BY: KAREN L. BROWN
Gifted learners bring a unique set of characteristics to the table; perfectionism can be at the forefront. This characteristic can directly impact how the gifted student connects with learning opportunities. Perfectionism isa personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less. Most learners want to be correct; to have the right answer. However, striving for perfection when left unchecked can take this desire to a whole new level. “Perfectionism on steroids” can leave a learner unable to take risks necessary to function in the learning environment, keeping the learner from engaging in the learning process. Learners may set impossible goals, limiting their options to avoid taking risks. They often cannot enjoy the moment because they are too worried about the future (Delisle & Galbraith, 2002).
Supporting the perfectionist in moving forward can feel overwhelming for both the learner and parents. Fortunately, there are several strategies that can help.
1. PRAISE EFFORT
Praising the effort allows the learner to see that it isn’t about the product or grade but rather the effort that one puts into the task. For example, think about that vocabulary quiz your child brought home. The score earned was 23/25, a very commendable effort. Was your comment, Great job; you worked hard on those words!Or What happened we studied those two? Without intent the second response tells the learner that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. Gifted learners must learn to how to separate their self worth from the product or grade they create.
2. CREATE A SAFE ZONE FOR MISTAKES
A failure safe zone is quite simply a place where it is acceptable to be unsuccessful. Prepping for mistakes may sound a little strange, but it is really just the practice of role-playing what might happen in a given situation.
3. S.M.A.R.T. GOAL SETTING
Gifted students may have difficulty setting realistic goals that will lead them to the excellence they seek. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timeframe-provided) can be used to facilitate the goal-setting process. Educators and parents can utilize this process to guide learners in generating goals, determining the steps needed to accomplish the goals, developing a viable action plan for achieving their goals, and monitoring attainment toward the goal.
4. EMPHASIZING THE PROCESS OF EMINENT INDIVIDUALS
Studying the lives of eminent people is an excellent way for gifted students to see that the path to success is rarely singular and often filled with twist and turns.A perfectionistic student may win a state science fair and still be disappointed that the project did not produce a scientific breakthrough. The student needs to understand that, for example, Einstein didn't produce the theory of relativity at a young age, either. In fact at twelve, Einstein's potential greatness was masked by poor school performance. It took Einstein more than twenty theories to fully formulate the equations for the theory of relativity.
Gifted students can learn valuable lessons from studying the lives of eminent people by reading biographies and autobiographies, or watching television shows that share the accomplishments and journeys of these people. Challenges like rejection, illness, economic misfortunes, and relationship issues can make it difficult for an individual to not only achieve success but to maintain it. A key factor to success is the ability to persevere in the face of obstacles.Another lesson is that great effort is required. Edison observed that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in a weekend. Revision and refinement are part of the process. Authors share that manuscripts go through a nerve wrecking revision process prior to publication. Perhaps the most valuable lesson to be learned though is that failure can be constructive.
5. CELEBRATE THE JOURNEY
Celebrate all that life has to offer, mistakes and successes! Gifted learners see the world in ways that others can only imagine. Supporting them in learning how to navigate the challenges that they face does not mean removing the obstacle rather it means teaching them to see it for what it really is a chance to grow! Challenge your child to find an activity that will help them feel as if they are making a difference in the world.
ABOUT KAREN BROWN
Karen Brown is the Gifted Program Mentor for Paradise Valley School District. As a National Board Certified educator she works extensively with teachers in grades K-12 to ensure that the instruction and curriculum provides the appropriate challenge and support for all students. In her role as Gifted Program Mentor she supports administrators, teachers, parents, and students in both academics and social emotional areas. Karen teaches classes in the Gifted Education Masters Program at ASU as well as consults with districts throughout the country on social/emotional, curriculum, Depth of Knowledge training, differentiation strategies and depth and complexity training. Karen was the co-recipient of the 2013 NAGC Professional Development Award. She co-authored Differentiated Lessons for Every Learner: Standards-Based Activities and Extensions for Middle School and A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning. Karen is the 2018 winner of the NAGC Specialists and Masters Award.
By Dina Brulles, PhD
Why and Why Now?
Today’s global society and economy have greatly increased mobility and therefore enhancing children’s interactions between cultures like no other time in history. Additionally, students also feel more interconnected than ever due to global digital collaborations. This all means that when you enter nearly any classroom today, you will likely see learners from multiple backgrounds, cultures, and origins. Many of these children likely speak at least one other language when returning to their homes at the end of the school day. Most research suggests the majority of individuals worldwide are at least bilingual, and a global perspective is recognized as the norm (Ansaldo et al, 2008 & De Bot, 1992). Multiculturalism and multilingualism means many students in today’s classrooms routinely drift back and forth from one language to another throughout the day resulting in different sets of habits at home, school, and in varied social situations.
As parents, advocates and educators of gifted students, we recognize that this is what today’s learners know. Today’s students were born into a world very different from our own and that of the educators who are teaching our children. We (adults) have wrestled with accepting and learning new approaches, systems, technologies and human interactions. Yet the children in our schools today know nothing from where we evolved; they see today’s world with fresh and unbiased eyes, ears, and feelings. We (adults) must embrace collaboration by both encouraging our student’s views and experiences and learning from and accepting their experiences, as well.
