I really enjoyed this post from Madelaine Armstrong Willcocks. It explores gifted learners and how they experience success. One of the most frequent things I've struck in my interactions with gifted kids, is their uneasiness when their successes are highlighted and celebrated in front of their peers. This seems to me to be particularly common to high school aged girls but knowing the desire of boys to fit in with their peers and not be seen as different, I'm sure there are boys who feel exactly the same way.
I've been thinking a lot about how can we celebrate the accomplishments of gifted kids in a way that allows them to feel deservedly proud without worrying about the reactions of their peers. Because when it comes down to it, that's what this is about, right? Worrying about what others think is what stops our gifted kids from celebrating their successes as they deserve to, free of anxiety about what others are thinking. So how can we address this?
There are two things that keep popping into my head as I mull this over.
1. Not everyone is going to like you....and that's ok. Maybe this is what we should be teaching our kids. If we keep this in mind, then maybe they'll be less worried about the reactions of others.
Then again, sometimes it is people in their own friend group who seem to struggle with feeling joy for their successes and in that case, telling our gifted kids not to care about their friends' opinions is not going to help one bit.
So then what? Well, here's an idea.
2. Let's celebrate our gifted kids' failures! Let's share when things go wrong for them instead of just highlighting their successes.
Ok, there are lots of things to keep in mind here. First and foremost, this approach needs to be used for all our learners so we are not perpetuating the very behaviour we are actually trying to minimise.....isolating the gifted learner by making them seem different to their classmates. Furthermore, this needs to be done sensitively and with the permission of the learners. But talking to the cohort about the struggles the gifted learner is facing and what they intend to do next to pick themselves up can only be beneficial for everyone. Talking honestly about resilience and the power of mistakes is so compelling and can send a great message to everyone about growth mindset and the power of yet. If sensitively sharing "failures" and disappointments becomes the norm for all students in our classes, then the group as a whole is more likely to feel joy for one another, gifted or otherwise, when a class member works through something to experience success. Mistakes are a great leveller and community builder! And it helps our gifted kids be seen as human, people who face challenge and experience disappointment, just like everyone else.
Of course, we might have search harder for the gifted kids' mistakes or failures than we do for some other kids. That's ok! (Nobody else needs to know that part!)
This approach relies on one fundamental thing; that we as their teachers are providing a programme which enables everyone to work at their own level and experience challenge. If our gifted kids are NEVER making mistakes and experiencing failures and disappointments, then isn't it our job as their teacher to reflect on whether we are providing a programme which challenges them enough?