Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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For Gifted Kids And Their Teachers — Strategies For Success

Photo courtesy of Ashim D’Silva, Unsplash

Maybe you are an enthusiastic, hungry learner. You have so many questions and so many answers; your drive to analyze and create is massive and never ending. Your intense curiosity annoys your fellow students and rattles your teachers.

Was this your experience in first grade? Is this your story even now that you’re in grad school? If so, it can be deeply painful and frustrating. You may blame yourself for your too muchness and your seemingly inadequate communication and social skills. You may have been labelled a know-it-all but you wonder how that’s possible when you feel like a want-to-know-it-all and a slacker.

Maybe you’re a teacher who is working valiantly to serve the wildly different abilities of your students. You love your kids but are overwhelmed by their academic and emotional needs. How do you manage their range of abilities, their fears and doubts, and the demands of their parents and your administrators? And what about those kiddos who always finish work early and are asking questions that you can’t answer? Who are passionate about learning but don’t hand in their homework? Who are sensitive to the suffering multitudes but don’t appear to care when correcting your spelling?

What are some ways rainforest-minded learners can navigate the education system? How might teachers meet the needs of the gifted student?

Yep. These are HUGE questions. The following are some tiny answers. (But a place to start.)

For students (and parents):

Look for allies: Ask your favorite teacher to start a philosophy club. Look for mentors during your after school activities and entice them with your sense of humor. Find the other rainforest-y kids and talk to them. Go to office hours with the professor who loves your inquisitive nature.

Don’t believe that something’s wrong with you when teachers misunderstand your effervescence, your high standards, your disappointments or your need to correct others’ errors. Ask to meet with your more sensitive instructors over lunch and explain what you know about yourself and rainforest minds. (Show them my blog!) Ask them to advocate for you. Negotiate a flexible plan to get relevant work completed or to design alternative assignments.

Find inspiration from your research online. Contact fascinating people like Maria Popova from Brain Pickings or Krista Tippett from On Being.

For teachers:

Recognize the importance of your work and the powerful influence you have on children.

Find ways to nourish yourself. Attend conferences like this one. Join NAGC and access their resources.

Use some of the ideas suggested in this blog post such as: “It won’t take much to get your gifted students to adore you. Listen to them. Let them know that you appreciate how hungry they are to learn, then find ways to feed them…”

Read Parker Palmer‘s book, The Courage to Teach. Let his positive vision guide you.

Access curriculum guides published by Prufrock Press and Free Spirit.

Don’t miss the important documentary on gifted children and education titled The G Word that will be out in 2019.

Find inspiring words to tape to your refrigerator such as: “The connections made by good teachers are held not in their methods but in their hearts — the place where intellect, emotion, spirit, and will converge in the human self — supported by the community that emerges among us when we choose to live authentic lives.” Parker J. Palmer

For students, parents and teachers:

“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”   Wangari Maathai              

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To my bloggEEs:  Tell us about your experiences in school as a student or a teacher. How might you shed your fear and share hope with your self, your family, your school, your community or your world? Thank you to the reader who inspired this post.


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Blogs On Gifted Kids That You Will Love

photo courtesy of Justin Luebke, Unsplash, CC

photo courtesy of Justin Luebke, Unsplash, CC

Below are links to some of my favorite blogs. I have to admit, my dear readers, that I have a not-so-hidden agenda. All of these fabulous bloggers have reviewed my book. You get a two for one deal: Recommendations for great blogs on giftedness plus sensitive thoughtful reviews of my book.

Thus, if you’re still wondering if my book is worth the price, you can see what these fine humans have to say. Then you might want to sign on and follow these bloggers. After that, you can bike to your neighborhood bookstore or to Amazon and buy copies for yourself, your teens, your therapist, your favorite teachers and your eccentric Aunt Maxine.

Here we go:

Pamela Price writes a fascinating blog that covers multiple topics including raising gifted children, education, bullying, self-care, food security and elder care. She’s written a book on homeschooling  and another on bullying. Here’s her review, plus an interview with me.

