A Grand Teacher

I have just watched the Legacy of Rosina Lhevinne on the Documentary Channel. http://www.thelegacyofrosinalhevinne.com/ If you ever have the chance to see this documentary, it is particulary good. The program is fantastic for teachers of the gifted. She taught some of the most gifted and talented individuals during her time at the Julliard School of Music. I’d like to tease you a few quotes from the program to entice you. I’ve italicized a response to each quote and how it might relate to teaching the gifted child.

“She can do so much for a student and get so much out of a student through inspiration.” Van Cliburn Inspiring a gifted student to do more is not easy. I have found that inspiration comes only after a solid, trusting relationship has been established. The student must respect your knowledge on the subject(s) that interested him or her. A teacher may want to become versed in technology for this reason. I won over a particulary difficult gifted student because I could teach him things about technology that he could use.

“She had an uncanny ability to suit the way she was teaching to what she thought the student would absorb and react to the best.” John Williams This is differentiation in its purest form. Thinking continuously about the needs, levels and abilities of each student was ongoing as I planned curriculum. I asked questions like, “How can I provide challenge for this child and/or for fundamental knowledge in another child within the same lesson? How can I keep this student interested and that student challenged but not so challenged that they grow disinterested or discouraged.”

“She was not a dictator, she was just so severe in the demand that the person really do the ‘completest’ (sic) development that was possible and in that demand, she was very specific.” James Levine Setting high expectations, moving the student to higher and higher levels, encouraging them to wrestle through difficulties….students need to fail at times because that is when their learning becomes personal and valuable. Many gifted students are very hard on themselves when they fail. They know they are smart, they have been told they are smart. It’s important that teachers of the gifted to assure the student that failing is as important as succeeding. In fact, more learning occurs after failing because alternatives and options surface. Masterful teachers know just when to ‘stage’ failure to elicit the most learning for their students.

“She used so many forms of psychology….sometimes it would stimulate you to make it work.” Van Cliburn Every teacher does this on a daily basis. Here Van Cliburn was relating an instance where Rosina told him that a piece was too difficult for him. He set out to prove her wrong. Motivating a gifted child requires he/she has numerous ways to encourage and motivate the gifted learner that are intrinsic in value. Extrinsic motivations will have limited usefulness and value as the gifted student moves through the grades.

“If you convince me your way is right I accept it, and I leave it alone, it is only when I think you don’t know what you want that I move in.” Rosina Lhevinne The gifted child just may have a new of different way to solve problems and are eager to share their insight to anyone standing nearby. Teachers of the average learner might misunderstand the motivation for the gifted child, who just can’t reign their excitement, as trying to take over the class or undermine the teacher’s ability or authority.

” ….beautiful balance between inputing into the student what you are and what the student can absorb …..” James Levine I’m reminded of this frequently. As teachers, we should remember that not everyone in the classroom will like our unit on lighthouses which we feel so passionate about or fall in love with the novel under study for the next six weeks. We have to strike the balance between who we are as teachers and who our students are.