How Genius Qualities Get Shut Down
I’ve enjoyed sharing about the 12 genius qualities in the past few months. Thanks, as always, for reading my blog. I pray you’ve benefited from learning about this unique look at geniuses and that you’ve shared the ideas with your children to encourage them.
Whether or not we personally develop any or all of the 12 genius qualities or develop them in children we love is up to us. Dr. Armstrong, whose work I’ve been sharing, concluded that all people are innately open to these genius qualities. I believe that, as with the smarts, each quality can be awakened and strengthened. And each can be stifled or stopped by the people we interact with and by our environment.
Using the word genius was deliberate and provocative, as Dr. Armstrong openly admits, just as was Dr. Gardner’s purposeful use of plural intelligences to get people to think. As I share in the book I wrote with Tina Hollenbeck and Brad Sargent, by genius, Dr. Armstrong means “giving birth to one’s joy.” This goes back to original meanings in the Greek and Latin word roots. He also says that “it is the genius of the student that is the driving force behind all learning,” and “a symbol for an individual’s potential: all that a person may be that lies locked inside during the early years of development.”
When writing how discouraging shutting down the genius qualities can be, in his 1998 book, Awakening Genius in the Classroom, Dr. Armstrong concludes:
Even in the most troubled and troublesome of learners the genius is still alive – somewhere. It may be buried under loads of put-downs, negative evaluations, low grades and test scores, delinquent behavior, self-hatred, and more, but like the seed in winter that lies dormant while braving the toughest storms and coldest arctic spells only to blossom with the sun’s warmth in the spring, this genius too can survive if you will take the time to study the optimum conditions for its growth. (page 48)
Let’s be encouraged by this! How can we awaken or reawaken the genius qualities for school and life despite so many surrounding forces that would seek to shut genius qualities down? (See last week’s blog about how the qualities are shut down.)
- Reawaken the genius in yourself. He challenges us to get through our disappointments and fears, and find inspiration instead of letting ourselves stall in stagnation. We can revive hobbies and activities that we’ve let fall into neglect. We can play, collect, study, or try something new. We can rediscover what makes us feel truly alive!
- Provide simple genius experiences while learning. I appreciate Dr. Armstrong’s emphasis on simple source materials and experiences, where children can combine, practice, move, observe, hear, question, manipulate, read, try, glue, taste, relate, etc. While presenting children with finished products can lead to inspiration, supplying raw materials instead leaves far more room for exploration and illumination – and the emotional surge of surprise, delight, and awe that can go with it. Think of it as a version of show-and-tell to draw in children’s interest in order to draw out their genius.
- Create a genial climate while learning. This important climate includes:
Freedom to choose from a variety of options for how to study, and how to express what they are learning.
Take time for open-ended exploration where the routes, goals, and timing of the learning trajectory may be indefinite, unfixed, imprecise, unscripted, and non-linear. (This can be so hard for me, but it’s so important!)
Freedom from judgment and from being dominated by systems built on ranking systems that promote some as elite and demote others as inferior. And when standardized tests are required, encourage kids that “their true mission is to focus on the intrinsic joy of learning.”
Honoring of every student’s experience, regardless of how they compare with the experiences of adults or other kids. This helps create “an atmosphere of trust, mutual understanding, and diversity of opinion.”
Use the genius words. In addition to telling children they’re good, clever, and right, tell them when they’re being joyful, creative, inventive, playful, etc. These words can draw more of these qualities from them.
Believe in every student’s genius even if it’s not often expressed.
What do you think? How have you been doing at this? If you have valued the qualities as you’ve read my blog, this list is important for you to remember. Perhaps print it out and examine yourself on a regular basis. Challenge your kids if they’re shutting down their own qualities.
Let’s raise and educate geniuses!
Check out other blogs in this series: