Multiple Intelligences Newsletter, Vol 30, No 6

April 12, 2021

Hi to MI Fans,

Thankfully, it appears that just maybe we are nearing returning to normal from Covid-19. I continue to ponder how this experience has changed education. I will be surprised (and disappointed) if we simply return to educating the way we’ve always done it. I will share more about this in a future newsletter.

Applause goes to the health care workers who have bravely taken care of everyone through this pandemic. And applause also goes to the K-12 educators who rolled with the Covid punches, teaching virtually, teaching hybridly (yes, I just made up that adverb), and teaching in-person. The conditions and stressors and strains were a daily occurrence, but educators stepped up for their students. Thanks to all of them!

This issue of Intelligence Connection offers three treats for you. We explore the musical and spatial intelligences through some really interesting links, and Christine Abrahams explains how the personal intelligences are used in The Nurtured Heart Approach to MI.

First, here’s a remarkable example of how the musical intelligence can tell a story. This photo is of Blind Tom (Thomas Wiggins), an enslaved Black man. This link is of music he composed in 1961 to recountsan early Civil War conflict, the Battle of Manassas. Jeannette Fang is the pianist, and Jean Bernard Cerin assists her.  (You can read more about Blind Tom here.)

Here is a terrific example of the use of technology with the spatial intelligence. This link that explains the encompassing, “immersive,” van Gogh exhibit that is traveling to museums across the country.

The Nurtured Heart Approach®: Using Multiple Intelligences to Connect to Students

by Christine Abrahams, Ed.D.

“Empathy and social skills are social intelligence,
the interpersonal part of emotional intelligence.
That’s why they look alike.”
— Daniel Goleman

When I train new teachers I ask them to close their eyes and remember when they were in school. I have them recall a time when one of their teachers made them feel on top of the world. I wait, then ask them to share. Out of a group of 30 teachers, two to three hands usually shoot up and they tell me what the teacher said that was so positive. Many of the answers are the same, “My teacher said I was going places.” “My teacher said that I was good in math.” “My teacher said that I was smart.” I applaud them for sharing such positive experiences.

I take them back to their childhoods again. I instruct them to think about a time a teacher made them feel bad. After a few seconds almost every hand shoots up. I see the strong desire to retell the negativity that has been clinging to them since childhood. A negativity that has been incorporated into their being. When they share, I hear: “My teacher said that I would never amount to anything because of how lazy I am.” “My teacher said that I wasn’t ‘AP’ material and never would be.” “My teacher said that my learning disability will never get better so I might as well drop out of school and get a job as a dishwasher.” One woman who was reliving the trauma of first grade said, “My teacher said that I’m a sloppy writer and that I would never get through school because you need neat handwriting to succeed.” This woman had been carrying that since first grade! I ask them how they want students to remember them — as a positive force in their lives or a negative one.

After the hubbub and side conversations died down, I honor them for becoming teachers even though they had terrible experiences with some of their teachers. I also point out the power that their teachers’ words had on them and on every student in their classrooms. I tell them that they have to be mindful of their words and how they use their words with students because teachers are very powerful people in students’ lives. I was trying to teach them to tap into two areas of Multiple Intelligences that would help them create a safe and supportive classroom culture, which would prevent students from experiencing the negativity that often pervades classrooms.

I have found that the two areas of Multiple Intelligences that are key for educators to master are Interpersonal Intelligence and Intrapersonal Intelligence. Interpersonal Intelligence is creating relationships with others by being aware of their feelings and motivations. Intrapersonal Intelligence is the act of being self-aware of one’s own feelings and motivations. Both are key in creating a classroom culture that is safe, inviting and focuses on creating and maintaining strong relationships between teachers and students.

In Zaretta Hammond’s book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students (2014), she spends a great deal of time explaining that a teacher must first focus on building positive relationships with students in order to create a safe and warm culture which is the fertile ground for learning. She discusses that when a positive, trusting connection is made oxytocin, the hormone responsible for bonding, is released and students feel safe and ready to learn. Conversely, If a student is in a classroom where the teacher is consistently critical and negative towards students, the amygdala takes over and the student is in a fight or flight condition where no learning can take place.

