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  • Rick Joseph

Geniuses - Each and Every One


Genius is extraordinary intelligence...this definition describes each and every one of you.

This "genius" quote from The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco is a cornerstone of my philosophy as an educator. It is a message that I share throughout the state, in every school I visit from Marquette to Monroe.

When I was afforded the opportunity to read The Junkyard Wonders aloud to Kellie Bahri and Marta Babinchak's 4th graders at Quarton Elementary School in Birmingham, I was excited. One of my favorite things to do as an educator and human being is to read aloud. Educational benefits aside, reading aloud makes me smile. It gives me chills. I become the book. It's fun.

I have to admit, however, that the kids at Quarton had a big surprise in store for me on the day I visited them. I should have suspected something when I asked if anyone had read the book before and every hand in the room shot up. After the read aloud and some learning around Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, I tried to connect Gardner's ideas back to Patricia Polacco's message of genius. I asked the kids if there was a part of the book that stood out as a source for this big idea. One girl raised her hand and said, as if it were the most obvious question in the world, "Sure, Mr. Joe! Look, we have the quote here inside our desks."

At that point desktops began popping up and - to my delight and amazement - every 4th grader in that classroom had a copy of the genius quote affixed to the inside of their desk just like Mrs. Peterson, the teacher in The Junkyard Wonders, asks the characters in the story to do.

I was a bit stunned as a smile crept across my face. Wow. The message was taking root and growing.

Genius describes each and every one of you.

Bringing The Junkyard Wonders alive is something I love to do

You've got to be the book!

Quarton kids turn and talk

Happy after hearing the story read aloud

Discussing the answer to the question, "How are you smart?"

We learn so much about each other through meaningful conversation

It's important to celebrate the things we do well

Gardner's Multiple Intelligences remind us of the eight ways we may be smart

"The question is never 'Are you smart?...

...but instead 'How are you smart?'"

"Here's the genius quote, Mr. Joe!"

"Genius is risking without fear of failure"

Marta Babinchak and Kellie Bahri teach me a thing or two about The Junkyard Wonders


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