Those who have toured our school with me know that it takes about an hour. That’s not because the school is so big; it’s because it takes that long to get a clearer picture of a child’s true intelligence and temperament. I can always see the coaching that’s been done ahead of the tour/interview:
“My name is Bryce. I can spell that. B-r-y-c-e. And I can count to a hundred: 1, 2, 3…”
Intelligence is so much bigger than just the facts we know. One of my favorite phrases is: We can teach you all the facts in the world, but if you cannot create, you’re only good for Jeopardy.
About forty-five minutes into the tour/interview, the child has forgotten all prior instruction, and I can see him as he most likely will be at school. I ask open-ended questions and look at the way the child thinks. That’s the intelligence for which I’m looking.
The same can be said for the way in which we hire teachers at our school. Straight A’s on a transcript doesn’t mean the person can think his way out of a box. We need to know that the teacher, under the “direct fire” of gifted students, can successfully instruct, with thought-provoking lessons and an open mind.
So, I guess I’d say that intelligence, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I have had geniuses who have no common sense; I’ve had C students who possess the wisdom of someone three times their ages. This is why the team approach is such an important component of the way we instruct. Different intelligences for different pursuits.
While we are a school aimed at the instruction of gifted students, we do not require an applicant to have tested as “gifted.” Our definition is so much broader than most schools. By our definition, gifted students learn equally-well no matter by what modality a teacher is instructing. They grasp the concepts surrounding an idea, and they deliberate on consequences of actions. Bossy young gifted students become leaders, and stubborn gifted become steadfast.
Wo do have some students, though, who fall under the label “gifted/LD.” What? How can a child be gifted and have a learning disability? Easily. The brain has the potential of literally thousands of little malfunctions. Just because one little section of the brain isn’t quite up to code doesn’t mean the rest isn’t beyond that same code. “Learning disabled” is a dying phrase anyway. Many educators believe that students previously diagnosed as “LD,” simply think differently than the majority. Go figure!
When I taught in California (decades ago), I learned that it was illegal to give the IQ test there because it was so skewed to white males… which means the designers made it in such a way that it played to the learning strengths of white males. Everyone else was already at a disadvantage before even attempting the test. If that is really true, then how can we truly test for intelligence? Our elementary school uses the Iowa Test of Basic Skills because we can see how our kids are doing compared to school kids all over the nation. After my secondary repeatedly came out well-above average, I decided to switch to the PSAT tests. My sixth through eighth graders take the PSAT8/9, which is generated for current eighth graders and freshmen. I decided gifted kids shouldn’t look at their age/peers and compare; they should test “up.” We take that test this Wednesday, so I’ll be able to see if my change was a good one or not in a few weeks.
In the meantime, I think the best thing to do is to celebrate with your child when he shows genius, not worry when he does not, and look for ways to let him perform in his intelligence area. This will build comfort in areas that are not his forte. The more comfort he feels, the more likely he is to attempt. The more attempts, the more chances for success. Your child’s intelligence will grow with each step. And that’s what we’re after, right?!