Gail Post is a psychologist in PA, USA. Her writing is very clear and concise. She has both professional and parenting experience and writes about underachievement, perfectionism, schooling, advocacy, social isolation and so much more. Here is her interview with me.

Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley is a mother of three young rainforest minds. You’ll notice her resourcefulness as you scroll through her site and wonder how she manages to homeschool, share her insight and find so many incredible resources to recommend to other parents. You’ll also find her at the Huff Post. Her review is here.

Lucinda Leo is based in the UK. She’s been a lawyer, a cognitive hypnotherapist and is now a dedicated mum of two energetic gifted kids. She writes  a lot about intensities, sensitivity and overexcitabilities. Here is her lovely, personal, detailed review!

Jade Rivera is an innovative educator and compassionate soul who wrote a very practical book about starting a micro school. She blogs for parents of 2e kids and educators. Her review is here.

Numinds Enrichment is a blog for parents and educators written by two enthusiastic, creative educators and a sensitive big-hearted parent. Numinds is a “revolutionary educational enrichment company” based in Dallas, Texas. Emily, the big-hearted parent, wrote this review.

Celi Trepanier is the mother of three gifted boys and writes the popular parenting blog Crushing Tall Poppies. Her excellent book, Educating Your Gifted Child, is published by GHF Press. Her review is here.

Jennifer Harvey Sallin runs the innovative website and FB group, Intergifted, an international home for gifted adults (ok, not kids, but it needed to be here anyway). The website contains well-written articles, courses and opportunities for coaching. Read her comprehensive review here.

Ann Grahl runs the important website Supporting Gifted Learners. Her sensitivity and knowledge is clear in her posts. Here is her review.

Lisa Conrad provides loads of resources and information for parents of gifted kids.. Her weekly Twitter events on gifted topics include lists of related articles, blogs and books. She has a list of professionals here. (therapists worldwide who understand giftedness) You can find her review on Amazon along with several others.

There are even more wonderful blogs on giftedness but I didn’t want to overwhelm you. Look for them on the two excellent websites that have been serving gifted families for years: giftedhomeschoolers.org and hoagiesgifted.org.

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To my bloggEEs: Do you have other resources you’d recommend that have helped you understand your rainforest mind? Thank you, as always, for reading and sharing.


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If I Can Do It, So Can You — Finding Your Purpose(s)

photo courtesy of Chaz Harding, Flickr, CC

photo courtesy of Chaz Harding, Flickr, CC

I have the best job ever. I love deep meaningful conversations with one person at a time. The human psyche is fascinating to me. I’m an introvert. I believe that healing is possible when humans embark on the courageous journey of deep introspection. I want to make a difference in the world. I’m a psychotherapist. It’s the best job ever. For me.

Not only that. I specialize in working with highly sensitive, insightful,  empathetic, super-smart humans. I spend my days with them. It never gets dull.

I get paid to do this.

Today, was a typical day. For example: (Details changed to protect privacy.)

Jenny, in her 40s, is a musician/composer. She’s courageously grieving a history of abuse in childhood, the traumatic death of her mother and a divorce while raising a gifted teen. She’s sensitive, compassionate and determined. Today, she was sharing her experiences of fragility and vulnerability and wondering how to navigate through such unstable terrain. In a moment of insight, she realized that she was finding her voice through her art; that her pain was turning into beauty through the music. And this would empower her and touch everyone who experienced her sound.

Then, I met with the parents of a highly gifted twelve-year-old. These parents, Mary and Craig, are the parents you wish you had. They’re sweet, articulate, smart, devoted to their kids, and kind. Since their daughter entered school, they’ve had to stay involved in her education to be sure her academic needs were met. It hasn’t been easy. Their girl, Stacy, is extremely intense and emotional. A perfectionist. Highly creative. A voracious learner with extraordinary empathy. When I met her parents, they were frustrated and sad. Stacy is highly verbal, full of ideas and worries. She tends to feel overly responsible and has a highly developed social conscience. She’s way ahead of her peers in every subject area. Some teachers love her. Others don’t.

