Supporting Sensitive Individuals

Since returning from the Off the Charts Gifted Education Symposium in Auckland, Mother Comforting Teenage Daughter Sitting On Sofa At HomeNew Zealand, I have been acutely aware of the difficulties faced by sensitive gifted children in the classroom.

Take these three examples…

1.     When I asked to speak to staff about the innate qualities of gifted individuals,  I was referred to the curriculum coordinator to ensure we differentiate curriculum for our top achievers.

2.     Hearing the concerns of the mother of a sensitive eight-year boy who doesn’t want to go to school because of emotional bullying he encounters daily.

3.     Applying for a select entry acceleration program for my daughter, when I am uncomfortable with the test focused selection process for these schools.

All of these situations clearly highlight the lack of awareness of the complexity of giftedness, especially for creative and emotionally gifted young people.

Let’s unpack three issues highlighted in these examples.

 Not all gifted students are high achievers.

Ask most teachers to identify the gifted students in their classrooms and they will indicate students who are academically top performers. Students disrupting the class with their crazy ideas and excessive energy will not be at the top of their list, nor will the student who gets visibly distressed when they see people suffering, or has tears in their eyes because a line of poetry is so beautiful!

As Dr. Jim Delisle says so poignantly, “giftedness is something you are, not something you do.”

Our schools lack understanding of the innate qualities of giftedness.  Emotional intensity, common in many gifted individuals, means they deeply feel the pain of others. This leaves them vulnerable in the classroom, unable to engage effectively with the learning.

Creatively gifted individuals are rarely given the freedom and stimulation they need to thrive in our results focused schools. No wonder they are climbing the walls or completely disengaged with learning.

This leads us to the second issue.

Teachers need support to identify giftedness in their classrooms.

I am not talking about scores on IQ tests or scholarship entrance tests; I am talking about a multi dimensional picture of giftedness that reflects the complexity of individuals in their care.

The Giftedness Scale developed by The Gifted Development Centre, helps parents identify giftedness in their children, it is also an excellent resource for teachers. Testing should cover a comprehensive range of qualities and abilities and be used alongside qualitative measures – talking to the children, their parents and teachers. This provides a full picture of the child’s unique characteristics and needs.

Without this, we are missing the children that most need our support.

Finally, teachers need support to cater for the needs of gifted individuals.

Teachers and advocates of the gifted need no convincing of the importance of this!

At the symposium, this line really resonated with me. “We don’t get how they don’t get it!”

Society easily identifies with the issues faced by children with learning difficulties because we have all struggled with something at some point. As the challenges faced by gifted students are so far out of most peoples’ experience, it is difficult to comprehend the need for support.

This makes complete sense to me.

If you have ever tired to explain how deeply you feel, or the way your brain works and people look at you like you’re a freak, you will get it too!

We need to support all teachers to cater for gifted students in the classroom. We also need specialised educators who really ‘get them’. This is not about elitism, or special treatment, it allows children to be recognised, supported and celebrated. Something that is long overdue in our schools.

If you are a parent reading this blog, know this…

You are your child’s best friend. Love them, be their champion, for they are perfect just the way they are.  They need you and society needs the gifts that both of you bring to the world.