Intrapersonal Intelligence and Affective Teaching

multiple-intelligence.jpgIntelligence has been the most important predictor of success at school and work. However, the traditional viewpoint about intelligence has come under attack in recent times. The traditional concept of intelligence has lost its significance. Intelligence (previously defined and measured as an index of abilities in linguistic and logical-mathematically reasoning) is no longer viewed as a ‘singular’ factor that influences accomplishments in other areas of life. This change in thinking was further bolstered by the theory of Multiple Intelligence, proposed by a Harvard University professor, Dr. Howard Gardner.

Today, intelligence is seen as a composite of a range of abilities and talents that work interdependently toward ‘humanizing’ an individual, in various settings.

Without doubt, we can easily recognize the types of intelligence teachers possess. Some teachers are strong in one or more areas of intelligence compared to others. Nevertheless, each type of intelligence interacts with one or several other type(s) to make adjustment and improvement (in teaching and life in general) possible. Sometimes, a particular area of strength complements another strong point.

To begin with, all teachers possess a fairly good level of intelligence in the following areas (a combination of a few of them):

  1. Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”):
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  3. Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  5. Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  6. Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  8. Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)

Most of the types of intelligence listed above make a teacher effective. However, a caring teacher possesses two types of intelligence that makes him/her essentially affective. They are the interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.

Although most of us possess average or above average interpersonal intelligence, the same is not true for intrapersonal intelligence. A teacher might possess different types of intelligence that would make him/her effective. He/she might even score high on an interpersonal intelligence scale, making him/her relatively affective. However, intrapersonal intelligence is something everyone, born as humans, struggle to attain in spite of being successful in other areas of life. This is because it is difficult, if not impossible, to improve something as intimate and personal as one’s own ‘self’ (inability to conquer ‘self’ is the greatest challenge posed to any human; making the ‘self’ one’s greatest enemy). Nevertheless, a truly affective teacher is one who possesses a high level of intrapersonal intelligence, along with other types of intelligence.


What is intrapersonal intelligence? It refers to having an understanding of yourself, of knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward. It indicates our cognitive ability to understand and sense our ‘self’. Intrapersonal intelligence allows us to tap into our being – who we are, what feelings we have, and why we are the way we are.

A strong intrapersonal intelligence can lead to high self-esteem, self-enhancement, and strength of character that can be used to solve internal problems (pre-requisite for dealing effectively with external problems). Conversely, a weak intrapersonal intelligence can lead to negative self-image, apathy, lack of motivation, low need for achievement, neglect of mental health and a variety of unsound behavioral and psychological experiences. These negative experiences prevent one from relating ‘humanely’ with others.

Clearly, a caring teacher’s role to initiate and continue to encourage the positive development of self-esteem, self-enhancement, and strength of character in students cannot be accomplished if he/she does not possess these qualities. Naturally, students are attracted to a teacher who possesses a high level of intrapersonal intelligence. Students are pulled toward a teacher who understands him/herself and tend NOT to ‘put a monkey wrench in the works’. This type of a teacher knows what he/she can do and what he/she cannot do. He/she is happy with who he/she is and does not attempt to please everyone for external approval and recognition (the unrealistic and unhealthy desire to please everyone is one of the major causes of misery and happiness in many people).

Caring teachers do not suffer from low self-esteem. They do not talk ill about others. They constantly attempt to look for the ‘good’ in people. They hold an overall cheerful and positive view about life. They are in touch with their inner selves. In the face of a problem (even a personal one), a caring teacher does not engage in defense mechanisms, such as avoidance, denial, repression, etc. He/she owns the problem and responsibly addresses the issue at hand right away.

Further, a caring teacher does not fear making mistakes because he/she always learns from them and moves forward. He/she is not threatened by others’ comments about him/herself. However, he/she is smart enough to pay attention to suggestions that help to improve his teaching and relationship with students and colleagues. A caring teacher is not threatened by others’ successes. He/she does not get jealous. Instead, he/she constantly seeks to share in others’ victories and sincerely encourages them to become ever better.

A caring teacher’s intrapersonal intelligence is noticeably reflected in the way he/she deals with his/her students. A caring teacher engages in deliberate thought patterns and behaviors that demonstrate compassion, understanding, trust, and respect for his/her students in all teaching-learning situations. A caring teacher might experience the worst difficulty in life and still handle his/her students with a big (genuine) smile. This is possible because he/she has spent substantial time examining who he/she is and what he/she values as a teacher!

Our beloved Mother Teresa could condescend and help the destitute because she personally ‘saw God in every human being’. When students are viewed in this manner, it is difficult to decide NOT to become a caring teacher! Mother Teresa is listed as one of the few who possessed an extraordinary level of intrapersonal intelligence. She made use of this ability to make a difference in the lives of thousands of children and women. Similarly, caring teachers aspire and strive to become ‘self-smart’ for the sake of providing maximum benefit for students!

Copyright May 2006 by Dr. Edward Roy Krishnan,

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