Mary and Craig sympathize with the challenges the educators face, and yet, all they want is for Stacy to be intellectually stimulated and to maintain her motivation to achieve. Arrangements were made to allow Stacy to read advanced material in an independent study program. Not ideal, but a beginning. Stacy was excited and enthusiastically began reading. Sadly, administrators changed their minds and put Stacy back in the torture chamber uninspiring class. Mary and Craig were struggling with what to do next. I was able to encourage them and to remind them that Stacy has a right to an education that meets her needs.

This is what I do all day. (Oh, yes, and I blog, too.) If I can find my purpose in life, so can you. And there’s no better time than the present. We can no longer wait for the perfect moment or for the kids to grow up or for the next iPhone. We can no longer wait for lightening to strike. The planet needs its rainforest minds. Now.

No pressure. Well, maybe a little pressure. OK. A lot of pressure.

If you’re wondering how to begin or how you’ll know you’ve found it, here are some ideas. Remember it’s a process. (In my case, there were years of psychotherapy and other types of inner work.) I write about accepting and showing your rainforestness here and here. I write about how psychotherapy works here and here.  Career paths here and here. Parenting, here. And I suggest some books here. Maybe you spend time in Nature or you read Pema Chodron or you start a mindfulness practice. Maybe you influence educators at your child’s school. Maybe you turn your pain into art.

Make the time to quiet yourself and listen to your heart.

When your heart sings.

You’ve found it.

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To my blogEEs: I mention “purpose(s)” because you might have more than one purpose over your lifetime. Share your thoughts, feelings and questions here. What makes your heart sing? Let me know how I can help. Thank you for reading and sharing.


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If I’m So Smart, Why Do I Feel So Much Guilt?

photo courtesy of STSci NASA

photo courtesy of STSci NASA

It started early. The other kindergartners were struggling to learn their ABCs. You were reading chapter books. The other second graders didn’t care about the photos from the Hubble Telescope. You obsessed over them. The other teens enjoyed stories about vampires. You adored Jane Austen.

At first, you may have felt confused, weird and lonely. As you got older, perhaps you felt guilt, too.

Guilt because learning came easily to you. Guilt because you could accomplish quickly what took others hours to finish. Guilt because teachers and parents praised your high grades. Guilt because you were held up as a role model for others. Guilt because you excelled at most things that you tried. Guilt because you hid your abilities and made mistakes on tests on purpose.

And now, as an adult, there may be more guilt.

Guilt because you daydream about the latest Dr. Who episode when you should be focused on the next mundane task. Guilt because you don’t always feel grateful for your intelligence. Guilt because you feel some boredom raising your child. Guilt because you aren’t living up to your potential. Guilt because you end up with extra time at work with nothing to do. Guilt because you’re bored at meetings and want to strangle your colleagues. Guilt because you procrastinate. Guilt because it’s easy for you to come up with creative ideas and implement them. Guilt because you’re smarter than your parents and siblings. Guilt because your home isn’t spotless. Guilt because you aren’t perfect. Guilt because you aren’t saving the world. Guilt because you’ve fooled people into thinking that you’re gifted.

Is that enough guilt?

Here’s the thing. Guilt is only helpful if you’ve done something wrong that you need to apologize for or that you need to repair. Then, guilt can be productive.

In this case, guilt is not productive. You were born with your rainforest mind. You don’t need to feel guilty about it.

It’s not your fault that you’re gifted.

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To my blogEEs:  Tell us what you feel guilty about. Then, see if you can breathe out and let it go. And thank you to the readers who suggested this topic.

(Note: Added after publication: From a reader–Guilt for impatience with others’ slowness, Guilt for thinking that others are stupid, Guilt for not speaking up because you assume others won’t understand.)


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Back to School Tips for Teachers and Parents of Gifted Kids

Alicia and me

Alicia and me–Sorry, I couldn’t get a photo of her teaching.

