I’m writing a series about long-term success in anticipation of my February 20th event, Hatch.
Previously, in the series, we looked at gifted students’ potential to excel in many areas. But in this article we’ll discuss gifted kids’ weaknesses. I have three main points:
- Identify and publicly praise kids’ strengths
- Use celebrity examples of why strengths beat weaknesses
- Encourage students to see each other as resources to fill in gaps
Gifted ≠ Perfect
First, gifted kids equate the “gifted” label with an expectation of perfection. This is even one of Judy Galbraith’s Eight Great Gripes.
Since kids cannot live up to this expectation, they might be silently doubting whether they were identified correctly (see impostor syndrome).
Address this head on!
Gifted ≠ perfect. No one in your class is expected to get 100% every time on everything. When 100% is the expectation, students take fewer risks, become less creative, and are more likely to cheat. Parents should hear this also.
A Culture of Strengths
Have you ever heard a student described like this:
- She’s an amazing writer, but…
- He’s got a great personality, but…
- She always wants to draw, but…
I hear it all the time from parents, teachers, and even kids. Amazing strengths just get brushed aside.
I’m not saying to lower expectations or accept failure. Pursue success for all kids! But consider how your words shape your classroom culture.
You don’t have a “struggling mathematician”! You have an amazing artist (who gets some small group time for fractions). You have a future writer (who swings by to practice percents). You have a stand-up comedian (who spends a moment with you on flashcard practice).
Make your classroom a place where students are known for their strengths, not their weaknesses.
Public Praise Your Pupils
Publicly praise students’ talents! Maybe Julie has spent years being known as a bad writer. She may go home to parents who only want to talk about her writing. In class, share out how much you appreciate her:
- sense of humor
- watercolor skills
- running speed
- or knowledge about dinosaurs
Intentionally amplify strengths! Believe it or not, students may not realize their own strengths. It’s very likely no one has ever explicitly told them. Then, go the extra step and tell them why they’re strong:
- Julie, just wanted say that your writing is amazing because you add such rich figurative language. Here’s an example…
- Jeff, your math skills really impress me because you went back and double checked your thinking on these problems…
- Hannah, I love your paintings because you always mix your colors to show the sunlight.
Use celebrities to show how strengths beat weaknesses. LeBron James, Taylor Swift, and Bill Gates are wildly successful because they poured energy into their strengths. Who cares whether LeBron can sing, Taylor can dunk, or Bill Gates plays guitar?
These superstars don’t even excel at all areas within their strength! They each work with a team to pick up their slack. Stop and consider that: professionals just hire people to handle their weaknesses.
Take It To The Classroom
If Taylor knows to hire a drummer, producer, and stage manager, could students also see each other as resources?
This was something I tried with a writing process activity. Students hired each other to perform specific tasks to improve their stories. It was loud, chaotic, and an interesting step towards a strength-focused culture.