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Embrace Everyone’s Genius

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve taught some extremely intelligent students. They’ve been admitted to the most prestigious schools and they’ve perfected the ACT/SAT process. What is being taught in our schools is truly amazing. In fact, I’ve looked over my students’ shoulders and believed they were studying Egyptian hieroglyphics when it is really their math….

But one of the smartest kids I ever taught received no higher than C’s his entire high school career.

My story is short. He came in for a private lesson when he was in high school and I asked him what he’s been doing at home. He said he was creating a paintball gun from scratch. He was using an old fire extinguisher as the “gun” and filled it up with CO2 as the propellant. He detailed all of the nuances of building this contraption from scratch that included making sure the nozzle of the “gun” had holes that spiraled so that the paintball wouldn’t “knuckleball” as it was fired.

What was amazing is that the week before he was down on himself because his grades were low and that college might not be in his future. At school, he felt like he didn’t fit in because what showed “success” in the classroom wasn’t where he was successful. Luckily he was surrounded by great parents and a desire to succeed. This kid was brilliant but maybe not brilliant in the way our schools assess kids.

  • Had anyone ever asked him to build something?

  • Had anyone ever asked him to design a thing-a-ma-bob?

  • Had anyone ever sat him down and explained to him that a graded course of study sometimes doesn’t exploit his true brilliance?

A couple of weeks later he brought in a drum that he built from scratch. He crafted the drum with his own hands and bought the pieces that he couldn’t make on his own. He shaved his own bearing edge and made one of the best sounding drums I’ve ever heard.

Who does this? He does.

Why? Because he was a smart, intelligent, gifted young man with a bright future in front of him. But was anyone telling him this?

Where is he now? He is a successful auto mechanic that has a thriving business. He is a certified pilot and a wonderful husband and father. What else is there?

As parents, educators, and administrators, we should be promoting all of our students' genius. It might look different than our students who score high on a standardized test. It might look different than a student who has a 4.0+. But these kids are just as brilliant as our valedictorians.

Let’s embrace everyone’s genius.

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