Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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Gifted, Sensitive, Curious Children In School — What Can Parents And Teachers Do?

photo courtesy of Les Anderson, Unsplash

You would think that kids who love literature, enjoy mathematical puzzles and scientific enigmas and who are curious beyond measure, would be high achievers in school and a teacher’s dream.

There are times when this is the case: When curriculum is challenging and engaging. When teachers are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized. When classes are reasonable sizes. When administrators are supportive. When teachers get plenty of massages, dark chocolate, sleep.

And when giftedness is understood and appreciated.

Let me help you with that.

Meet six-year-old Ben. Eager to enter school, he was reading at age 4 and fascinated by the BBC documentaries on Planet Earth. He asked complicated questions about natural disasters, climate change, ancient Egypt and bacteria and told anyone who would listen about his discoveries. Ben cried easily when children or animals were hurt. He was bullied for his sensitivity and empathy. He didn’t understand why he had to practice his addition facts when he was multiplying fractions. Ben dreamed of becoming an astronaut-paleontologist-artist-poet when he grew up. He wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Meet Louise. She loved reading and learning but was overwhelmed by middle school. Overcrowded classrooms, buzzing lights, strange odors, disrespectful students who didn’t care about learning, frustrated teachers, mean girls and the pressure to be perfect all triggered her extreme anxiety and her existential depression. She appeared confident and arrogant. She was neither. She refused to go back to school.

Meet Carmen. Even though she was an exceptional writer and former straight-A student, she was failing high school English and math. She’d become discouraged over the years with the repetitive assignments and excessive homework. But she wasn’t turning in her writing for another reason this time. Carmen had very high expectations for herself and spent hours agonizing over particular words and the interconnections within her research. There were so many ideas demanding her attention that a 5 page paper turned into a doctoral thesis. But no one ever knew. She never turned it in.

These are just a few of the gifted children that I’ve known.

What can teachers do?

Get to know all of the faces of giftedness and the ways gifted children might look ungifted. Don’t assume that these kids are lazy or arrogant or immature or ADHD if they’re not achieving. Make the time (I know you don’t have much time. It’ll be worth it.) to talk individually with them. Be curious and listen to what they tell you. Problem solve together. Be flexible with deadlines and curriculum. If you use the multiple intelligences model in your classroom, all students will expect that some assignments might be different for some kids. Reduce the amount of rote learning and repetition for the students who don’t need it. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

What can parents do?

Get involved at the school and be supportive of staff. Look for the sensitive, flexible teachers and bribe them explain nicely why your child ought to be in their class. Help your older children advocate for themselves by helping them talk directly to teachers about concerns and needs. Access school counselors and former teachers who loved your youngster, so they can be advocates. If you run into lots of roadblocks, there are options. Explore acceleration, charter schools, private schools, micro schools, homeschooling, early graduation, early college, online classes, part-time school, and tutoring. Join an online parent support group. Fight for better funding for schools. Get enough massages, dark chocolate and sleep.

There are more tips for teachers in this post. More suggestions for parents are here.

Gifted children like Ben, Louise and Carmen are extremely curious, eager learners. They can appear to be ungifted when their sensitivities, intensities, divergent thinking and perfectionism are misunderstood. They can appear to be ungifted when they resist certain assignments, suffer from anxiety or depression and stop achieving.

Teachers who understand this and appreciate these children? Teachers who are sensitive, enthusiastic, kind, creative, smart, flexible and organized? Well, they will be a gifted kid’s dream. They will be loved beyond measure.

__________________________

To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your experiences with your kids or yourself in school. What challenges did you face? What successes? If you’re a teacher, let us know what it’s like for you. As always, thank you all for being here.

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Your Precocious Kid Was So Adorable. Now, At 15? Not So Adorable.

photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash, CC

Your daughter, Jenny, is editor of the school newspaper. She’s a math whiz, a voracious reader, and a star athlete. At 15, she looks destined for a great life.

Why, then, is she freaking out over what looks like nothing? Why is she still having meltdowns? Why is she screeching at you about your fundamentally inadequate parenting?

She was so darned cute when she was three.

