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Guest Posts, Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

Intrapersonal Awareness in Education (Guest Post by Landon Gupta)

Early in my college-level studies I went into counseling and psychotherapy. In the course of a few semesters my intrapsychic being began to undergo such a radical transformation that the counseling model continues to greatly influence my outlook on education. I also feel very strongly about the potential inherent by developing each aspect of multiple intelligence. I reckon that, in order to be balanced in each multiple intelligence (MI), human beings in general and children in particular need unconditional support through the use of emotionally considerate language and compassionate comport on behalf of all adults in their lives.

For instance, I could envision adults thinking of their own capacity for certain MI’s; they might say, “I am terrible at (math / singing / dancing / catching / throwing / writing / spelling / using maps / describing myself / talking in front of a group),” and in general one might dismiss that person’s expression altogether, not thinking twice about the lack of confidence that person might be feeling in relation to a particular MI. It is practically unheard of to encourage another person to openly elaborate on negative feelings. Now consider a child saying “I am not good at …(input MI),” and acting in avoidance toward a certain activity. How would you, as a parent or compassionate educator, respond? Would you say, “Yea, you’re probably right — better to not even try it; just go do something you’re already pretty good at,” or would you say, “That’s why it’s a good idea to put in some effort and learn something new!” Clearly the supportive attitude will take the child (or adult) further into the authentic expression of her potential than the negative one would.

I worked in a highly structured developmental school for two years before beginning to substitute teach in an inner city school. The biggest difference I noticed is the way the staff interacted with the students. In the developmental school staff very rarely talked above a normal conversational tone, and always used considerate language when asking a student to do an activity. When I went to the inner city I could hear teachers screaming, when I was at the opposite end of the hallway. Staff members would be literally yelling at students in order to achieve the external appearance of compliance or group conformity. I can only imagine what the student (and teacher) was feeling — if I was in complete shock!

I think that schools really need to focus on the interpersonal and intrapersonal MI aspects to start with. Then, in everything the child does, there will be comfort and ease in the school environment. From that ease of mind there can be nurtured a continual awareness of thoughts and feelings, and an open, honest, and genuine expression of that awareness throughout the course of the day. However, if the child is raised to disregard her emotional needs in order to comply to an authoritarian figure, one who teaches first and foremost that the individual voice is to be suppressed and not expressed, then to achieve actualization in more than one or two MI’s is highly improbable.

So again I am back at a modeling of counseling. But I don’t think it is necessary to introduce intensive interventions or the need to suspend students and send them for counseling services, if (and this is a big if), if educational staff can themselves learn to think, speak, and interact with a genuine sense of mutual support. By educating teachers to be mindful of their comport, and cognizant of their own waking thoughts and emotions, there is a highly increased likelihood that the child will develop in a carefree way, one which embodies enthusiasm, eagerness, and an earnest drive to learn not only from books but from all experiences which the child encounters. When the child is totally supported socially and emotionally, first and foremost, then all of her endeavors will be genuine and wholehearted.

However, being a professional fledgling with no class of my own I am uncertain as to how balance of MI or even create an emphasis on interpersonal and intrapersonal awareness, which can be fully integrated on a daily basis. I do not know the fiscal feasibility of asking whole schools, towns, and districts to implement social-emotional learning programs. I do not know if teachers would be willing to introspect into their own intrapsychic processes when their inner-mind might have been relatively unexplored for the greater part of their lives.

BIO: Landon Gupta is interested in the neurological impacts of relationships in education. Student at Goddard college. Focuses on the effects of business in education.


4 thoughts on “Intrapersonal Awareness in Education (Guest Post by Landon Gupta)

  1. Here, here! I think there is a lot of wisdom in your post. And I agree that we should strive to infuse all of our interactions with young people with the kind of kindness, gentleness, caring and nurturing spirit that you imply, all other goals become more feasible and the world opens up.

    If I can digress just a bit…One of the issues I have with Gardner’s MI theory is that while it attempts to broaden our understanding of what is meant by the term “intelligence,” and call attention to its narrowness in contemporary usage, Gardner’s still seems to me to be a reductionist theory. That is, he tries to elucidate something as vast and whole as human consciousness and break it down, reduce it, into isolated constituent parts. This is a typical modernist, scientific, and scientistic move that serves to further fragment and disenchant a holistic understanding of the world and ourselves.

    In your intent, Landon, to privilege the supposedly discreet intelligence of “interpersonal,” I think you are uncovering the reality that all meaning-making is rooted in relationship. We experience and organize the world only within the context of relationship. A wise friend, who blogs here has said, “everything is relationship.” Thus interpersonal “intelligence” is critical. When you suggest that we privilege intrapersonal intelligence you are revealing that the exploration of one’s self can be the portal to all wisdom. Knowledge of the self is all we can really “know.” All else is “other” and is thus accessible only through the baffles of our sense organs and our limited human perceptive capacities. This is partly why all the world’s wisdom traditions espouse a spiritual path towards enlightenment or transcendence through some kind of introspective or inner-looking practice. Thus intrapersonal “intelligence” is also critical.

    Do we really think these are optional and discreet intelligences that are most useful only within certain career paths, as Gardner has implied? Must we compare our aptitude in these two ways of knowing to say “spacial” or “linguistic” intelligence? Why must something as mysterious and awe-some as human consciousness be reduced into some kind of spreadsheet-like grid of categories in each of which we are “higher” or “lower?” Know what I mean?

