Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Theory of Multiple Stupidities

We have been talking about Gardner’s theories of multiple intelligences in our psychology class and this made me think about a lot of the negativity I have noticed from some teachers.  First off, being realistic is just a euphemism that pessimists use.  No one wants to admit to being a pessimist but let’s be realistic shall we?  Second, I am not a genius.  If we are to describe learners as having a thirst for knowledge and smart people as a fountain of knowledge then I am, at best, a leaky faucet which is probably more annoying than elucidating. 

The theory of multiple intelligences, however, states that a person might not be universally smart but rather that, they can excel in one area and need a lot of help in another.  For example you might have a student who is on the road to becoming the next Shakespeare but when faced with a math problem they start sweating like a dyslexic in a spelling bee.  The problem I have with this is how we label students as certain types of learners.  Oh I am a visual learner so if you don’t give me a diagram I am not going to figure it out.  Guess what, diagrams help everyone.  I would much rather it be viewed as the theory of multiple aptitudes meaning that you are not dumb everywhere except your field but rather that you possess a strong aptitude towards something.

With that being said it might take some students longer to figure out a certain concept than others but with effort most will get there.  The key is that effort is required.  If you are reading this you are most likely in the education program and you have had success in your schooling.  Now imagine if your teacher wrote you off as being dumb simply because a concept did not come naturally for you.  Maybe someone told you that you weren’t smart in that field but don’t worry everyone has something they are good at.  Truth is maybe you would have figured it out in two minutes or even two months but you would have eventually figured it out.  Unfortunately, now you write yourself off in that subject area because it is not your field.  If you want the practical application of this then try working in the trades industry with an English and history degree and see what kind of respect you are afforded for your accomplishments.  The moment you write someone off as an English person or a math person is the same moment that you cater towards the English people in your English classes and let the math people slide, whereby they could potentially be missing out on something that they might find truly rewarding.

The point is that there is nothing inside my head which is so complex that it cannot be explained to someone who wants to learn it.  I enjoy teaching not only because I love the random analogies that I come up with to explain concepts (like me being an idiot jumping out and scaring someone at a certain corner everyday as an example of classical conditioning) but also because I love to share the knowledge that I have.  This is how my mind works.  Yes I am being self deprecating when I call myself a leaky faucet of knowledge but what benefit does it serve anyone to stand up all high and mighty on a degree claiming to be the source of all knowledge.  Is it not better to be on the same level as your students learning with them as they go along?  The best teachers I have seen are the ones who know their material, know their students, and can make fun of themselves. 

So yeah I am going to keep calling myself an English dork… and I will do it with enthusiasm.



  1. "...stand up all high and mighty on a degree claiming to be the source of all knowledge. Is it not better to be on the same level as your students learning with them as they go along? The best teachers I have seen are the ones who know their material, know their students, and can the ones who can make fun of themselves. "

    This is what I've been saying the whole time. However, I don't think I am an 'English dork' or any other type of dork as I really haven't found any of the academic areas to be my favourite classes (Math, Science, Socials, English, etc.). However, like you, I consider myself a TEACHER. My whole life I have tried to teach those around me what I KNOW. And yah, maybe what I know isn't a lot to call myself an expert, but it is enough to aid others in their learning. When it comes time to teach (like when I'm tutoring) I try to make sure I KNOW what I'm talking about so that I can explain it in many different ways to my students. That is one of the beauties of teaching ESL- You have to say one thing in three different ways so that they can understand what you're trying to explain.

    Anyways, I just wanted to say, YES, I completely and whole-heartedly agree.
    Now, feel free to look through and point out all my spelling mistakes
    Your children's English Teacher

  2. Gardner has a lot of critics who suggest that his theory is not grounded in significant empirical evidence.

    I guess what you're suggesting is that you would rather sit in class with someone who values humour and humility as much as information/skill- May leaky faucets of knowledge reign!