Today marks the first full week back in the public school classroom in three years. I enjoyed my year teaching in a private school and enjoyed my year break for travel and learning. I learned much about myself and the world during my break. I saw the two extremes of children: those who live in squalid and dirty conditions and those who have more than they could ever appreciate in a life time. Every one of these children have deep, searching eyes and curious minds. They all thrive on interactions from the adults in their life. Our positive outlook and actions are vital to their daily attitudes. Make a child smile today! It is the most rewarding thing you can do.
I write when I’m inspired. This morning as I was going through my twitter feeds I found something inspirational. The English Teacher just posted a blog about Susan Boyle. Susan’s story is all over the news and uTube. I think that the fascination with Susan has exploded because we all love when the underdog comes out on top. What is different about the English Teacher’s entry is how she relates Susan’s life experience to the student in the classroom. I’ve written before about underestimating what a child is capable of (see my entry on 3/19/09) and Susan’s story is a classic example.
I want to use Susan’s life story (as it has been put forth) to demonstrate some characteristics of a gifted individual. I can’t say if Susan is truly gifted in the technical sense but I can say that she is gifted with a beautiful and strong voice.
First, she demonstrates the characteristic of resilience. It’s well known that gifted individuals throughout time struggled with difficult family and economic situations. Some had the extra struggle of a learning disability. You don’t have too look far to find examples of this. Tom Cruise is a gifted actor who struggled with dyslexia, Einstein was told he was an awful student, Maya Angelou was sexually abused as a child, etc all have made fantastic contributions to our world.
Today, more and more research is being done on the twice-exceptional (2E) learner, those who are gifted and dealing with a learning disability. These studies are revealing the need for greater understanding and differentiated practices in the classroom. Susan’s story is a good example of a child who is ‘different’ from the norm. Susan experienced bullying when she was young which was likely associated with her ‘different-ness’. Bullying happened to my oldest when he was in 4th grade not because of a learning disability but from his ‘different’ thinking. After hundreds of dollars of testing and detailed paper work, he started in the gifted program at the beginning of his 5th grade year. He found other children who thought and acted like him, who accepted him with all his uniqueness. Susan and my son and many, many others are success stories despite their trying circumstances.
The second gifted characteristic portrayed in Susan’s story is how one can be gifted in one area and not in another. It appears that Susan was gifted with a beautiful voice but lacked skill in other areas. Many teachers without solid training in gifted characteristics believe the myth that being gifted means that a student is able to perform at the ‘gifted’ level in all things. Some of the most brilliant students I’ve taught had absolutely no social skills but could make surprising connections in the material I presented, some were very good with numbers and logical thinking but had difficulty reading or writing, others had creative abilities but could not stay organized. I just refreshed my memory about multiple intelligences in Edutopia and encouraged others to take the quiz. I want everyone to share their results. We are all different learners with weaknesses and strengths.
Our job as a teacher is not to overlook the seemingly unassuming child, the difficult child, or the socially isolated child. We must look for ways to help them with their difficulties and provide them with ways that they can excel. Yes, some can do it on their own but many give up or change to fit in. What a loss to our society. I’d love to hear your success stories!