    Anyway, I really appreciate and agree with the ideas so eloquently expressed in your post, Landon. “When the child is totally supported socially and emotionally, first and foremost, then all of her endeavors will be genuine and wholehearted.” Indeed!



    Posted by Paul Freedman | November 29, 2011, 3:55 am
  2. This really reminds me of a story I heard someone tell once about great apes in a lab. They learned so much more, even learning to write symbols on the ground with chalk when they were exposed to a relationship with humans and lived in a community with the scientists studying them.

    When they experienced musical instruments prior to human relationship (people in labcoats with clipboards behind the glass), they apparently meddled with them for a little while and then put them down. When the scientists modeled the behavior, the apes engaged much more in play.


    I found that story profound when I first came across it because it struck me that I felt like the animal through the glass in elementary school. I try to teach like I am sharing my life with people I care about.

    Posted by colinmegill | November 29, 2011, 4:10 am
  3. I’m a BIG advocate of MIs. I actually did my undergraduate senior thesis on them almost 20 years ago. There was a DIRECT correlation between the number of MIs taught in each school and lower absentee rates, higher self-esteem, greater breadth of potential careers, and greater general love of learning in the students.

    It’s also important to note that Gardner’s theory doesn’t believe that intelligence is static – it is DYNAMIC and ELASTIC, so if you can pick a good entry point for the child in a subject in which s/he doesn’t feel s/he is good at, you can effectively stretch the weaker multiple intelligence through a stronger one.

    From my perspective, I think that until the school system catches up, parents need to start getting involved & advocating for their kids’ multiple intelligences. Whether they’re doing it at home and during out-of-school time with activities that both embrace and showcase their kids’ MIs…or working to weave the MIs into the school-day curriculum–particularly the interpersonal & intrapersonal ones that ALL well-adjusted adults use so regularly.

    One of the best pieces I’ve seen on how to start incorporating multiple intelligences into schools is Chapter 10 from Renzulli/Reis Light Up Your Child’s Mind. I’ve got lots of highlights from my Kindle copy here – just search for Schoolwide Enrichment Model.

    Here’s to broadening our world’s definition of SMART!

    Jen Lilienstein

    Posted by Kidzmet (@kidzmet) | November 30, 2011, 10:29 am
  4. Being is central. What matters most in my eyes is the intrapersonal awareness, as the source being, which is ever-present in the midst all doing. I remember a quote that says, “we teach more by how we are than what we do.” Assessments just help to measure relative progress based on standards. If a handful of students, out of thousands in the giant inner city educational machine, do not know multiplication or critical reading for instance, how can genuinely interested teaching staff help unless they know where each student currently stands? Having a running record makes sense, even if it does box in certain portions of education.

    Multiple Intelligence (MI) works well in a sense because it describes a comprehensive overview of doing (the basis of education) via overarching modalities, each of which represents a possible passionate pursuit for any given student. I think we can emphasize the whole child by developing being or the inner awareness of life itself. Unless we focus on being foremost, though, what the student does is irrelevant in the long run because that which is done in the present moment is relegated to another hurdle to jump over in a never-ending series of obstacles in the social-academic vortex of assignment after assignment. And then students graduate and go onto a job market where it’s the same focus on working for the future and forgetting about being here now.

    Establishing cooperation between doing for data and being in expression is the critical point of balance as I see it. Then there can be a focus on the highest possible quality of doing, which is authentically integrated with the serene pleasantness of mindfully being oneself in each moment. Much of the shared wisdom students can experience does stem from the mutual and honest reciprocation from person to person of kindness and generosity or compassion, and the teacher is the role model in that respect. Thank you, Colin, for your insight.

    Perhaps data is harvested so that the effectiveness of any given program can be known. The best example I’ve heard is that, if it weren’t for accountability rules set in place, many inner-city schools would have no way of calling out for help. They’d continue to be forgotten like a dusty plant left un-watered and slowly wilting as its life painfully dehydrates. Data need not be viewed as the be-all & end-all of education, because that is an extreme focus on a reductionistic social attitude which shoos the child’s wellness out the door like a pesky house fly; but data can be balanced given the right outlook. Full effort is full victory — given a variety of available options (enter MI) — and I thank Jen for her inspiring business!

    My next question is to wonder how self-realization, as a potentially more abstract concept, could be integrated into the educational landscape. All of life is deeply embedded within the interrelated nature between thought and social interaction, as Paul keenly pointed out, and there are a number of excellent studies linking together a very positive correlation between mindfulness and enhanced well-being. I wonder what neuro-scientific data have been extrapolated into the educational arena in regard to the integration of mindfulness (which is akin to social-emotional learning (SEL) / emotional intelligence or a proper balance between inter- and intrapersonal intelligence) in the daily curriculum and enhanced academic outcomes? I have seen a few which link SEL with good grades and less disciplinary measures.

    Although congress is considering legislation on anti-bullying (i.e. SEL), there is an interesting and rather archaic paradigm of education being a fusion of the military and big business in my limited experience. Working in the inner-city at times reminds me of being in a military-like environment because of the at times overwhelming social-emotional atmosphere of curiosity-crushing authority and the students’ needing to yield in unquestioning obedience to the teacher’s every command and whim. Big business is there too with the also at-times suffocating emphasis on data mining and harvesting of ever-increasing numbers and fixedly-academic success stories.

    Posted by Landon | November 30, 2011, 10:48 pm

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