Posted in Miscellaneous

Genius Fish Trying to Climb Trees (and Howard Gardner)

“Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

This quote is commonly attributed to Albert Einstein, arguably the most famous/celebrated/iconicized genius of the modern era.  It’s also one of my favorite sayings.  If the man who comes to mind first in a free association with the word “genius” can be so generous with the term, why don’t we use it more freely?  Why do we, as a culture, label geniusness as a rarity when a universally acknowledged genius claims it’s a trait common to humanity?

Well, I have my theories.  (Keep in mind, this isn’t a research paper; it’s a blog to share ideas about education, so these are the thoughts and observations of a 20-something-year-old who really just started consciously observing a few years ago.  That said, I have done a bit of homework on this topic because it fascinates me.)

During the Cold War, Russia beat the U.S. in the Space Race with Sputnik and we, in America, freaked out.  Following President Reagan’s A Nation At Risk report/reform for education, our educational system underwent a shift toward math-y/science-y/now stereotypically “academic” subjects, thus narrowing our focus toward a particular realm of education.  Over the years and through the budget cuts, that shift has become more pronounced.  Think about the SAT for a minute.  “Each standard edition of the SAT includes critical reading, mathematics, and writing questions divided into 10 test sections.”  That’s straight off the College Board SAT page, bold and all.  And the ACT? English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and Writing.  (And from personal experience, I think the science section is actually code for “graph-reading and cryptic question interpretation” skills.)  So all that matters for a person’s projected success in college and life beyond is his or her ability to answer questions based on three to five specific areas of knowledge?  Elements of art, music, cultural literacy, and interpersonal savvy are irrelevant?

Of course not.  But how else would we measure a person’s readiness for the rigors of college academics?  My question is: do we have to?  But that’s for another day.  I’ve already bitten off more than I can chew.

Enter Howard Gardner and his revolutionary theory of multiple intelligences.  In his book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner summarizes his theory.

“…all human beings possess not just a single intelligence (often called by psychologists “g” for general intelligence).  Rather, as a species, we human beings are better described as having a set a relatively autonomous intelligences.  Most lay and scholarly writings about intelligence focus on a combination of linguistic and logical intelligences—the particular intellectual strengths…and territory spanned by most intelligence tests. However, a fuller appreciation of human cognitive capacities emerges if we take into account spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligences.  We all have these intelligences, that’s what makes us human beings, cognitively speaking.  Yet at any particular moment individuals differ…in their respective profiles of intellectual strengths and weaknesses.”   

My younger brother is a kinesthetic genius.  The boy moves himself through space in ways that baffle me.  Growing up, I was labeled a “smart kid” because I had a precocious vocabulary, and he was put in remedial math because he preferred the practical application of physics at the skatepark.  He intuitively understands motion, energy, and angles in ways I can only dream of comprehending if my coordination ever catches up with my vocabulary. (He’s actually quite adept at math now, too.)

One of my colleagues is a genius of a teacher (and a brilliant performer). She can command the attention and respect of a roomful of rowdy first-graders and help them enjoy learning.  Another friend of mine is an interpersonal genius.  She can read people like books, and she intuitively knows what they need and how to give it to them. Another of my friends is a musical genius.  She can make up an accompaniment to any song you can sing while you sing it and transcribe any tune she hears in one take.

You get the idea.  You and I could each come up with dozens of other accounts of unorthodox genius-hood.  It’s a not namby-pamby, make-everyone-feel-smart, lower-the-standard-of-excellence, “now that everyone is special, no one is” theory, either.  At least, Einstein didn’t seem to think geniusness was a zero-sum game.  And yet, we test and judge people with a very limited set of criteria.  We evaluate and quantify the essence of people’s “intelligence quotient” with only a marginal slice of the intelligence pie because our culture has trained us to equate intelligence with measurable logical or linguistic test scores.  Imagine the potential that may forever lie dormant in people society has labeled “not smart” or “unintelligent” because their intellectual profile differs from the commonly accepted mold of “intelligence.”  (And weep a little bit for a contribution society deprived itself.)

