Seeing – and Nurturing – the Genius in our Students

By Rick Ackerly, Guest Blogger

In the foreword to Schools for All Kinds of Minds, Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s, writes:

More than ever, America needs the kinds of minds that generate new perspectives, seek solutions, and discover emerging opportunities. Those are the minds of many of the students in your schools today who, at first glance, look a lot like the struggling student I was in school. I invite you to take a second look at the individuals who walk through your school doors. Join us in helping as many kids as possible become more aware of their unique talents and more confident in their learning abilities—and help us rescue the wonderful potential that may otherwise be lost.

 

Slow it down. He said a mouthful, and it is critical that we get all the pieces of this:

  1. The world needs graduates who generate new perspectives, seek solutions, and discover emerging opportunities.
  2. We need all kinds of minds fully functioning and geared into the real world in productive ways.
  3. We need all kinds of minds to be good at different points of view, good problem solvers, curious about and capable of doing something with new opportunities.
  4. Visit any number of schools across the country and it won’t be obvious that the teachers and students are working on this need. It seems they are about other business. If they are struggling, let them be struggling toward the most important outcome. What was that? “Generate new perspectives, seek solutions, and discover emerging opportunities.”
  5. Take a second look at each student. See the genius in them. Notice them in their uniqueness. See that each one has a brain that activates when curious.
  6. Each of us is more powerful when we are aware of, appreciate, and see the power in our unique learning abilities—our unique approach to the world. That is a good definition of “confidence.”
  7. We must stop squandering an enormous amount of human potential.

And speaking of mouthfuls, Schools for All Kinds of Minds is one well worth reading for those of you aspiring to be leaders of learning.

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Rick Ackerly is a nationally recognized educator and speaker with 44 years of experience working in and for schools.  He recently published his first book, The Genius in Children: Bringing Out the Best in Your Child.  Rick’s articles about education and diversity have appeared in Education Week, The New York Times, The Independent School, and Multicultural Education. You can read his short weekly essays on his website.

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Note from All Kinds of Minds:  Did you hear about our free book giveaway?  We’ve already given away two books!  Here’s how it works: Each week that we feature a blog post related to Schools for All Kinds of Minds, we’ll be giving away a free, signed copy of the book!  To be entered to win this week, you must (1) subscribe to our blog, and (2) share your thoughts about this blog entry by posting a comment.  Remember: Non-subscribers are not eligible to win!  Subscribing is easy: just look for the “Email Subscription” box to the right.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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8 thoughts on “Seeing – and Nurturing – the Genius in our Students

  1. Rick Ackerly has captured the essence of Jenifer Fox’s mission to Develop Your Child’s Strengths (2008) and extends the process to the end result that by doing so, we will produce learners who can think out of the box and who have developed their own strengths. By developing their strengths, these learners are ready to meet the challenges that society will throw in their direction. We must all meet this challenge and assist each student in not only finding their strengths, but living in them as well.

  2. I so agree! I started out teaching science and now am a special education teacher. I have learned to see the genious in all of my students and always teach them that they are intelligent in something special to them; it is just up to them to find it.

  3. As I work in many different classrooms, I see so few teachers who really look for the genius in each child. I wish they could stop being so busy, and build relationships with the students, and get to know each one’s uniqueness. It is sad to see so much potential become wasted when a teacher feels that a child is “lazy,” or “out of control,” or “just isn’t interested in learning.” (even in primary grades!)

    I want to take each one of the little ones, especially, home with me to help them see how special they are and how they ARE geniuses in their own way!

  4. I believe that we as a district have made the shift from teaching to learning and this has been huge for our students. Our teachers no longer look at what they’ve taught but look at what the students have learned. We are using backwards design and are developing units that help our students understand the enduring understandings and are able to develop the big ideas. This has been a great shift in working to help all students learn to their highest ability. Trying to meet our students where they are and help them move to the next level has been a challenge for us but the staff sees the work as important for our students and is willing to put the time in to make it work.

  5. Despite strides in educator’s understanding of students with learning difficulties, my students still are considered the “low” group by most general educators and they get what they expect in their classes! When I use students’ strengths to help them improve their learning difficulties I get performance beyond what the gen ed teachers can believe. If we ALL had the same process, think where those students could be. I find that LD and BD students have the risk taking, “no fear” attitude to do great things if they are nurtured and the “low” label gets dropped.

  6. As I work in many different classrooms, I see so few teachers who really look for the genius in each child. I wish they could stop being so busy, and build relationships with the students, and get to know each one’s uniqueness. It is sad to see so much potential become wasted when a teacher feels that a child is “lazy,” or “out of control,” or “just isn’t interested in learning.” (even in primary grades!) I want to take each one of the little ones, especially, home with me to help them see how special they are and how they ARE geniuses in their own way!

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