the light of my life; she is one of the funniest ten year olds around and is extremely talented both musically and artistically, but gifted? Sure, my daughter has passed the WASL and the MSP (and whatever other standardized test acronyms they've thrown at her) - but just barely. In fact, her first grade teacher recommended her for "special" classes or extensive tutoring because of a minor reading disability. Still, she's managed to keep up with her class and is reading only slightly below grade level.
My daughter's current teacher went on to explain to the other parents and I the other night that her philosophy is that every child is gifted in their own way. Each child has different learning modalities and that she tries to work within them rather than in opposition to them. In other words, children learn differently and are better at different subjects. Some are good at math while others excel in reading. Some might be athletic while others are more comfortable in a science lab. Recognizing this she allows her students, for example, to substitute colored illustrations they've drawn for a portion of their assigned book reports (they still have to read the book!).
This came as tremendous news to my daughter who is what is described as a "visualizer." She loves to draw, build and design things and is a whiz at mazes. She hates reading or writing and cannot stand talking on the phone (all strengths of "word players" like me).
Dr. Howard Gardner from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education has done quite a bit of research on multiple intelligences. One of the best sites I've found that breaks down his research in non-academic language describes the seven different learning modalities he developed, including: linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial and interpersonal. If the descriptions provided on that site might as well be written in Greek as far as you're concerned, there is another website I found online that describes Gardner's concepts in a more visual way.
One of the complaints many education reformists have about the current U.S. education system is that it fails to recognize multiple intelligences and treats all students as cookie cutters. For the most part students in most schools are expected to learn the same things, at the same pace, in the same way and take the same tests regardless of their differences. Too many times administrators who are attempting to make the grade under No Child Left Behind forsake the notion of adapting the curriculum to their students' learning strengths.
I learned at a young age, square pegs do not fit into triangular holes. Thankfully there are teachers, like my daughter's, who recognize that ALL children are gifted in some way and are all capable of learning, though not necessarily in the way the system thinks they should.
Clearly those who support the idea of education reform and the notion of acknowledging students' different learning modalities aren't alone in their thinking. MSNBC today released the results of an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey that indicates that six out of ten of us believe our schools either need major changes or a complete overhaul. Their report is the first in a series of extensive coverage on the state of education in the U.S. by KING-5 News and the NBC family. Please take time to watch our "Education Nation" reports this week and join in the conversation.