A common theme appeared in my class discussions with many of the groups of gifted students I work with.
Common threads to all the lectures:
- 'Smart' does not allow you to be a JERK.
- 'Smart' does not mean you have glitter flying out of your fanny.... therefore are more special than others.
- There will always be someone smarter, taller, better looking..... so, stop acting like you are the smartest and are above seeking an opportunity to learn. The whole reason we are here... is to LEARN.
- Being KIND is usually more important than being RIGHT.
Bright kids can have a terrible reputation for being unbearable, being know-it-alls, being obnoxious and arrogant. There is a reason this stereotype is so prevalent. This stereotype, as with ALL stereotypes, has some truth at its center. Unfortunately, stereotypes are always like Swiss cheese ; they are full of holes and incomplete.
Being in "GE" in elementary school can be similar to being at the "cool' kids lunch table in junior high.... Man does it feel SPECTACULAR when you are there.
Most students don't fully comprehend why they are given the label gifted. Not being able to pinpoint how or why you are labeled as 'smart' can feel like being acknowledged for having green eyes or the like. Really? Are you sure? Alright, if you say so....
What is left is a feeling of not really deserving accolades for just being who they are. Eventually students accept that they must be special compared to their peers in a way that can color their self concept with arrogance, superiority and infallibility.
My GT students really don't understand that their brains often process new information like a light bulb that is turned on. They hear the information, and the light goes on~ got it!
This is how a gifted individual experiences 'learning'. It is difficult to empathize and understand that their experience of learning is not the norm. It helps to explain that most people don't necessarily experience learning in the same way.
A huge disadvantage for our gifted students, is that the skill set that is built into most of schooling, is often missing for our brightest. Those 'other' kids have the process of learning as part of their skill set. Gifted students usually don't LEARN as much as they either KNOW or already UNDERSTAND information or a skill. They don't experience (often) an actual learning process.
There is a 100+% chance, that each gifted person will at some point meet the challenge of not understanding what is being taught. The important experience cycle of struggle, effort, and learn, does not happen until much later within a typical public school curriculum. Often gifted students don't hit a 'wall' until high school or perhaps post secondary course work. Building in academic challenges, all the way through school years, that stretch students along with supportive teachers who are aware of unique gifted challenges students to persevere and develop a growth mindset is key.
Without a sense of who you are and how your brain works differently than most, falling into to an identity crisis is inevitable. Having elementary GE be your 'peak' is not what we are shooting for with our kids.
Coaching gifted students with conversations like these - about differences, and different perspectives, has been~ for a very long time, one of the most important parts of my work.
How do you eat an elephant? One conversation or bite at a time.