Multiple Intelligences Newsletter, Vol 31, No 1

September 1, 2021

Greetings MI Fans,

Note: This issue has a small homework assignment!

I hope that your school year has begun well and that you can sense your students’ smiles, queries, and frustrations through their masks. Just like a good performer, good teachers use their interpersonal intelligence to read their audiences and then adjust and modify their presentations based on what they discerned. Good teaching is always an interaction.

No surprise, this is much more difficult when students are wearing masks (appropriately; safety comes first). I know this first-hand from seeing the masked students in the graduate educational leadership classes that I teach at UM-St. Louis. Of course, this is even more of a challenge in teaching younger students.

Fortunately, masks are simply another obstacle in reaching students. That is because for most teachers, teaching is a passion, not just a job. They will find a way to overcome! Did you see Dr. Jill Biden’s quote? She said, “Being a teacher is not what I do, it’s who I am.” That feeling is shared by the educators I know. Teachers are going to do their best in these difficult times, so hats off to teachers!

Starting with thanks

And you can help someone. Let’s use our interpersonal intelligence to do more than tip hats. (Here comes your homework assignment!)

Dear reader, why not take the time to write a small note of appreciation to the teacher who made a positive difference for you? And/or for your child? This note might go to a current teacher or to someone who ignited that spark 20 or 30 years ago. Sending words of appreciation would be good at any time, but with everything going on now, it is even more important. (I did this years ago, writing a note to Mrs. Mayfield, my wonderful first-grade teacher. It resulted in she and I meeting for lunch, some 35 years after she taught me.)

In my next book – The Principal As Chief Empathy Officer: Creating A Culture Where Everyone Grows – I write about the importance of gratitude in developing empathy, and offer some strategies to facilitate this.

I suggest that principals talk about the importance of developing empathy in their students and note the role that expressing and receiving gratitude can play in its development. Of course, this focus begins with the adults in the building. We cannot leapfrog the staff when it comes to teaching SEL to students. To begin, it’s essential that school leaders take the time to build staff support by explaining why these skills are important. I would talk about the personal intelligences, then move to EQ and SEL.

The world certainly needs more empathy so let’s begin there, working to develop it in our students (and ourselves!). Principals could, for example, distribute already-stamped stationery at monthly faculty meetings, and then set aside five or ten minutes for staff members to write personal notes of appreciation. Those notes could be written to their teachers, to another person in the school, or to someone else from today or yesterday. We all have folks to whom we owe a debt, but too often we don’t make the time to express our appreciation.

Too, principals – again, after citing how adults expressing gratitude will ripple to their students – could begin a staff meeting with “gratitude tag,” asking everyone to identify something for which they are grateful and then spend 30 seconds to share it with a colleague, who then expresses their gratitude to someone else. Consciously developing our gratitude will strengthen our empathy and interpersonal intelligence. And principals could model this, making a point of sending a note of appreciation each day to a staff member. What a great habit!


Indeed, check out this interesting article on kindness, the authors cite a happiness study in which participants were given $5 or $20 cash in an envelope and asked to spend it on themselves or someone else that day. [Stop! Before reading any further, what would YOU do?]

The researchers note, “Whether they had $5 or $20 made no difference, nor did what they bought. What mattered was who they spent their money on. The people who had spent it on someone else felt significantly happier than those who treated themselves.” Our interpersonal intelligence enables us to gain enjoyment from others’ happiness and our intrapersonal intelligence guides us to reach out to others.

I have been advocating for the personal intelligences playing an integral role in schools since I read Frames of Mind – my mantra became “Who you are is more important than what you know” – and that focus is even more needed in these Covid days.

Gardner notes that intelligence is the ability to solve a problem or create a problem that is valued in a culture, and the culture plays a significant role in determining the relative value of an intelligence. In the next issue, for example, I will expand on this a bit with the spatial intelligence. But for now, given these times, I believe that culture places the personal intelligences in an exalted position. Let’s all listen, let’s make the time to reach out and care for one another.

I hope that this issue of Intelligence Connections has been helpful to you. And please remember to write your personal thank-you note!

What do you think? Did you write a note? I’d love to hear from you.

Thomas R. Hoerr, PhD
Facilitator of the ASCD MI Network

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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