Hello SPORK! Nation,

 Who do you consider intelligent? What is intelligence to you?

I want to start this conversation with you because I strongly feel that many intelligent people are continuously considered not intelligent just because they:

Artn’t traditionally achieved

They don’t read a lot of books, or

Aren't getting high grades on papers 

I think most people consider intelligence to be those things. People who can memorize facts, people who can spell long words or have great grammar

A little history about myself:

From the beginning I was pulled aside for extra help. Starting in First grade where I was pulled out of class to have one-on-one reading help. I never seemed to be interested in what there was to read so it never kept my attention and I choose not to read. I remember something like sitting with the special reading teacher and she could tell that the book she had me read over and over I had just memorized it and that I wasn't actually reading it.

To this day I have only completely read about a hand full of books. To many people this makes me lazy or stupid but the truth is I really love reading a bunch of articles on one issue or watching a documentary. I like to hear lots of different views and opinions. Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite authors. The Tipping Point was a mandatory reading in one of my college English classes. I read the whole book happily because I love what I was reading and how it was written. His books all have a common theme but are nicely broken up into chapters that are stories of their own. I’m an extremely creative imaginative person but I never understood people who loved to just sit still and read for hours. When I read something I’m not completely into I’ll find myself reading and then something I read makes me think about something else that I am passionate about and then I’ll realize I have physically turned a few pages but haven’t really absorbed and or the word on the page.

People could tell me I need to practice reading more, or I need to work on my attention, exc. But to that I say, “It’s not like I’m not willing to learn. I just know myself well enough that I know I learn best visually or by hearing an interview or reading lots of short articles.

I never did well in school, even though I worked very hard and tried very hard. No teachers ever saw my strengths or understood me. They just saw my weaknesses and that I wasn’t fitting into the box that “most other kids” were fitting into.

By sixth grade I had been placed into a separate special Ed English class and study hall. Not only did this make me feel stupid, but it made everyone who knew I was in the class treat me different, fragile, stupid, incapable.

             But my amazing parents fought to get me out of the special ed English class in sixths grade. The school thought they knew me better but my parents had faith in me. They trusted that I knew myself well enough to keep up in the regular class. I’m pretty sure my parents could see how much being a special ed student was effecting my confidence and psyche. Pretty much all the kids in special ed with me were lazy and didn’t work very hard. They didn’t seem to mind being special ed, in fact I think they liked it because they could get away with being lazy and people giving them extra help. I on the other hand wanted to prove I could be just like the “normal” kids. I didn’t want pity then and I continuously have never wanted pity from that day on. 

I want to tell parents to give their children more chances to prove everyone wrong (or right). I know you may think oh my child is only 8, 10, 13, exc. But you have to let them (and in some cases help fight for them) to do what they think they are capable of. Some kids know themselves very well, even at a young age, and even if they don’t you should still give them a chance to succeed or fail because it will make them stronger people in the end.

I owe so much to my parents. As a sixth grader I could only tell my parents I wanted out of the class. No authorities would listen to me so that’s where my parents had to come in and tell people to take me out of that class. My parents could have listened to school teachers and not their child but they decided to fight for their child and let her know they stood behind her, supported her, and loved her enough to listen to what she was saying and help her. It has always meant the world to me that they support me fully and that they listen to me.

I was still in a special ed study hall all the way into my freshman year of high school, but again within weeks of being in the class I told my parents I didn’t need to be there and again they listened and got me into a regular study hall.

The rest of High School I was in all regular classes. I worked very hard but didn’t always get good grades. A lot of the teachers I had in high school, college, and even before then could see I was struggling but either didn’t help me, or probably didn’t know how to help me.

I think teachers work very hard and have very hard jobs. Trying to help 20 or more kids learn something by themselves is a hard job. When a kid like me, who learns a different way than most, is in a class full of 15 kids who can learn the exact way a teachers teaching a subject then that kid like me is going to be over looked, fail the class, or be put into special ed.

Through out my entire traditional education I have only had one teacher who realized how hard I was working and offered to talk to me about the troubles I was having on tests. Yes, it took 19 years for a teacher to see I was reading the material and working hard but for some reason my tests weren’t showing all the effort I had put in.

His name was Mr. B (or Mr. Alex Bolyanatz for those who wanted to try and pronounce it)

I took an Intro to Anthropology class for fun in college and Mr. B the my teacher. I ended up loving the class, but you might not have thought that because of my low grades. I loved the class because the reading materials were very interesting and Mr. B had enthusiasm and a passion for the subject (he was still working in the field of anthropology part time) he was a fun, nice teacher who everyone liked.

That amazing man Mr. B could tell I was loving the class and reading the materials but when it came to my quiz scores it didn’t add up. So he did something no other teacher had ever done for me before…he asked me to bring my books and quiz to his office and talk about why I choose the answer I did. Every week, question-by-question, I told him what I remembered reading and why I then choose the answer I did on the quizzes. He would then change my grade some to reflect that he could tell I was doing the readings.

Again, he took time to LISTEN to me and HELP me. This was huge for me! A teacher seeing that I was doing all the work, and who cared enough to listen and talk to me to tell that quizzes were not the best way of showing what I was absorbing from he class. More teachers need to be like Mr. B. This was a college level class and it was a huge class (close to 30 students), yet Mr. B didn’t only do his job of teaching the class and recording grades, he made sure that students were enjoying the class and getting extra help if they needed it. He didn’t just give me extra help he gave lots of students extra attention. He could have just recorded the grade I first got on quizzes and let me not do well in the class, but HE DIDN’T, he helped me and made me feel like I wasn’t stupid and that someone cared enough to talk with me and understand me.

So, because of his extraordinary teaching and good heart I ended up taking 3 or 4 more anthropology classes with him. I never intended on taking that many, I was a film major, but I loved him so much as a teacher that I practically could have minored in Anthropology.

Most people think intelligence comes from how many books you’ve read or how many classes you’ve taken. I think a true intelligence comes from how many risks you’ve taken and what you’ve learned from take those risks. Real life experiences, challenges and problems solved can teach someone way more than what they could learn by paying thousands of dollars on classes.

I’m fully aware that some professions need degrees and professionals to teach up-and-comers but my goal for this article is to get people to realize that just because you don’t read tons of books or have had a lot of education doesn’t mean you should feel like less of a person or feel stupid. The world will always judge people by the majority that falls into and conforms to the “norms” but I can say with absolute confidence that some of our greatest minds and people would not have been considered intelligent by most in the beginning and because of this they found different ways of doing things, different paths to follow their dreams, and embraced their differences to create or do something even better than if they would have conformed and let the ones who said they wouldn’t make it stand in their way.  

To all who read this, believe in your own qualities, talents, and self. When you do this anything is possible and you will go to sleep much happier.

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Follow Quinlan on Twitter: @UncagedWonderer