My niece, Alicia, is a middle school English teacher. She loves, I mean LOVES, her job. I can imagine her in a classroom finding creative and sensitive ways to meet the needs of all of her little darlings. She’s the teacher we all want. The teacher who will change us in unexpected ways.

I’m guessing that you had one of those teachers and that you remember his or her name. That you’re grateful for the kindness or the intellectual excitement or the books s/he put into your hands.

I was a teacher, too, when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. Sixth grade, at first. Then I became a TAG (talented and gifted) teacher. I had the amazing opportunity to work with small groups of curious, funny, super-smart kids. One of them (now in his 40s) found me on Facebook the other day and sent me a note of appreciation. I’ve heard from others, too. It’s so gratifying to know that I made a difference for some of them all of those years ago.

And now another school year begins. So I wonder. How do we support our teachers? How can we support the ones who are sensitive, creative, and flexible and who love their jobs and our kids? How can we help the teachers who are overwhelmed and anxious, who are misunderstanding the needs of our rainforest-minded sweeties? How can we influence society to prioritize the importance of education for all children?

I guess if I knew the answers to those questions I wouldn’t be sitting here at my kitchen table with my itty-bitty blog. I’d be a much-sought-after keynoter at conferences with titles like: Elite Athletes and Celebrities Turn their Earnings Over to Teachers Conference.

Sigh.

Instead, well, here are some starter ideas for teachers:

photo courtesy of Alicia

photo courtesy of Alicia

It won’t take much to get your gifted students to adore you. Listen to them. Let them know that you appreciate how hungry they are to learn, then find ways to feed them. Bring extra books, materials and mentors into your classroom. Have flexible deadlines for projects. Let them work with other gifted kids. Eliminate assignments that teach what they already know and replace them with projects that tap into their interests. Consider that they may have learning disabilities along with their giftedness; don’t be afraid to get input from parents. Notice when they’re overwhelmed or emotional and appreciate their tender sensitivities. Let them work at their own pace whenever possible. Don’t assume that they’re lazy if they’re not turning in assignments. You don’t have to answer all of their questions; just love their curiosity and guide them to multiple resources. Let your enthusiasm for your subject matter show. You won’t be perfect; understand that if they correct your mistakes that they aren’t gloating, there’s no intention to embarrass you. You can find some teaching materials here and here.

And information for parents:

Here are some articles that will help you advocate for your children. From NAGC. This. And this. And from psychologist, Gail Post’s blog.

For both teachers and parents:

The work that you do for children is extraordinarily important and you’re often not recognized or appreciated for it. It can be exhausting and overwhelming. Be sure to find ways to nourish yourself. Feed your own hungry soul what it needs. And, as my niece Alicia writes, “…these kiddos teach me everyday about the capacity of the human spirit and remind me to ‪#‎chooselove‬!”

Choose love.

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To my blogEEs: Please share your success stories about teaching and schooling. Let us know what works and how we can get athletes and celebrities to fork over their dough.

 


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If I’m So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

If I'm So Smart, Why Was School Such A Drag?

Flickr, Creative Commons, Phil Roeder

You were five years old and couldn’t wait to get to school. But when you got there, something went terribly wrong. You anticipated learning all about the solar system and reading all of the books that you could get your curious little hands on. But, instead, you were told to help the other kids identify the letters of the alphabet and color the circles red and the triangles blue.

This was so strange. Maybe you’d entered a time machine. Maybe extraterrestrials had invaded your school. Maybe you were missing something and there was a secret code you were meant to decipher that used red, blue, circles and triangles and if you figured out the code you’d find the trap door where they hid the books.

Weren’t the other five years olds also eager to know the speed of light and to read A Wrinkle in Time? You began to wonder what was wrong with you. You weren’t like the other kids. You confused them when you spoke about your trip to NASA. They resented you when you kept correcting their spelling.