One way a teacher can use her Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligences to create the space all learners need to succeed is by using The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA). The NHA was created in the ‘90s by Howard Glasser who was a therapist in Arizona. He worked with families who insisted that their children were unmanageable. What Howard observed was that children got so much more connection and relationship when things were going wrong or threatening to go wrong. However, when children were not breaking the rules, they received little to no connection and relationship. Although Howard was working with parents, the Approach has since been implemented in school districts and he found that the same principles apply.

The NHA teaches teachers how to employ their Interpersonal Intelligence by changing this energetic dynamic so students learn that they can no longer get the teacher to react in a big way to negative behavior, which is the student’s way of communicating that they desire deep connection. At the same time, the teacher shows the child that she is far more interested and willing to connect when things aren’t going wrong. And that the teacher’s vocabulary is much richer when the student is not breaking the rules. Teachers learn to feed the child’s natural desire for adult connection and attention at the appropriate times. The student follows the energy and as a result the student turns toward his or her own greatness and potential for success.

In order to be successful in this Approach, the teacher needs also to employ her Intrapersonal Intelligence, meaning that she has to be mindful of how she’s feeling and what buttons her students are pushing to get her to react in a big way. She needs to cultivate “Reflection in Action” which means being aware of all feelings coming up in the moment and not reacting to the student based on her programming. Instead she needs to respond in the moment. She needs to see the behavior for what it is – a communication, not energize it, and then applaud the student for demonstrating self-control by stopping the behavior.

The Nurtured Heart Approach gives teachers a framework within which to manage classroom behaviors, teach social-emotional learning. The Approach is made up of Three Stands:

  1. Stand One: Absolutely No! I refuse to energize negative behavior. I will not react with elevated energy, attention, and relationship to disruptions and outbursts that distract children from their greatness.
  2. Stand Two: Absolutely Yes! I will relentlessly energize the positive. As much as possible, I will work immediately to identify, describe, and express appreciation for steps, large and small, a child takes in manifesting his or her positive choices and intrinsic greatness. I will actively initiate opportunities for children to be successful.
  3. Stand Three: Absolutely Clear! I will maintain total clarity about rules that demonstrate fair and consistent boundaries. I will consistently enforce rules and provide immediate consequences through resetting each time a rule is broken, by way of a simple form of consequence called a “reset.” I will recognize the child in the moment they have reset and create that next moment as an opportunity for success.

The Three Stands is what the NHA is. The Three Stands can be used to solve any problem in the classroom. And the Three Stands can be used to help teachers continually develop their Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligences. The “reset” is a word used when students break a rule, act out or do something to get the teacher’s attention at an inappropriate time. A teacher should not yell “RESET but rather say in a matter-of-fact, conversational tone, “Reset.” The reset is a reminder that the student is breaking the rules and needs to get control of himself in that moment. It gives the student (and the teacher) a chance to get back to being successful and emotionally regulated.

Once the student has emotionally regulated, it gives the teacher a chance to use Stand 2 to praise him for gaining self-control. It might sound something like this, “Look at you, Andre! You stopped whispering to your neighbor and are getting back to work (describing the positive behavior). That shows me that you have enormous self-control and are committed to learning. Way to go!”

In summary, The NHA is designed to support teachers in coping with not only difficult students but all students. It helps teachers avoid burnout and teaches them to provide a rich flow of recognition and clear structure in classrooms, creating dramatic shifts in classroom culture by providing a strongly positive social-emotional framework. Both behavioral and academic success are more attainable for students in a Nurtured Heart classroom.

What I’ve provided you with is a snapshot of the approach and how it pairs well with Multiple Intelligences and Social Emotional Learning. For more information you can go to or contact me with any questions. To your greatness!!

This network is sponsored by ASCD as part of their effort to improve the quality of education for all children.

ASCD PICs (Professional Interest Communities) are member-initiated groups designed to unite people around a common area of interest in the field of education. PICs allow participants to exchange ideas, share information, identify and solve problems, grow professionally, and establish collegial relationships.

You can learn about ASCD’s networks, publications, conferences, workshops, and the dialogues sponsored by ASCD at You can also register for the free, daily ASCD SmartBrief.


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