LOVE IN ANY LANGUAGE: FOSTERING MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES

…The sounds are all as different
As the lands from which they came
And though our words are all unique
Our hearts are still the same

Love in any language, straight from the heart
Pulls us all together, never apart
And once we learn to speak it, all the world will hear
Love in any language, fluently spoken here…

Though the rhetoric of government
May keep us worlds apart
There’s no misinterpreting
The language of the heart

Love in any language, straight from the heart
Pulls us all together, never apart
And once we learn to speak it, all the world will hear
Love in any language, fluently spoken here ( John Mays  & Jon Mohr, 1986)

 

On May 14, 2017 the world celebrated Moms.  While most places buzzed with excitement at the anticipation of the day’s events, Jamaica faced the second most historic weather system to hit the island at this time with the winds and the rains that have continued to cause flooding and landslides in many communities across the country.  Yet, the celebrations continued – public ones and private ones.  I, the good Jamaican daughter that I am, entered the kitchen early, preparing a special dinner for the family; and, then later took Mom to see a wonderful concert by Adahzeh – The Kingz Daughtaz.  The sounds of reggae music rocked the audience as the only all girls band in Jamaica proved to us how great it is to be a Mom, to raise children who can bring such joy and delight to a packed auditorium.  Our bellies were filled with sumptuous tastes of traditional Jamaican foods – jerk chicken and jerk pork, escoveitch fish, curry chicken, stamp and go, roti and potato sticks.  Mummies, Daddies, and children rocked, clapped, danced and laughed as the sounds of all the generations – past, present, and future filled the ear.  Yet, how did we get here?  How did this crowd of music lovers come to be in the midst of a campus dedicated to worship and education on a rainy Sunday evening?  In a word – Mom; and, the world that she creates for us.

Mom – our first teacher about the world.  Mom, our first introduction to the world.  From the precious secret nestled in her womb to the nursing babe hours after birth, Mom knows how to interpret her infant’s movements, sounds, and gestures.  She knows what noises make her baby restless and which ones make her baby relaxed and restful in stillness.  She knows which textures her baby enjoys by the feel of the clothing she puts on and the fabrics used in keeping them clean, warm and dry.  She recognizes her baby’s excited reaction to bath time – laughing at the feel of the water on the skin, splashing happily in the small pool around them in the tub.  She is the teacher, the master of their intelligences.  As Mom schools us in the curriculum of life, we learn to interpret the world around us.  In time we are introduced to the formal curriculum of school and later the training required for work.

However, Mom does not work alone.  Men have a special awareness as observers of human behavior too.  Harvard Psychologist, Howard Gardner (1983) is credited with introducing the idea of multiple intelligences to the field.  This theory proposes at least seven ways (“intelligences”) that people understand and perceive the world.  These intelligences include linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, body-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.  All these intelligences have implications for the ways in which we learn and recall necessary information.  They also have implication for the careers that we select as adults.  Although most educational curricula are primarily verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical, balanced institutions introduce the arts, physical education, communication (speech/debating), self-awareness (grooming and etiquette), leadership (girl’s and boy’s clubs) and more.

So, with intuitive reasoning and some of the research findings that corroborate music as a tool for teaching and learning, the development of spatial skills, emotional intelligence and more, a case can be made for fostering multiple intelligences through formal education.  Understanding, multiple intelligences help us to understand each other, to understand culture, to understand mathematics and its application to life, and how language can be used to negotiate and calm frazzled egos.  The concept is important to us in our global and our local communities because it helps us to understand how we learn and where we fit.  At the micro level, understanding multiple intelligences helps us to acknowledge different abilities, and systematically hone raw talents into disciplined and highly-developed skills.

Multiple intelligences have implications for how teachers teach and how students learn, in school but also on-the-job.  Consider a teacher attempting to teach her class about the world and how the world was created.  There are several methods that she can use to introduce the topic.  She can lead a discussion and ask them if they have ever heard anyone talk about creation, in what context, and how.  She can discuss the creation story most familiar to the students.  Alternatively, she can bring in a film on evolution and the Big Bang theory and have students view impressive cinematography and hear interesting facts narrated in a script written by a trained filmmaker.  A third option would be to take the students on a nature walk and ask questions about the intelligent design that is apparent in every aspect of nature.  She can highlight humans as the highest lifeform with analytical and reflective capacity, and the animals and the plants having their appropriate place and making contribution to the earth’s environment to sustain life, promote reproduction, and manage disease and death.  An assignment to help the students explore the concepts on their own would involve giving them a research question to look at a particular aspect of life that is interesting to them, and to describe, using the three theories, how each would account for the existence of life.  They would be required to submit a 500 word report on their findings within 2 weeks, and to make a presentation in class using whatever aids that they desired – slides, music, film, and so on.

Step-by-step, lesson-by-lesson and day-by-day, teachers work to build capacity within students through an understanding of multiple intelligences.  When their work is done, we get what we got at the Stella Maris Auditorium on Mother’s Day – a seamless performance of cultivated discipline, incredible mastery, and measured fun in the midst of the demands of a continuous life.  So, slow down a little when a child asks an apparently unusual question, or exhibits some unusual talent at making noise.  It could be a place for moms, dads, and teachers to join forces to create the next generation of perfected syncopation!

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