But now, school is a struggle. She questions her teachers’ authority and refuses to turn in assignments that aren’t up to her standards. She criticizes the values of her so-called friends. Even though she has great empathy for the suffering multitudes, there’s no empathy for you. None. Nada. Zilch.

Welcome to adolescence. Welcome to GiftedKid 2.0.

I’m exaggerating. A little. In fact, she really does have empathy for you. Believe it or not, she feels guilty for her outbursts and hides a pressing need to please you. She worries that she’s a disappointment and that she’ll never live up to your expectations. (or her own) Her burning need for intellectual stimulation and her loneliness at not being deeply seen, also trigger her emotional reactivity.

Not to mention, um, hormones.

And, of course, your teen may not be like this at all. Gifted kids come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. But if you relate to the above, you’re not alone.

What can you do? Besides escape to a deserted island until she’s 21?

• Remind yourself that overexcitabilities (OEs) are part of the rainforest-minded  package. Gifted kids are naturally more intense emotionally as well as intellectually.

• Notice if you have your own set of OEs and learn how to nourish yourself, soothe your soul and get your own intellectual needs met.

• Try your best not to take the criticism personally. This is not easy. Breathe. Learn to meditate. Get exercise. Try therapy if your childhood pain is being triggered.

• Listen and reflect her feelings during the emotional turmoil. Problem solve later. No advice. No criticism. Listening is key. It’s a simple idea but not easy to do.

• Read Eileen Kennedy-Moore’s book Smart Parenting for Smart Kids and, ahem, my book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth. 

And, when all else fails, take comfort in the words of Andrew Solomon:

“Like parents of children who are severely challenged, parents of exceptionally talented children are custodians of children beyond their comprehension.”

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To my bloggEEs: For those of you who are parents, let us know how you experience your precocious adolescents. If you’re a gifted teen, does this sound like you? Or if you were a gifted teen, does this sound familiar? In a future post, I’ll focus on teen boys. But the suggestions apply if you have boys, as well. Thank you all, as always, for being here. Note: Just to clarify. I’m not saying that it’s not OK to question authority, to have high standards or to examine your friends’ values. Heavens, no. OK? Just clarifying.


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Your Gifted Child And School — Ten Suggestions For Parents

photo courtesy Pixabay, CC

photo courtesy Pixabay, CC

Eight-year-old Bobby wanted to be Richard Feynman for Halloween.

Could he be gifted? Hm?

There were many other signs: Enormous enthusiasm for learning, especially history, science, and language; emotional intensity, difficulty maintaining friendships with children his age, trouble with motivation in school, writing insightful poetry and detailed stories, stacks of books he longed to read, advanced verbal ability, over-thinking tests so that he misunderstood simple problems and scored poorly on exams, great interest in mathematics but not arithmetic, high sensitivity and empathy, frustration with the slowness of handwriting, distressed by the repetition in school, extremely active and curious mind, quirky sense of humor.

I’ve known many gifted children with similar characteristics. Like Bobby, they’re often misunderstood. Their sensitivity and big emotions are mistaken for immaturity. Mediocre test scores are interpreted as average ability or laziness. Loneliness is seen as lack of empathy. Intense curiosity looks like arrogance.

School personnel didn’t recognize Bobby’s rainforest mind. Is this scenario familiar?

If so, here’s what you can do:

— Explain to your child what it means to have a rainforest mind.

— Ask your child to create an imaginary container for his emotions to use when it’s not safe to express them in public. (Bobby used a coconut reinforced with diamonds that was “as big as a truck.”) One resource for helping with anxiety, depression and intensities is Charlotte Reznick‘s work.

— Find a specialist in gifted education who can test your child if the school needs proof of giftedness so that your child’s anxiety and creativity will be taken into consideration as her test results are interpreted.

— Request persistently and repeatedly that your child be matched with the more sensitive, creative and flexible teachers who, ideally, have training in gifted education. Did I mention, be persistent? Convince administrators that this is an easy solution, because it is. Understand the pressures that educators are under and provide support where you can. Bring bribes caffeinated beverages to overworked teachers. Let difficult administrators know that you have superpowers and you’re not afraid to use them. Remind yourself that when you speak out for your child, other gifted kids will benefit.

