Diversity of Talent

As you know, I’ve been studying a bit of Sir Ken Robinson lately and have really been recharged by his work.  I had listened to him years ago and remember being struck by his wisdom then, though I think as I revisit it now, what he has to say about creativity rings even deeper with me now.  It’s amazing how the same things will ring differently at different stages in our lives!

Other than discussing creativity, I also find it very powerful that Sir Robinson discusses the need for a variety of talents if we are to truly advance in our world.  Embracing that everyone is different and that not everyone needs the same track seems like common sense.  Because really – if we were all trained to be doctors, there would be no one out there who could run the prescriptions.  So part of our focus as educators should be in identifying the diversity of talent that is in our classroom and learning how to use that talent to help our students learn.

Yes – I said that we need to learn about our students.

We can’t just expect them to be jars waiting to be filled.  Those days are over (if they were ever with us in the first place).  As teachers, we need to take some of our precious time with our classrooms and get to know our learners.  What makes them happy?  What could they spend hours doing?  This is what will engage them.  If a student loves to dance after school, then any activity that you do that uses dance as a medium to teach the content will automatically make her more engaged.  If another student loves to play video games, then anything that you do that uses technology will make him sit up and contribute – not just listen.

What can be so frustrating about education sometimes is that we want all of our students to score well on our singularly-designed tests.  As long as they are the types of learners who know how to play the game of school, we feel like our schools are making progress.  And if they’re not those types of learners and are “bringing our scores down”, then we drill the life out of them until they know their times tables and can read like a robot.  We panic when we see diversity of talent in our classrooms.  Because, how do we deal with that on those tests?

Here’s the case that I have been making for years with educators:

If you foster the creativity, the test won’t matter.  A child that is learning through their talents will ace any test on that subject that you put in front of them.  Because the talent and creativity allows them to synthesize the information and create meaning for themselves.  Thus, any test that just wants the straight information is easy to them because it’s no longer about the information to them.  Instead, it’s about what THEY can DO with the information.

People consistently panic in education about how they will be assessed, how we’re going to measure learning, and what new curriculum we’re going to need to teach.  I don’t let any of that really affect me.  Good teaching is good teaching.  Period.  I can teach any curriculum you put in front of me and my students will do well on it every single time.  Because I don’t teach the information.  I teach the students how to use their individual talents to process and synthesize the information.  The rest just falls into place.  Teaching our students to accept, embrace and acknowledge their individual strengths and how to operate within those strengths is the key to make our educational system (and our society for that matter) strong.  Choose strong.  Go ahead and choose diversity.  Most importantly, choose them.