A natural born teacher

Steven Rudolph

For over two decades I have been helping people understand their natures and get into the right careers. While most of my work has centered around students, I do spend a portion of my time guiding adults who seem to have wandered into the wrong profession.

I have many stories to share of people who, at different points in their lives, discovered they were meant to do something else. However this story is a bit different because it involves my best friend.

Gordon is perhaps my oldest friend, going back nearly 40 years, when we were playmates at summer camp. Throughout our childhood, we played together, went on family vacations together, and even played rock music together late into the night on many a weekend. As we reached adulthood, I moved on to India to become an educator, and Gordon stayed in the US, working in various roles over the years – as a comedian, filmmaker, and designer.

Four years ago, Gordon and his wife were blessed with a baby boy, Logan. Life took on a new meaning for them as they joined the rites of passage that all new parents experience in raising an infant. However, something remarkable began to occur as Logan grew to a toddler: he started to learn in an accelerated manner. Not just faster than other children, but many, many times faster. By age two, he was able to read and write, and soon after, was able to do addition and multiplication. By three, he could list all the presidents in order, list the names of all the states and their capitals and do basic algebra. By three and a half, he had learned all the elements in the periodic table with their atomic weights to five decimal points. He is now able to do fractions and percentages.

While Gordon was thrilled his son was demonstrating the talent of a prodigy, he was naturally concerned about what was going on, and mostly that nothing was “wrong”. So he took Logan to a number of doctors to evaluate him, however, the doctors could not identify anything unusual. This left Gordon even more perplexed.

In the search for an answer to this enigma, most of the attention was focused on Logan, trying to find out if he had a special mind or gene that would account for his extraordinary abilities. However, I suggested to Gordon that instead of focusing on Logan, he should perhaps look into how he had been educating his son.

Over the years, I came to know that Gordon spent a lot of time with Logan, helping him learn through innovative methods of teaching. When I visited him on occasion, Gordon would show me numerous copies filled with activities he developed – extremely creative exercises unlike any I had ever seen. They didn’t conform to the standard exercises you would encounter in popular children’s learning materials; there was something very radical in his perspective and approach to teaching. But although he gave his unique instructional practice a thought, Gordon didn’t attribute the phenomenal results to it. He just thought that he was doing what every other good parent was doing – teaching his son.

Recently, Gordon contacted me to tell me that he was feeling a bit down and unfulfilled in his work doing web design, and that he wanted some career advice. As with all people who approach me for such assistance, I had him take the Multiple Natures Test to give me some insights to guide him in the right direction. While I know him probably as well as someone can know a person, I still had him take the test to be sure I was not making any biased judgments.

The MN Test essentially looks at 19 personality traits (multiple intelligences and multiple natures), and creates a “personality print”, that is, an index of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. After it searches through a database of careers, it generates a list of the professions that best match his personality.

After Gordon took the test, I opened the software to check the results, and what I saw almost knocked me off my chair. At the top of the list of matching careers was “Early Childhood Educator”. While I knew the MN Test was very accurate (we have done validation studies that have yielded extremely high results), this type of validation was uncanny.

I analyzed why this career would match, and observed that Gordon’s entertaining nature was extremely high (that I knew, because he was always very funny). In addition, he possessed a dominant educative nature, that is, the tendency to teach others – something that I had begun to observe over the past few years. Along with a number of other key strengths, it appeared that Gordon’s personality was ideally suited for instructing young children. And this made total sense when I saw how he created learning activities that were fun and innovative; there is sufficient evidence in research that games, play-based learning, and fun, are recipes that lead to higher levels of learning (preventing boredom, increasing interest in learning, increasing attention span, involvement, etc.)

After some discussions, we discussed a plan to get Gordon to organize his notes and methods and begin sharing them with other parents. He has agreed to explore getting into early childhood education. While he will not be quitting his day job, so to speak, he has set aside a part of his day that he will dedicate to this work. In fact, he has already begun teaching his methods to some of my colleagues with young children here in India through the Internet. During those sessions, which I have been observing, I have seen Gordon become completely engrossed in teaching these parents his innovative techniques. He has shared with me how electrified he felt while absorbed in the interactions. I can fully understand his feelings when I think back to my first day of teaching – the day I discovered that I was not meant to be a rock star, but a teacher.

What will the future hold? While there is always the chance that Gordon’s instructive inputs have little to do with Logan’s extraordinary capabilities, and that his son’s prodigious talent stems from some rare genius gene, I believe there is more than enough evidence to indicate that Gordon’s natural potential as a teacher is contributing significantly to the process. Exactly how much we will learn in time – especially when we see the impact of his methods on other children. Until then, I will be observing the process with great interest with the hope that Gordon just might unlock some doors in this area of early childhood development.

The author is Director of Jiva Institute, Faridabad. He can be reached at steve@jiva.com.