All The Ways To Be Smart

Amy Woodgate | Head of Junior and Middle Schools

Smart is not just being best

at spelling bees, a tricky test.

Or knowing all the answers ever.

Other things are just as clever. 

Every hour of every day,

we’re smart in our own special way.

And nobody will ever do

the very same smart things as you. 

 From ‘All the ways to be smart’ by Davina Bell


This week, we held our first Junior School Assembly of the year for our Prep to Year 5 students and I was able to share the book ‘All the ways to be smart’ by Davina Bell.  This book celebrates that each of us is special and different, with our own strengths, talents and interests.  The simple rhyming text, ‘All the ways to be smart’ shares with us the message that being smart is not just about test scores or grades on a report, but is also about valuing each individual and encouraging them to have confidence in their own individuality and talents.

A part of helping students succeed at school is showing them that success can look different for each individual and that there are many ways to be intelligent.  In the article, ‘How we’re smart’, Leah Shafer from the Harvard Graduate School of Education explains that children can be quick to label themselves as ‘smart’ or ‘not smart’.  Quite often their perception of ‘smart’ and ‘not smart’ can be based on what they believe is valued.  They may see ‘smart’ as those students who give fast responses and get good grades, and ‘not smart’ as being associated with students who are last to finish, hate reading, or can’t do maths.  What we do know is that ‘being smart’ is much broader than that.  ‘Being smart’ is about intelligence and that intelligence is not necessarily fixed or only shown in one way, but is something that we can grow.  We also know that different tasks and different roles usually require more than one type of intelligence.

Each of us learns differently and expresses our strengths differently.  Rather than asking ‘how smart am I?’, we should encourage our boys and girls to ask ‘how am I smart?’.  By spending time learning about ourselves, our strengths and our own learning traits, we are able to set goals, put in place strategies and develop the habits of mind and learning dispositions to succeed in whichever area we choose to focus.  It is important that we give our students the language to talk about their strengths, that we celebrate the small steps along the way and we acknowledge success in whatever form it may take.

There are seven key thinking mindsets highlighted in Shafer’s article as the dispositions that can set us up to effectively learn and think in today’s world.  These are:

  • Being broad and adventurous
  • Wondering, problem finding and investigating
  • Building explanations and understandings
  • Making plans and being strategic
  • Being intellectually careful
  • Seeking and evaluating reasons
  • Being metacognitive

These learning dispositions are much more than just getting 100% on an exam, although that isn’t to say that achieving to the best of our ability shouldn’t be something that we strive for.  In looking at all the ways to be smart, we are able to think more broadly and encourage our boys and girls to see beyond the number or the grade and seek to develop the attitudes, behaviours and dispositions that allow them to develop and share their strengths, work to overcome challenges and know where to seek assistance when they need support.

I know that each of our boys and girls are ‘smart’ in their own ways and I look forward to them being able to see in themselves and share with you all the ways that they are smart.