— Teach your child social skills, if needed, through role playing. Rainforest-y kids can be bossy and impatient because they don’t realize that other children don’t think as fast or don’t have the same interests. (Explain this to them.) Invite children over for play dates and provide guidance, if needed.

— Share this post with educators. It offers simple teaching techniques that work in the classroom along with inexpensive practical resources for teachers.

— Problem solve as a family. Brainstorm ideas. Your children will come up with creative solutions to assorted problems and they’ll appreciate your trust in them. Remember that healthy limits and consistency are important, especially if your child is testing boundaries. Take time to nourish yourself.

— If you have a rainforest mind and had difficulty in school, find ways to process your feelings through journaling, coaching or counseling. This post might help.

— Read about what other parents are doing and, if needed, look into homeschooling. Join a parenting support group in your town or on Facebook. Attend a SENG or NAGC conference.

— Work to change the system. Join innovative educators like Jade Rivera, the educators at NuMinds and organizations like 4pt0.org.

All of our children, in fact, the entire planet, will benefit if our gifted kids are provided with a stimulating, compassionate and meaningful schooling experience.

I’m sure Richard Feynman would agree.

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To my bloggEEs: Tell us about your schooling experiences or about how your kids are doing in school. What frustrations did you have? Was there a teacher who made a difference for you? How? Thank you for sharing. My blog is so much richer because of your comments. See you in 2017! Let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover in future posts.


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They Say You’re A Know-It-All. Are You?

photo from Pixabay, CC

photo from Pixabay, CC

What did you do when you were in school and you knew all of the answers to the questions the teacher was asking?

Did you raise your hand expecting that you’d be called on? Did you raise your hand expecting the teacher to ignore you? Did you not raise your hand because the other kids would get mad at you? Did you blurt out the answer out of frustration or anger or a touch of ADHD? Did you read Hamlet for the fifth time? Did you plan the design for a nuclear fusion reactor? Did you stare out the window in despair looking to the crows for consolation?

All you wanted was to learn something new. To be free to be curious and excited. To share big ideas with your peers. You weren’t trying to make anyone else look bad. You weren’t trying to show how smart you were. You weren’t trying to irritate the teacher. All you wanted was to learn something new.

But you were ridiculed and rejected. And maybe your teachers told you, “Nobody likes a know-it-all.”

Ironic, isn’t it? When you’re often feeling like an impostor? When you know how much you don’t know? You’re the last one to think that you know it all.

Maybe you were like Taylor Wilson. Just trying to correct the outdated information his science teacher was presenting to the class. Eager to talk with someone about “the esoteric behaviors of baryons and mesons.” Exploring nuclear fusion on his own while failing science in school.

Granted, we know that, in school, it’s very hard for teachers to manage large groups of energetic kids and meet each child’s particular educational needs. We know this. We need to work to change the system. But for now, and from now on, I don’t want you to be blamed for your ravenous hunger for knowledge. I don’t want you to be mislabeled. I don’t want you to blame yourself.

You’re not a know-it-all.

You’re a want-to-know-it-all.

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To my dear blogEEs: Were your experiences in school like this? Tell us about them. And if you haven’t heard of Taylor Wilson, check out the wonderful book, The Boy Who Played With Fusion, by Tom Clynes. Clynes tells an engaging, true story and is an articulate advocate for gifted kids. (Admittedly, I wish Taylor wasn’t using his extraordinary abilities to develop nukes, but that’s another conversation.)

 

 


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Most Popular Posts of 2015

Here are the top six posts of 2015. Thank you so much for reading, commenting, sharing and living your sensitive, intelligent, emotional, curious, compassionate rainforest-y life! Join me, dear bloggEEs, for more treks into the depths in 2016. Let us know, in the comments, how you’re doing and what you’d like to see next year.

Imagine A World Where Gifted Kids Don’t Have To Wait

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

My Smart Kid Is So Emotional, Am I A Parenting Failure?

photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC

photo by Diego Diaz, Flickr, CC

Still Gifted After All These Years

photo courtesy of Jordan McQueen and Unsplash

photo courtesy of Jordan McQueen and Unsplash

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

photo from Flickr, Creative Commons, Phil Roeder

photo from Flickr, CC, Phil Roeder

What Psychotherapists Need To Know About Gifted Clients

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

photo courtesy of Anne Allanketner

If I’m So Smart, Why Am I So Dumb? Part Two

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC

Photo by Cindi, Flickr, CC


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Imagine a World Where Gifted Kids Don’t Have to Wait

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

Photography by Servando from Flickr cc

It all started in first grade when you eagerly finished the entire workbook in one night. You thought your teacher would be pleased. She was not pleased. You were told to sit and color the pictures and WAIT until the other first graders caught up with you.

