Monday, January 16, 2012

Average Kids?

Why is it that (except in athletics or the arts) teens work so hard to be 'average' and fit in, and we as parents want them to stand out or at the very least, excel?

What is 'average' anyway? When I 'googled' "average" this is what I got:

av·er·age/ˈav(ə)rij/

Noun:
The result obtained by adding several quantities together and then dividing this total by the number of quantities; the mean.

Adjective:
Constituting the result obtained by adding together several quantities and then dividing this total by the number of quantities.

Verb:
Amount to or achieve as an average rate or amount over a period of time: "annual inflation averaged 2.4 percent".

Synonyms:
noun.  mean - medium - mediocrity
 
I personally don't like the term, "average student" and based on Google's synonyms ("mediocrity") I may not be wrong.  Being "average" seems to limit a teacher's, student's, and parent's vision and expectations.   Every student has strengths and weaknesses that together create who he or she is. They may 'average' out to be a kid who functions somewhere in the middle of his or her peers on various tests and measures of achievement, but to say they are 'average' defeats their accomplishments and potential. Furthermore, I think every kid needs to see him or herself excelling, creating, and contributing in whatever unique way works best for them.

Howard Gardner addresses this in his Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory.  Gardner identifies nine different kinds of intelligence, each reflecting different ways of interacting with the world.  Each person has their own individual combination of these intelligences.   His nine intelligences are:
  1. Linguistic Intelligence - the capacity to understand, use, and manipulate language
  2. Logical Mathematical Intelligence - the capacity to understand, manipulate and express numbers, quantities, and numerical operations
  3. Musical Rhythmic Intelligence - the capacity to think in music, and to hear, recognize and manipulate music.
  4. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence - the capacity to use your body or body parts (hands, fingers, feet, etc.) to solve problems, to interact, and to express oneself (athletics, dance, performing arts are the most common examples of excellence in this)
  5. Spatial Intelligence - the capcity to represent the spatial world internally - to learn and integrate visual stimuli.  Spatial learners, for example, learn best by observing images, photos, graphs, charts (as opposed to listening to lectures or reading long passages).
  6. Naturalist Intelligence - refers to the capacity to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) and recognize patterns and features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations).
  7. Intrapersonal Intelligence - the capacity to understand yourself- who you are, how and why you react to various things the way you do, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, how to avoid pitfalls, etc.
  8. Interpersonal Intelligence - the capacity to understand other peoples' speech, body/facial language, postures, motivations, etc.
  9. Existential Intelligence - the capacity and proclivity to contemplate philosophical questions of life, death, reality, etc.
Additional resources: Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory explains these areas in more detail. Concepts to Classroom: Tapping into Multiple Intelligences offers a free self-paced workshop (via PBS) detailing MI (Multiple Intelligence) and how it can be integrated into classrooms. Finally, howardgardner.com has more updated work including Multimedia and Multiple Intelligences and Technology and Multiple Intelligences. .

Schools Attuned and All Kinds of Minds train parents and teachers to look at students along eight different "neurodevelopmental constructs." Much like Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences, we all have our own unique combination of skills which embody our own unique  learning profiles.  These profiles vary along eight different areas:
  1. Attention
  2. Memory
  3. Langauge
  4. Social cognition- understanding how dress, posture, tone, facial expressions, and verbal/nonverbal communication all help us better understand people and social situations around us
  5. Temporal and Spatial sequential processing - understanding time, recognizing how long things take, recognizing and being able to follow schedules and sequences (be this following directions, following time, or telling jokes or stories);
  6. Graphomotor skills - handwriting skills
  7. Fine and Gross motor skills - coordinating large and small muscle groups (for example, throwing a catching a ball involves large muscle groups while knitting involves smaller muscle groups)
  8. Higher order cognition - understanding abstract concepts, brainstorming, creating, analyzing, evaluating, comparing all involve higher order cognition.  It also involves 'metacognition' much like Gardner's Intrapersonal Intelligence - an ability to understand oneself - one's actions, thoughts and motivations.
Using either one of these approaches - be it recognizing and teaching to multiple intelligences or to recognizing your students learning profiles along various neurodevelopmental constructs has multiple benefits:
  • It validates each of your students, allowing them to excel in their areas of strength while strengthening areas of weakness
  • It helps teachers and students better understand each other, gaining greater self esteem and an ability and desire to take risks and reach for higher goals and expectations
  • It enables students to advocate more effectively for themselves.  Once one has a better understanding of learning strengths and weaknesses, one can seek more specific help in areas of weakness
  • It helps parents, teachers, and students to more realistically evaluate and approach school (and life) related problems.
I would like to think that each and every one of us has special gifts and skills that should be promoted.  Maybe "average" should be used to help describe performance, but not kids.  What do you think?

34 comments:

  1. Your Calvin and Hobbes sucked me in! We're big Calvin lovers around here. :) Sweet blog. Came by thru the hop.

    Melyssa from www.thedazeofus.blogspot.com

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  2. Exactly! I'm okay with the term describing performance but not people. I've read a bit about the different types of intelligences and love it, but what I find sad is that so many kids (and adults) don't think of themselves as intelligent because they don't fit the typical test-well mold.

