The gifted team at HCOS recently read this article:
How to raise a Genius: Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Super Smart Children , published online by Nature.
The question was raised...."are we providing what our gifted kids need?". So I went through the article and drew out a checklist. Below is my summary...there are lots of good ideas, for sure and, for the record, as a school, I think we do pretty well. The additional questions that arose in my mind were: the measures that the studies use to define success (income, published papers, advanced degrees, patents), were they how I/we would define success? And, looking at the distilled suggestions, I felt that many are how we want to educate and support all children. (You know what I mean...not putting them all into AP courses early, but meeting them at their personal level of challenge, providing opportunities for their interests; encouraging a growth mind set and so forth.) Is it fair to say that good educational practices are simply good educational practices?
An alternative definition of success:
This led me down the path of thinking about how I do define success. A favourite quote of mine by Ralph Waldo Emerson states: “What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”
The Bible would go into things like: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind mind ... Love your neighbour as yourself (Matt 22) He has shown you, O mortal, what is good And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6)
Mind you, the article is pretty clear on one of their thoughts being that a nurtured genius would be someone who would leave the world a better place. “When you look at the issues facing society now — whether it's health care, climate change, terrorism, energy — these are the kids who have the most potential to solve these problems,” says Lubinski. “These are the kids we'd do well to bet on.”
I hear that, but there is something in me that rankles at the idea of raising gifted children for a purpose - regardless of how altruistic. Feels to similar to raising chickens or to eugenics and smacks of perfectionism in parenting. To me, we raise and educate the children we are given and we look to meet their needs the best we can. We steward them while we have them and hope/pray that we have modelled a steadfast reliance on God, an identity based on being his child, and no expectations beyond listening to and responding to his voice/call. To understand that our model of a successful gifted life on earth was that of Christ, who didn't hold a lofty position, died early (no patents, no degrees), gave away what he had and lived by faith, suffered and died. Okay, was also raised to life, and is Lord of Lords, owns the cattle on a thousand hills, spoke the universe into being and so forth. So probably a few patents...
My point is that if you raise a child who knows how to love and be loved, feels secure enough to risk and fail (and secure enough to deal with success well!), who can trust and be trusted...the rest is gravy. If we focus on these first, the rest will follow. Particularly if we use some of the tips on nurturing giftedness below. :)
That's my thought for today, at any rate. Open to discussion, of course.
Checklist on how to nurture giftedness (from the article linked above):
- Expose children to diverse experiences
- When a child exhibits strong interests or talents, provide opportunities to develop them.
- Support both intellectual and emotional needs.
- Help children to develop a 'growth mindset' by praising effort, not ability.
- Encourage children to take intellectual risks and to be open to failures that help them learn.
- Beware of labels: being identified as gifted can be an emotional burden.
- Work with teachers to meet your child's needs. Smart students often need more-challenging material, extra support or the freedom to learn at their own pace.
- Have your child's abilities tested. This can support a parent's arguments for more-advanced work, and can reveal issues such as dyslexia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or social and emotional challenges
- A one-size-fits-all approach to gifted education, and education in general, was inadequate.
- Accelerating fast learners by allowing them to skip school grades.
- Earlier access to what's already available to older kids.
- Modest interventions — for example, access to challenging material such as college-level Advanced Placement courses — have a demonstrable effect.
- Standardized tests should not be used to limit students' options, but rather to develop learning and teaching strategies appropriate to children's abilities.