Average.  What does it even mean?  We know what it means by definition.  Webster says “midway between two extremes” or “not out of the ordinary.” But when you hear an adult describe a child as average, the connotation that comes across is something else.  Average has come to mean unremarkable, particularly in the context of learning, and thus, usually, academic learning.  “He’s OK,” we’ll say.  “Not great, but OK.”

This is a dreadful symptom and result of our hyper-focus on a few areas of learning.  We may not be saying “average” within earshot of the kids we’re saying it about, but if we’ve decided that’s how they are, we’re probably also relating to them as such.  And as soon as we’ve decided that they’re average, we’re likely to stop looking for the ways in which they’re not.  We stop looking for the extraordinary.  Once we’ve seen how it’s going with the 3Rs, we make our decision.  We disregard (often because we don’t notice them) things like the ability to locate subtle errors in a set of building instructions, the capacity to recognize and remember phenomena in nature, exceptional agility for climbing tall things.

We don’t tend to say “he’s average when it comes to math and above average when it comes to putting puzzles together,” or “she’s average as a storyteller and above average as a speller.” But we could.  In order to do that we’d have to pay more attention to what we pay attention to.  We’d have to notice what we’re paying attention to and what we’re saying about it.  Then we could decide whether it’s really where we want all or most or any of our attention and take it from there.