As educators we, of course, encounter gifted students in our classes. As their teachers, we provide enriching challenges and opportunities appropriate for these students of high IQ. Done and done…right?
Well…no. Or, maybe more accurately, academics are only part of the story, or are only evidence that there is even a story to tell.
In her excellent primer about all things ‘gifted’, Giftedness 101 ( http://amzn.to/2r2ezWT ) giftedness ‘guru’ Linda Kreger Silverman writes:
Few people “get it”! Few grasp the fundamental experience of giftedness…And many educators and academics mistake the tracks – visible achievements – for the beast itself. Achievement is easy to see. Giftedness is a dragon that can only be seen by those who can conceive of dragons. (p. 3)
All of that caring for the academic lives of gifted students, on the part of teachers, is of course crucial, possibly as the title of a story is crucial. But the inner lives of the gifted…ah!, therein lies the plot of the story.
Individuals with impaired intellectual development, whose intelligence measures 2, 3, or 4 standard deviations below the norm, deal with specific psychological issues. The same is true for those who are developmentally advanced, with IQ scores 2, 3, 4, or more standard deviations above the norm. [italics mine] (p. x)
Within the true, specific intent of the designation ‘Gifted’ lies the specific psychological issues to which Silverman refers, some of which, as found in any comprehensive book or journal about giftedness (**) can include:
- possessing high potential that may or may not be expressed as high performance,
- thinking in novel, divergent ways,
- appearing ‘slower’, needing time to work through and choose from the numerous ideas that are simultaneously generated,
- being ‘gifted and…’, i.e. ‘multiply (most often ‘twice’) – exceptional’,
- emotional stress, and effort expended, to subvert true self in order to ‘fit in’ (see ‘thinking in novel, divergent ways’, above!),
- asynchronous development (intellectually above age cohort while emotionally-socially below),
to name a few. Doesn’t sound much like a list of ‘gifts’, does it?
So, no, gifted humans can’t always figure it all out on their own, they won’t necessarily be fine, and, (and here’s an especially popular one!) no, in fact, not everyone is gifted, truly gifted, complexities and all.
My consistent passion and worry for the gifted, as they struggle every day to navigate this world in which they are often ‘apart from’, drives me to try to consistently raise awareness of their needs. Hence, this blog entry. So, if you ever feel you are being attacked by a student’s insistence on a point of argument (‘a dog with a bone’), try to pause, and realize that, in the mind of a gifted student, it’s not about you, it’s about the point (i.e. ‘intensity’). Or, when you take an older gifted student to task for a behavior infraction, realize that, when they do something that a younger child would do in response (pout, cry, appear surprised that they are being taken to task), sometimes they really, actually do need it explained that the behavior needs tweaking, and, more importantly, they need to be told what an alternate age-appropriate behavior is (i.e. ‘asynchronous development’).
I implore educators to please do all that you can to recognize these learners in our midst. Please try to be mindful that this emotionally fragile, special education population — that is so often mistaken for ‘mere’ high achievers (a distinctly different population of learners) — needs caring for, through particular responses from the adults in their lives, to each of their unique psychological issues. This does not mean coddling. Rather, it means acknowledging the struggle and the uniqueness of their inner lives, while still choosing to lift up their working from strengths. Gifted learners — that is, gifted humans — are counting on your understanding. They need your compassion.
“I could have told you Vincent, this world
was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”
“Vincent” – Don McLean
Giftedness 101 ( http://amzn.to/2r2ezWT ) by Linda Kreger Silverman;
Handbook of Gifted Education (3rd Edition)Hardcover– Oct 16 2002 by Nicholas Colangelo (Author), Gary A. Davis (Author);
The Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children, 2E: What Do We Know? Paperback– Nov 1 2015 by Maureen Neihart (Author), Steven Pfeiffer (Author), Tracy Cross (Author) )