Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive


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A Short Guide to the Complicated Life of Gifted Adolescents or Young Adults

photo courtesy of Christian Joudrey, Unsplash

Maybe you wonder how you can be so smart and so dumb at the same time. Perhaps you feel like too much and not enough.  Maybe you are terrified of both failure and success. Perhaps you love learning but are frustrated with schooling. Maybe you live by the highest standards for excellence but can never find your shoes. Well, my darlings, you are not alone. Welcome to your rainforest mind.

Here is your short guide to being a gifted adolescent or a young adult. Click on the link to read the entire post.

I Have to Know it Before I Learn It: A Gifted Kids’ Conundrum

“…He came to believe that all learning should come easily. If it didn’t, there was something terribly wrong. Ben never learned how to study. Or that it was normal for some learning to be a struggle. Ironically, even though he felt like a failure and like he wasn’t smart because of his experiences in school, he also believed that he shouldn’t have to study something to understand it. This created confusion, anxiety, paralysis, and avoidance when there was a chance that he might not grasp a concept fast enough or succeed at a task. If it wasn’t easy, he didn’t do it…”

When Perfectionism, Anxiety, and Giftedness Go To College

“…Suddenly, Ellen was on her own. Not only dealing with coursework that was more difficult but also planning her schedule, choosing classes, and managing: study time/homework, new friends, dorm life, exercise, sleep, meals, fun activities, laundry, and all those other daily decisions that you can’t predict. Not to mention, she still wanted to excel in all of her classes. She said that she didn’t know how to do it any other way. If she didn’t give 100%, she felt lazy. Or, she thought, maybe she wasn’t so smart after all. Her identity would teeter on the edge. Anxiety overload. Perfectionism paralysis…”

A Gifted Kid’s Conundrum — Part Two — Anxiety and Perfectionism

“…Understand that your perfectionism and anxiety might exist not because of something that you’ve done wrong but because of the nature of growing up gifted. The complications begin at an early age. You have a right to take the time to focus on your self-understanding and growth…”

What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

“…Then again, I’m scared to death of college. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were put in a class with really smart kids. What if the work is too hard? What if I don’t have all the answers? What’ll I do? Who am I then? How do I study for a test? I haven’t really had to crack a book yet. What if I can’t get the answers fast? And, what will I major in? I have so many interests. They say I can do anything I want like that’s a great thing. But all I feel is pressure and anxiety. How do I choose just one thing? What if I’m really not so smart and I’ve just been able to fake it all this time?..”

For Gifted Kids and Their Teachers: Strategies for Success

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…”

Social Responsibility and Your Super Smart Sensitive Soul 

“…Get in touch with the activities and skills that bring you joy, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, use your creativity to turn one or more of them into a community building or global-oriented service project that will change minds and hearts. Design a project that will spread more love. That will soften the divide and reduce the fear. It doesn’t have to grow into a global phenomenon. But it can. You may hesitate because you feel that whatever you do won’t be grand enough. Won’t be perfect enough. Don’t let that stop you…”

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To my bloggEEs: I thought it might be helpful to organize a collection of posts for the youngsters among you or for the parents of the youngsters. Or for those of you who were adolescents and young adults long ago. If you’ve been a bloggEE for a while, these posts will be familiar. Let us know what you think. Your comments add so much. And thank you, as always, for being here.


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Time to Agree: Gifted Kids Exist

 

photo courtesy of Zachary Nelson, Unsplash

• I think it’s time we acknowledged that super smart kids do exist.

The eight year old who wants to be Richard Feynman for Halloween. The five year old reading The Chronicles of Narnia. The four year old who cries listening to Mozart. The ten year old whose favorite pastime is watching BBC documentaries. The six year old who refuses to eat meat for ethical reasons. The nine year old who rescues the grasshoppers on the playground. The ten year old whose poetry breaks your heart. The fourteen year old who’d rather read David Foster Wallace than hang out on social media.

Gifted kids exist. We don’t love them any more than any other kids. All children are precious. But, we have to agree. Most eight years olds don’t aspire to be Richard Feynman.

• I think it’s time that we no longer felt threatened by our super smart kids.

What if we let them correct our spelling errors and appreciated their desire for accuracy? What if we were supportive of their intellectual needs and let them read, research, question and dive as much as they wanted?  What if we didn’t have to know everything that they know about narwhals? What if we don’t need to share their passion for reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy eleven times but we do need to love their intensity and get out of the way? What if we recognize how darned lonely they are as they yearn to meet even just one person who truly gets them?

Gifted kids exist. Sure, a six year old who knows more than you do about the origin of the universe might be a bit unsettling, threatening even, especially if you’re the science teacher. But, we have to agree. It’s OK that I don’t know what narwhals are and that you probably don’t either.

• I think it’s time that we made school a vibrant, nourishing place for our super smart kids.

What if they didn’t have to hide their capacity to get A’s without studying because the work was so challenging that they had to study? What if they didn’t have to underachieve so the other kids wouldn’t feel bad? What if we didn’t put them under pressure because they’re so smart, by over-emphasizing their achievements and their potential?  What if we didn’t ridicule and bully them because we feared their supposed arrogance or were jealous of their abilities? What if we redesigned our school systems so each child’s needs could be met and teachers would be paid the same as George Clooney for his next movie.

Gifted kids exist. They come in all colors, shapes, and sizes.

Let’s all agree. Shall we?

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To my bloggEEs: Please share your reactions, thoughts, feelings, and questions. What were you like when you were a child? If you’re a parent, how do your issues overlap with those of your child? For more on gifted children, here’s a great article from Gail Post, psychologist in eastern Pennsylvania, USA. Her article actually inspired mine. Thanks, Gail!

And for those of you looking for a fun outing on June 2, 2018, Linda Silverman and I will be presenting at our very own one day Gifted Women Symposium in Denver, CO. (Apologies, fellas!) I’d love to meet you. Registration is open now.

And one more thing, a documentary about giftedness, called The G Word, will be coming out sometime in 2019. You won’t want to miss it. Here’s a taste.

 

 


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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.

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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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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.