So really, everyone is a genius. But we won’t know because we operate under a system that judges fish by their ability to climb trees.

Posted in Miscellaneous

My Favorite Picture Books

During the past couple semesters in the Elementary Education Program, I have realized that the further I get into the program, the more I enjoy the activities I loved as a child. One of these activities includes reading children’s books. For this post I wanted to pay homage in a way to my favorite picture books I loved as a child, and then also point out a series of picture books I have more recently found and love. You may recognize some of these books and others you may not, but I love them all!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Make_Way_for_Ducklings

My first favorite picture book is probably one most of you recognize. It is titled Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. I love this book for the sentimental reason that my grandma gave it to me and would read it to me, and also because I loved the storyline and pictures. The story follows Mr. and Mrs. Mallard in their struggles to find a home for their newborn ducklings.  After flying over almost all of Boston, they finally find a safe place to raise their family. This happy book is such a classic that every child should have it read to them at least once.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/6941421

My next favorite picture book is Purple, Green, and Yellow written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Hélène Desputeaux. I loved this book as a child and I now love to read it to my 4-year-old younger brother who loves it as well. This book is a lot fun and follows the main character, Brigid, through her creative journey of loving markers and then coloring on herself with her “super-indelible-never-come-off-til-you’re- dead-and-maybe-even-later” coloring markings. After doing this she has to see the doctor and ends up having to recolor herself her normal colors. For me, this book is one of the classics that I will always enjoy.

http://movingmommy.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/147/

Some of my new favorite picture books are the “Fancy Nancy” books. These books are perfect for any girl (especially girly girls) because the wording is filled with frill and fun. However, it is not just the words that are descriptive and fun; the pictures are also laced with detail, sparkle and extravagance. Overall, these books are enjoyable to look at.

I know that everyone has their own favorite picture books, but in my mind these are the ones I will always love and enjoy. These are also the books that I will have in my home for my children to read, and I will definitely make them a part of my classroom library. As future teachers, it is important to know about different books so we can suggest enjoyable books for our students to read. If the students enjoy reading while they are young, they are more likely to enjoy reading when they are older.

Posted in Miscellaneous

General Conference October 2012

In less than two weeks, we will have the opportunity to hear from our church leaders at General Conference. I encourage you to prepare for conference. If we are willing to learn and to change, we will be molded like clay in the Lord’s hands (Jeremiah 18:6) and will be changed for the better. Invite others to participate in General Conference. It is a great way to be a missionary and invite others to hear the powerful testimonies of our leaders. The Church published the following video that makes me so excited for General Conference. Enjoy!

The live broadcast will be available from the following sources:

In addition, many local cable and radio stations make conference readily available. Visit www.bonneville.info for broadcast information or check local listings.

Posted in Miscellaneous

The Praxis Exam

I’d heard about the Praxis II exam before, but I wasn’t sure about the details until I researched it recently. It’s an important exam for all future teachers to know about and to plan ahead for. The Praxis II is an exam that tests the content knowledge of teachers to make sure they are qualified to teach, in accordance with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. There are actually many Praxis exams, and the one(s) you take depend(s) on your teaching major or minor. BYU has posted a list of what test(s) you need to take for each major and minor.

You should take the Praxis II exam the semester before you student teach so that BYU can receive your results before you graduate. You cannot graduate as a teacher unless you have passed the Praxis II exam. You need to register for the test and pay a fee (which ranges from $50 to $150 depending on the test). Some tests have the option of choosing a computer- or paper-delivered version.

There are many ways you can prepare for the Praxis II exam. You can review notes from content-based classes that you have taken. Studying in groups is always valuable, and the official website has important information, sample questions, and study guides you can buy. Remember that the tests are comprehensive so you will have to synthesize information you have learned in many different classes.
“Praxis” means “translating an idea into action” (definitions.net). While the tests might be hard, I think they are a good way to assess if we are prepared to teach. Then we will be prepared to put all the ideas we have learned into action.
If you are interested in further information, you can visit BYU’s Praxis Information page, the official Praxis website, or meet with a counselor.