“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” -Albert Einstein
I’ve dreaded writing this post for many reasons. One of which is that regarding the topic of intelligence I find it to be open ended and worthy of further research. Secondly, it forces me to deal with my own childhood issues. Thirdly, I would have to admit that my child/children are gifted. Lastly, if in fact they are, I’d have to come up with answers to the difficult question…now what?
So often parents lay awake at night and dream about having and raising a gifted child. Not me. I know what it means. I know the isolation that the child and parents can feel. I know the frustration the teachers teaching them can feel. I know the ridicule that can be endured living in a culture that idolizes ignorance. (Dumb and Dumber and it’s sequel, and viral videos of self inflicted injuries)
But don’t break out the Kleenex just yet. If I have learned anything I’ve learned this: it’s neither better or worse to be gifted or raise gifted children. It’s not cause for celebration nor is it cause for mourning. It’s simply a condition in life to which one must adapt.
The problem is however, that it is not always easy to tell if a child is gifted. They often are perceived as difficult, problematic, high maintenance anarchists who resist authority, in varying degrees. Not only that, but people who are not gifted in the traditional sense can be talented, hard working and determined, and achieve the same results as (and in some cases better) than the gifted person. In fact, there are many gifted people in life who end up utter failures or at least falling short of what they could have been.
Why? Because of simple misunderstanding.
There are traits common to the gifted, that without proper understanding, can seem more like a burden than a gift. Take, multipotentiality, for example. Or you could say, “good at too many things.” On the surface, it doesn’t appear to be a problem, yet it can be. Many people select a career based on their strengths and abilities and their interests follow. Now imagine standing before 12 doors and being told you must choose one. The average person faces these same doors, but only one or two may even open. With multipotentiality, 10 to 12 doors may be open and in a conventional education setting, you are told to pick one. Yet in picking one, you are saying no to 9 to 11 other doors. Furthermore, any door you say yes to will not lead to complete satisfaction because all of the strengths and abilities that opened the other doors will not be used. This dissatisfaction can lead to “bouncing” around from endeavor to endeavor, because we still erroneously assume that only one choice can be made.
Now assume that there actually exists the potential for a thirteenth door. One that utilizes all of the gifts and abilities and interests of the gifted child or adult. The only stipulation is that you have to create it for yourself.
The gifted child will never be satisfied stuck behind a desk, in a classroom surrounded by tasks that present no challenge, or within a class in which there are no opportunities for discovery, exploration or synthesis of information aquired. Moreover, the gifted adult will never be satisfied in a cubicle, office or traditional 9-5. The needs of the gifted don’t change as we age…we just learn to adapt our behavior to conform to societal norms.
Many professional educators will admit that having a gifted student or a special needs students requires the same patience and additional attention diverted from the main group.
Traditional ways of educating the child don’t work for gifted children. ( I would argue that traditional ways of educating the child don’t work for all children-Children are diverse and so are learning styles). It won’t work at home anymore than it will work in a more conventional setting.