    Here from the HHH!

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  3. I've always believed that each individual has his own strengths and weaknesses. Whenever I would assign a project type of test/evaluation, I would give many choices. The choices gave the students the opportunity to choose what specifically interested them during the learning process and what they felt capable of doing to illustrate their understanding. All the kids loved "project time" because they were fully involved and shared their final project with the rest of the class. In this way, everyone was able to excel. Great start to our 10th round, Meryl, and look forward to future posts.

    Leslie
    abcw team

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  4. Great Calvin and Hobbs cartoon.
    I never thought of Average as being mediocre before.
    I wish more teachers would look to the kids strengths and weaknesses instead of bundling everyone in together.

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  5. I strive to be not-so-average most of the time.

    Mine is Angel, please come and see.

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  6. Excellent post. I think it's so important to emphasize a students individual strengths although I understand it's hard at times for teachers to do that within time constraints.

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  7. I keep meaning to read that MI book; I own it.
    I'd be depressed if average - which screams "mediocrity" - were the goal.
    That said, I'm way above average in some things and exceptionally below in others. Does that mean it AVERAGES out?
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

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  8. Very good read. Stopping by from Tuesday train blog hop and following.

    Samantha http://musingsofmotherhoodwi.blogspot.com/

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  9. The list of multiple intelligences makes me think what a myriad of permutations in the world's people they will appear. Each one unique, and definitely not average.

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    Replies
    1. This is very informative though. The word average is very common and lots of people use it to describe their intelligence or capability. now that I read closely the synonyms of the word and its meaning, it seems like the word average doesn't fit at all to be put as remark in a kid's report card.

      Visiting from ABC Wednesday and RT

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  10. Great cartoon :-D
    Here from the Hop.

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  11. What an interesting approach to turning someone's average typing into something uniquely identifiable based upon someone's strenghts. We all have special talents. It's up to us to exercise those to help them to grow, and as an adult/parent it pays to nuture our children's talents instead of squashing them. Good read,Leslie!

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  12. Good Morning, visiting from blog hop. Following via GFC- Naddez. Please follow my blog at http://naddezsgoodycorner.blogspot.com

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  13. This is not an Average Post...but a very excellent one. How can anyone ever disagree with Calvin and Hobbes...love it!

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  14. Nice post. Visiting your site via the blog hop and am adding you as a follower. I really liked your detail in your post and will look forward to future posts.

    If you care to check out my site its http://hmmargazi.blogspot.com

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  15. I am a new follower. I found you on the whimsical Wednesday blog hop. Loved your post. I look forward to seeing more from you.

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  16. I loved how you empasized how important each person's gifts are. God created each one of us! How can one be average? We are all different! Thank you for reminding people of that. (I found you through ABC Wednesdays)

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  17. Really interesting post -- so important for teachers to recognize all these aspects of learning and individual strengths.

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  18. You had me at your thumbnail! I heart Calvin and Hobbs comics. Your timing is perfect as tonight I face 20 college seniors to begin their capstone project! Definitely food for thought.

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  19. Loved this! Embracing the strengths of our children rather than the common ideas and expectations could change the world. Dig your brain. :)

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  20. My older kids used to argue that it was OK to get a C because that was average. I maintained that average means takeing the lowest of the low and the highest together to get a number thats mediocre. We need to shoot for better than that. Kids are all different; they have different gifts and different ways of learning. I wish schools were better able to adapt their instruction to these needs. Great post!

    April

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  21. I don't think kids should be labeled as average at all. Great post!

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  22. This was great. As a mom and a former music ed major, I really appreciate your take on this :-) I know my kids are anything but average :-)

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  23. You have such a great blog! I'm now following from Welcome Wednesday! Feel free to follow back at www.dandygiveaway.com :)

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  24. Very good! I never want my children to use the term average. I want them to do their best and it just so happens that the educational system's definition of average is not good enough for my children. By the same token, I don't believe that my children have to be "above average" according to this same educational system's definition, or straight A students. Again, just do your best, is what I tell them.
    I'm following your via the weekend blog. Hope you'll follow back at brainlessmomof7.blogspot.com

    twitter @brainlessmomof7
    facebook brainlessmomof7

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  25. Hi! stopping by for the blog hop! now following..

    http://livinthemommylife.blogspot.com

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  26. I really love you blog and am a new fan.
    Can You please follow me back? (:

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  27. linking up via blogges.com.. glad I found your site....you can visit me at http://purplechronicle.blogspot.com/

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  28. Came by on the Weekend Warrior Blog Hop :-)
    Following GFC
    http://ramblingandadventure.blogspot.com/

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    Replies
    1. I am a new GFC follower. I found you through a blog hop. I would love for you to follow me back please. thanks
      http://www.chunkyandmonkeymd.com

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    2. sorry that was supposed to be a comment. I will head straight to your blog and follow you too :) would love the same

      Delete
  29. What a great article. I love your blog and just became a follower. I would love it if you followed me back.

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