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Day 14/05/2014

Scott Barry Kaufman On Game-Changing Teachers

Last week I wrote about how my high school classmates and I developed intellectual self-perceptions based on our teachers’ expectations, for better or for worse. Particularly for students who had been typecast as strugglers, the existence of just one or two teachers who instead celebrated those students’ abilities had an enormous positive impact on the students’ ability to recognize their own potential. One friend called those teachers “game changers.”

Just this past Saturday I attended a truly inspirational talk by Scott Barry Kaufman, who’s been featured on rethinked…* before. Kaufman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Pennsylvania (along with Karen Reivich, Angela Duckworth, and Martin Seligman), studies intelligence, imagination and creativity — what they are, how they are developed, and how to measure them. All research is in some way ME-search, Kaufman said toward the beginning of an unusually autobiographical keynote at the May 8-10 conference held by the Society for Learning and the Brain.

Kaufman shared the story of having been diagnosed with central auditory processing disorder at age five, due to having had chronic ear infections as a toddler. Frustrated, he was placed in various LD and special ed programs for almost ten years — on some level knowing that he was capable of a lot more than his teachers believed. One day, a substitute teacher, simply by taking notice of his frustration, changed the course of his life.

For one thing, he became determined, at age 15, to “come up with a new theory of intelligence,” and he has.

Kaufman’s talk is not available to the public, but a shorter — and decidedly less relaxed and funny — version is. Despite these shortcomings, it is ten minutes worth watching. He traces the same details of his autobiography to explain why kids need more than game-changers. Kids need an education system that, rather than “plucking out” IQ scores and judging kids accordingly, takes a holistic approach to achievement by considering kids’ engagement and motivation, as well as their ability.

From Evaluation to Inspiration: Scott Barry Kaufman
at TEDx Manhattan Beach
, published January 4, 2014.

It took Kaufman years to track down and thank his game-changer.
Her name is Joyce Jeuell.

Jeuell and Kaufman

Kaufman with his one-time substitute teacher and game-changer


Who were the game-changers in your intellectual development? How did they shape the course of your life?

And is there someone that you can be a game-changer for now?

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