But you adored your kindergarten teacher. If you could just talk to her all day, you’d be happy.  You hung around her desk at recess wanting to ask her why the sky was blue and what she thought of tesseracts. But because she was busy and looked stressed out, you felt sad for her. She was focused on stopping Tommy from hitting Gretchen. So you didn’t ask.

And that was how it went.

You loved learning. You were starving for answers to your questions. But school didn’t know what to do with you.

Flickr, Creative Commons, alamosbasement

Flickr, Creative Commons, alamosbasement

I’m hoping that you didn’t interpret that to mean that you were deficient. That you were the problem. Unfortunately, I know lots of kids who did just that. And if you didn’t get good grades because you became anxious during tests or because you had exceedingly high expectations so work didn’t get turned in on time or because you became disillusioned with the pointlessness of it all, then you may have decided that you weren’t very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Or perhaps you did get good grades. Without really trying. You could procrastinate until the very last minute and get an A. So the grades became meaningless. Or an opportunity for bullies. Or a chance for you to feel guilty. And not very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Or maybe you went to a university and then your fears were realized. You hadn’t learned how to manage your time or study for exams and you felt like you shouldn’t have to ask for help. You may have been unable to choose a major because your interests were so diverse. Surely, you’d proven beyond any doubt that you weren’t very smart. Certainly not gifted.

Certainly not gifted?

Stop blaming yourself because you never figured out the secret code. How could you know?

You were– too gifted.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences in school. Similar or different from what I’ve described here?

Disclaimer–I’m writing this blog from my perspective– growing up, going to school and counseling in the USA. I don’t know if these dynamics are common elsewhere. Can those of you from around the world let us know if you can relate? Was it similar for you? Are there differences? We’d love to hear from you. And, of course, I want to hear from all of you, my lovely readers. Your experiences, questions, feelings and insights.

 


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Most Popular Post of 2014 — If I’m So Smart Why Am I So Dumb?

photo from Casey Fyfe, Unsplash

photo from Casey Fyfe, Unsplash

People may have told you that you were smart. But you may not feel smart. Why? Because you graduated from college with a 2.65 grade point average after changing your major 5 times. Why? Because you never finish any of the projects you start. Why? Because you can’t decide what color to paint the bedroom and it’s been three years. Why? Because you still daydream all the time and forget to tie your shoes. Why? Because you haven’t won the Nobel Prize. In fact, you haven’t won anything except the spelling bee in third grade. Why? Because you still cry when you gaze at the stars. Why? Because you know how much you don’t know.

 

Let me explain. It’s complicated.

• If you have multiple interests and abilities (multipotentiality), you may want to study many topics and not want to narrow yourself down to one field. One day you’re fascinated by marine biology and the next by philosophy. How do you choose?

• Perhaps, college was the first time you were challenged academically. You didn’t know how to study and you couldn’t stop yourself from procrastinating, so your grades suffered.

• You love learning new things and once you learn what you need, it’s time to move on. This may mean that certain projects don’t look complete even though they are complete for you.

• You have very high standards for your work. If you’re feeling pressure to be perfect, you abandon a project because you feel paralyzed.

• You’re very sensitive to color so it really matters what colors you live with. Decisions, in general, are hard because you can think of way too many possibilities.

• Daydreaming still gets a bad rap and you believed what your teachers told you about it. Some of my best friends are daydreamers. And who has time to tie their shoes?

• Winning has never been your objective.

• Crying gets a bad rap, especially if you’re a male. But you see the incredible beauty in the sky and are amazed.

People may have told you that you were smart. You may not feel so smart. That’s OK. Nobody said living with a rainforest mind was going to be easy.

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To my bloggEEs: Even though it hasn’t been a full year yet (I started this blog in March 2014), it still feels like a good time to thank you for finding me, reading, sharing, commenting, liking and being with me, here, in this astonishing blogworld. Thank you! I look forward to joining you in 2015 and beyond. Please continue to read and share your thoughts, feelings, questions and insights. And remember to LOVE that sensitive, complicated, creative, and curious rainforest mind of yours.