Intellect – The First I: Hooray for Monday

April 5, 2021

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

When I started studying education in the late 1980s, I learned about Howard Gardner‘s Multiple Intelligences. His central message, revolutionary at the time and still somewhat so, is that teachers and parents should stop asking if each child is smart, and instead start asking how each child is smart.

Intellect is the first of Inspired Teaching’s 4 I’s, which form the core of our Instructional Model. Building on the teachings of Howard Gardner and the decades of brain research sparked by his work, Inspired Teaching’s definition of intellect extends to the entire person, recognizing that intellect lives in the mind, but is not confined to the head. The way we move our bodies, the ways we speak, interact, listen, respond, absorb, synthesize, and act on information are all part of our intellect.

Like all of the 4 I’s, intellect is fluid, not fixed. It grows and strengthens with practice. Our job as teachers is to create and sustain learning environments where students are willing, even eager, to step outside their comfort zones and do the things that strengthen intellect. For example, we want our self-identified ‘math kids’ to delve deeply into mathematical thinking and try their hand at watercolors. We want our voracious readers to devour books and challenge themselves to deliver a speech on their favorites or try their hand at fan fiction. And we want to keep our own observation skills sharp, so we can identify the budding naturalist in the student who prefers collecting and cataloging insects to working on math problems or reading novels.

Our power as teachers lies in our ability to tap into the many ways each child can shine. This means supporting students in developing their intellects in areas that are both within and outside of their comfort zones. 

In addition to asking, “How is each student smart?” consider asking your students, “Where do you want to stretch your intellect? What do you want to learn how to do next?” These questions, which fuel the Wonder-Experiment-Learn Cycle, will be the focus of next week’s post on the second I: Inquiry.

May you find ways to stretch your own intellect this week!

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