Then there was the time they were teaching addition and you had been doing complicated calculations in your head since you were four. You were told to WAIT. You were too young to learn fractions.

When you were eleven, you were dying to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X but you were told to WAIT. That was the book everyone was required to read in high school.

When you scored in the 99th percentile in reading and math and could easily work two years above grade level, it was decided that you shouldn’t skip a grade. You needed to WAIT until you were more emotionally and socially mature, even though you were capable of contributing confidently to discussions with your parents’ friends.

You wanted to know about death and God. You were told to WAIT until you were a grownup because you wouldn’t understand.

You’re still waiting.

Your colleagues at work take hours to conclude what you knew last week.

Your boss wants you to calm down and slow down and not share your ideas just yet. Maybe next week.

You’ve completed all of your assigned work for the day and it’s only 1pm.

Your supervisor says she’ll get back to you with the answers to your questions. She never does.

You’ve learned everything you can about your job and now the tasks are frustrating and boring.

You wonder when you can share the fascinating article you read in the New Yorker while friends talk about recipes and reality TV.

You have so much to say about so many things but you have to find the right time to speak so that you don’t overwhelm your partner, friends, relatives, children and pets with your enthusiasm, sensitivities and ideas. (Well, OK, maybe your pets aren’t overwhelmed.)

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

In his book, The Boy Who Played With Fusion, Tom Clynes wrote:

Waiting was the most common response when Tracy Cross of the college of William and Mary asked thirteen thousand kids in seven states to describe in one word their experience as gifted children.”

Thirteen thousand kids. Waiting.

Imagine a world where gifted kids don’t have to wait. A world where you can be yourself. Imagine the possibilities.

I want to live in that world.

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To my blogEEs: Tell us about the times that you or your kids have had to wait. What was it like? How did you cope? And for the skeptics among you, I understand that patience is important and there are times when we all need to wait. And, yet. This is about WAITING. You know what I’m talkin’ about. And thank you, as always, for reading and sharing.


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Still Gifted After All These Years

photo by Jordan McQueen, Unsplash

photo by Jordan McQueen, Unsplash

What if, when you were five years old, you knew you wanted to be a paleontologist-astronaut-librarian-dancer-firefighter when you grew up? What if, when you were nine years old, your favorite activity was listening to your mom read from her texts on Darwin’s theory of evolution? What if, when you were ten, you were devastated when you couldn’t watch your BBC documentaries? What if, when you were fourteen, you chose Jane Austen over The Brady Bunch?

Do you think that you might have been gifted?

What if, when you were in school, you failed multiple choice tests because you could explain how all of the answers could be correct? What if, when you were in school, you were called a know-it-all because you couldn’t contain your enthusiasm for fractals? What if, when you were in school, you were lonely because you didn’t care about football? What if, when you were in school, teachers gave you extra worksheets instead of answering your questions about the meaninglessness of life?

Do you think that you might have been gifted?

And now–

What if you tend to be anxious because you’re often overwhelmed by all of the suffering in the world? What if you tend to be anxious because you can feel your father’s, your friend’s, your neighbor’s and your cat’s unspoken distress? What if you tend to be anxious because you can’t forget the mistake you made five years ago? What if you tend to be anxious because you may be exposed as a fraud at any moment? What if you tend to be anxious because you feel pressure to be brilliant all of the time because people tell you how smart you are and you can’t disappoint them but you know that, in fact, you aren’t all that smart?

Do you think that you might be gifted?

Yep.

It’s true.

Still gifted after all these years.

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To my blogEEs: Which of the above examples can you relate to? What different examples can you share with us? I appreciate hearing from you so much. Everyone benefits from your comments. Let us know your questions, thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. Remember, here, your complexity is welcomed!