I also live learning as my doing.
Learning together is the most powerful kind of teaching, and I seek those opportunities all the time. I am a powerful thinker. I know I make connections that many teachers do not. (Mentors I trust have told me that–it took me a long time to believe it–and even longer to understand it.) I know I notice kid behaviors others don’t see as significant. I know I think about people, schooling and interactions in ways others do not. Why? Am I gifted? I was never identified in school, but then, I grew up before there was such a thing in the schools I attended, (I think.)
My mother used school data on me in her thesis for her Masters in Math Ed., and, because she had me (as an 10th grader) helping her organize and aggregate the data, I know I have an above average IQ (and we all know that doesn’t really mean anything), but I have never thought of myself as gifted or brilliant. I know I’m smart, but lots of my peers (especially on Twitter) are LOTS smarter than me! However, my whole life I have realized most other people don’t think like I do and wondered why.
I have often asked myself why I could NEVER shut off my brain, and why I couldn’t simply rest without thinking about something deeply. I have OFTEN realized others sometimes don’t want to be around me because they don’t want to deal with my constant questioning, thinking, asking, talking, reading, etc. I have been described by MANY people as incredibly intense. I learned early in my career to not talk in conversations, to not ask my questions, to not make my connecting statements, to hide who I am so as to be accepted.
It wasn’t until I began studying to become a teacher of gifted students that I recognized, in some of the research, that people who think differently need time and opportunities to be with and think with and talk with others who also think differently. I recognized that MANY powerful thinkers think there is something wrong with them because of their different way of thinking. At that time, I realized that thinking they are weird can be pervasive in people who are powerful thinkers. I connected with the research on social and emotional needs of gifted kids because I had been there and done that. . .
And that’s why I won’t back down from advocating for these powerful thinkers to have time together. It’s why I ask when they can have some time in my room, just them, to be able to have those lightning fast conversations that go all over the place and that they can see others follow. Let them LIVE LEARNING at THEIR pace. The connections they make, the feelings of being understood and respected for making those connections simply cannot be underestimated.
That acceptance, that understanding, that challenge of the conversation that is at the level where they THINK is crucial to helping powerful thinkers accept that they are NOT weird, that the way they think, the speed with which they make connections and the unusual observations they make may not be for everyone, but they are NOT alone in thinking this way. Giving those powerful thinkers time by themselves TOGETHER is like giving water to someone who has just run through a desert. It can be a lifeline. It can be an experience that feeds the mind for days. It can be a time that the child relishes and absolutely NEEDS to feel accepted.
So, please, teachers, don’t be offended when I ask questions about how you’re differentiating. I want to be sure kids on my caseload are being challenged, but mostly I trust you to do that academically.
Even more than that, though, I want our highly gifted kids to have opportunities to interact with others that think like them. I want them to have a chance to talk about their social and emotional needs and let them have the chance to make friends. Really, really bright people often are loners because they are intense—and I want these kids to have the chance to connect with others and perhaps to make a best friend.
Please give them that opportunity and let me do my job.