Looking For the Good in Our Gifted Kids
There have been a few situations this year that have pulled on my heartstrings and beckoned me to write this post on (in my opinion) the most important aspect of teaching- looking for the good in EVERY child.
I know most of you are not teachers, but as parents, you do engage with children that are both yours and not yours daily. Whether teaching, coaching, or carpooling, it is crucial that we take the time to look for the good in the kids we spend time with. Some kids don’t even notice if you like them or not, your approval means nothing. However, highly observant, sensitive, and/or gifted kids will 100% be able to tell if you don’t like them. In fact, they will be able to tell how their teacher feels about them and every child in their class.
Spoiler alert: The gifted child is not immune to being disliked by adults or teachers. Not everyone sees the good in gifted characteristics because sometimes they are, frankly, annoying. There are what we call “concomitant characteristics”, the good and the bad of each gifted characteristic. For example, some gifted children are persistent and can concentrate, so they can focus on a task at length and learn in depth. On the flip side, have you ever tried to get a kid like this to hurry up and change activities? You might be looking at a full-fledged meltdown. One of my own children is an over participator in class like I was as a child (and let’s face it, as an adult too). We both want to answer every question and comment on every personal connection, which can be seen as inquisitive in one light, but disruptive in another. My other child has an amazing sense of humor but can be a class clown if it is not channeled in the right way. It is my hope and prayer that their teachers each year look for the good in my children, because both are the type that will notice when they don’t. This will, inevitably, impact their learning and self-esteem.
As a teacher, it has always been my rule to look for the good in every child in my class. A long time ago, I had a student that challenged this rule daily. He was very bright, but he did not always (or ever) use his knowledge for good. This was the student that knew exactly what buttons to push with every kid in the room and could literally bring my most patient, do-gooders to their last nerve in seconds. He never did anything bad per say, but if chewing noises bothered you- he would chew next to your ear. If pencil tapping was your kryptonite- he was tapping away. If you didn’t like the smell of dirty socks- his shoes would magically fall off right under your nose. Everyday was a new day, but at the end of everyday I was glad to see him go. I was constantly looking for the good, but I am not going to lie, it was hard. Then, one day, there it was. Our classroom was an outdoor portable on cinderblocks, not a slab, so whenever kids were moving- the room was shaking. On the way out to recess on the Friday before a holiday break, there was a surge of excitement and energy and my students were a herd of elephants stampeding to the door, shaking the room like an earthquake. My favorite mug, one in the shape of an owl, a gift from an intern that I adored, vibrated across my desk and shattered on the floor. It was not any single person’s fault, just a natural consequence of the chaotic exit. I sent the class on a short guilt trip explaining that their choices led to the destruction of my mug, but quickly shooed them out to burn off their energy. Then, this student, this mastermind of annoyances, stayed inside from recess and without my knowing, picked the broken pieces of my mug from the garbage and scotch taped it back together. He presented me with the mug saying, “You can’t drink your coffee out of it, it’s just tape so it will leak. But you can use it for pencils or something and it will still bring you happy memories.” There it was, the good in this child I was looking for, empathy and attention to detail. He knew the mug was special to me just like he knew what bothered everyone around him. He paid close attention to the smallest details. Once I found the good, I could pull it out in academic situations that required this type of hyper focus, looking for patterns in the details in Math, Social Studies, Science, etc. It also turned out that while he knew what got under everyone’s skin, he also noticed when things were amiss with his peers and was quick to point them out to me. He always knew who was missing, sad, hungry, or lying. This student ended up being one of my greatest gifts that year.
Your children and mine are wonderful future adults that are going to change the world with the things that annoy us the most right now. There is darkness and light in every attribute, it is our job to guide their gifts to the light. It is also our job to advocate for our children and help others see the all the good they have to offer. Below you will find some links to helpful documents on the concomitant characteristics of gifted children (1st- origin unknown, 2nd- (Nordby, 2002) . I hope that you will share them with people who work with your child.
Have a wonderful week. Erin Arnold