It’s so easy to assume gifted kids will be the academic leaders in a classroom. Beacons of light for the other kids to follow. Dina Brulles and Susan Winebrenner explain the problem…
The obvious benefit of gifted students’ increased sensitivity is that they learn faster, since they pick up on so much more. But this sensitivity also has a dark side: turning our kids into anxious worriers.
Multipotentiality is a fancy way of saying “good at many things.” It’s a defining trait of gifted kids, and you’ve probably seen it in action: a student writes beautifully, has mastered a musical instrument, excels in math, and still gets picked near the top in PE. Yet, this trait is one of the Eight Great Gripes of gifted kids.
Fitting in only gets you so far.
As a 6th grade teacher, I would see students give up just as things became difficult. Because of their natural intelligence, they could succeed without putting in the work that their peers were learning to do. So I introduced a motto.
As a kid, I read Calvin and Hobbes religiously, checking out collections from the library and cutting out favorites from the newspaper. Now, I read these same comics and see Calvin in a different light: an example of all of the unexpected traits of gifted students.
As I read about the origins of the Disney studios, I’m struck by the endless financial trouble Walt Disney found himself in. Even after his classic films hit theaters, the studio was constantly in debt and faced a dismal future.
What I love most about Pixar’s story is the tenacity of Director/Producer John Lasseter. There is a vital lesson to be learned from his success… and it lies mostly in his failures.
Our gifted kids receive lots of well-intentioned “you’re so smart” praise. But, this leads directly to a fear of straying beyond their safety zone. In college or the workplace, where they face challenges for the first time, the impostor syndrome rears its terrifying head.
When I asked my own students about teachers they loved, it was always some tiny detail that delighted them. Good teachers know how to surprise students with these delightful details. They details cost no money, take no time, and set the stage for successful learning.