The Genius in all of us

One of the most disheartening facts of life is that few of us truly get to know our full potential. As late as the 1960s, the view was that schools make almost no difference to student achievement. Today we know that educators and family members can make a significant difference to student success because talent is not a rare gift bestowed upon a lucky few.

Yesterday’s thinking was that genes influence everything, but they actually determine very little. Individual differences in talent and intelligence are not genetically pre-determined, but are developed over time.

The question is: If we are not determined by our genes, our genome, then what are we?

Regarding the myth of talent, my belief that we are creatives of development does not refute the existence of talent. Rather, it stresses that talent and intelligence have to be earned over time through effort and deliberate practice. I believe that every child is full of potential to shape their lives. Talent is, in essence, an ongoing and dynamic developmental process. We have to teach our students that no one is genetically doomed to being average and that students are in charge of their intellectual growth.

Over the last century, our social expectations, work requirements and our schools have raised the measurable intelligence of almost everyone. There has been an eighteen point increase in intelligence (IQ) over only two generations, which is an average 3 point increase every decade!

What does this mean for us? Speaking to children early and often is a great start, as is reading early and often. Children in the best situations receive over twenty million words annually from engaged parents. But nurturing intellectual growth is not just about volume; a supportive tone, the consistency and quality of interactions are also crucial. Children need to be recognised for their effort and know that success is a product of hard work, whereas failure is a learning event.

It is imperative to accept that there are no shortcuts to excellence –it requires a long period of deliberate practice. Real challenge will put any learner at risk of falling, and ultimately to earn any success you must be ready to fail. The key is in your response, we need to embrace any failure, learn from it and not to repeat any known errors.

Rob Stokoe, Principal – Avondale Grammar School and author, ‘Leaders of Learning’