It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

Ursla Le Guin (1929-2018)

The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969

The Story of Paula

I like to tell stories. In case you didn't know stories are magical. Even the beginnings are magical. Many stories begin with the words "Once upon a time" but this story doesn't - in fact it can't because this story has happened before, it's happened many times - it's happening right now, somewhere, in some school or another. So to say once upon a time - well the words wouldn't be right. And what is a story if the words aren't right? A story with the wrong words is like a magic spell with no magic. It's like a sunny day with no sun. It's like a school without learning. No, that can't be right? Whoever heard of a school without learning? I'll change that, it's like a school where the learning comes out wrong. A school where the learning is negative. This story is about a girl called Paula. Oh, I should tell you something. This story is true.

Once upon a somewhen there was a little girl, her name was Paula. When she was old enough Paula went to school. But for some reason Paula and school just didn't get on. Paula was a graceful child. She had poise, she had dignity. She had difficulty learning her lessons. She had so much difficulty that the school gave her a special label. The school called her learning disabled. Paula grew to really dislike school. And the more she disliked it, the more trouble she had learning and the further behind the other children she got. By fifth grade she was several grades behind her classmates. She was very unhappy. In fact she was so unhappy that that summer Paula tried to commit suicide. She had poise. She had grace. She had dignity. She tried to snuff them out like a candle. She tried to take her gifts from the world.

But gifts are for giving.

Paula tried to commit suicide. She failed. But back in school her teacher suddenly noticed Paula's grace, her poise and dignity. She noticed how Paula moved. She had an idea that Paula was 'body smart' and that she would benefit from a kinaesthetic approach. Her teacher asked her to create a "movement alphabet". Paula did even more. She created a dance. She danced spelling. She danced her name, she danced words, she danced whole sentences. She even performed her dance for the whole class. Her self-esteem increased. By the end of the sixth grade she had caught up in reading. By the end of the seventh she was mainstreamed in all classes and received above average grades. What a turn around! It happened because her teacher MATCHED the learning task with Paula's dominant intelligence. It happened because her teacher STRETCHED Paula's abilities, getting her to use her Intelligences coherently. It happened because her teacher CELEBRATED her success by allowing Paula to demonstrate her new skills to the class. What Paula's teacher did, we can do. We can match our students, we can stretch our students and we can celebrate our success together.

Adapted from Paula's Dance (Campbell, L. Cambell, B. & Dickinson, D. Teaching and Learning through Multiple Intelligences Campbell & Associates, Inc 1992)

Girl Dancing