Multicultural families and globally-raised students are no longer an anomaly. With this new norm based on a global perspective, educators must embrace new practices. Discord arises, however, because many of our children’s teachers speak one language and have lived in one country and one culture, which is oftentimes the dominant culture. Many adult educators continue practices that resonate with those of their upbringings.
Parents influencing schools and educators to reflect our evolving global society
Consider the incredible impact young learners will have on our world this year. Our students form and reform our society by infusing their new global perspectives. Regardless of our training and background, we, as parents and educators, can guide and support by example. This lifelong process extends far beyond acceptance. This progression relies on us encouraging appreciation for the diversity that surrounds our children in our schools and in our homes. Although continuing to grow, this perspective is not new. In 1993, Roland Case asserted in the journal Social Education that, “global education can provide a powerful focus for improving educational quality and help students cope with emerging global realities.” (Case, 1993)
A recent example of this global reality is when I provided a tour to Aakash, a visiting doctoral student from Purdue University. While visiting a Grade 1 classroom in my Self-contained Gifted Program, Aakash was very excited whilst observing and talking with a number of students. The children were working on “country” projects, creating presentations that described the cultures of the people in that specific country. Students in this class represented several ethnicities and cultures. Aakash found a few students who were from India, from the same region that Aakash called home. An enjoyable sharing of stories emerged making this experience feel warm, tangible, and relatable. These are the embraceable moments that grow our global perspectives locally, regardless of where we reside.
We are witnessing steadily growing attention toward diversity throughout our global society. This attention has brought renewed acceptance and respect for diversity in our schools. Our schools must be seen as the impetus for a changing world that embraces a global perspective and envisions compassion and enlightenment. We must encourage schools to celebrate the broad range of languages and cultures that exist within our schools and enrich the lives of our learners. After all, it remains our priority to teach and guide our learners/children in a way that will ultimately shape our global landscape. To learn how diversity, multiculturalism, and multilingualism is embraced by Paradise Valley School District, listen to the 2016 podcast on National Public Radio (NPR): The Rare District That Recognizes Gifted Latino Studentand Gifted, But Still Learning English, Many Bright Students Get Overlooked.
About Dina Brulles
Dina Brulles, Ph.D., is the Director of Gifted Education at Paradise Valley Unified School District where she has developed a continuum of gifted education programs, preschool through high school. The programs and services Dina oversees incorporate innovative uses of technology, enfranchise underrepresented populations and provide extensive professional development opportunities. She is also the Gifted Program Coordinator at Arizona State University.
Dina currently serves on the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Board of Directors as the School District Representative. She has also served as president of the Arizona Association for the Gifted and Talented, vice president of SENG, and on leadership teams of NAGC Networks. Dina received the inaugural 2014 NAGC Gifted Coordinator Award and also the first NAGC Professional Development Network Award in 2013.
Dina co-authored the books, The Cluster Grouping Handbook: How To Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement For All, Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classrooms, and A Teachers Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning, along with other publications and teacher training courses. Dina assists school districts in developing, supporting, and evaluating gifted programs with an emphasis on integrating current educational initiatives. Having implemented and supervised the Schoolwide Cluster Grouping Model, she has become a recognized expert in that practice.
ReferencesCase, Roland, Key Elements of a Global Perspective, Social Education, v57 n6 p318-25, Oct 1993
Frazier, A. D. & Castellano, J. A. (2010). Special populations in gifted education: Understanding our most able students from diverse backgrounds. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press. ISBN: 9781593634179
Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), www.sengifted.org
National Public Radio (NPR), The Rare District That Recognizes Gifted Latino Studentshttps://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/03/31/472528190/the-rare-district-that-recognizes-gifted-latino-students, April, 2016
National Public Radio (NPR), Gifted, But Still Learning English, Many Bright Students Get Overlooked https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/04/11/467653193/gifted-but-still-learning-english-overlooked-underserved, April, 2016
By Dr Kate Bachtel
As many scholars suggest, empathy and high levels of sensitivity and awareness can be indicators of giftedness. Understanding another’s emotions and thought processes help us connect on a deep level. Yet, there are two sides to empathy superpowers. When an empath is coming from a place of well-being, this skill enables them to sit beside those who are suffering and support healing and positive transformation. Conversely, gifted individuals who have not learned strong self-care and grounding practices may report feelings of overwhelm. At times, the power of empathy can be also used to manipulate others. In the most tragic of circumstances, those who have been oppressed, neglected or abused can become wounded and entangled in a vicious cycle of relational aggression.
The Good News!
Empathy can be taught and measured. Below are 3 ways to cultivate empathy followed by 3 ways to ground oneself to use the 'E-power' for good. Combine these practices for support in engaging empathy for compassionate action.
Emotional intelligence has been decreasing steadily across countries, cultures and languages with marked drops in the skill of empathy. In practice, at SoulSpark Learning, we have yet to encounter someone with a perfect empathy score using the validated Six Seconds psychometric assessment tool. Here are a few playful ways to increase this critical EQ competency.
1. Emotion + Activity Game
This version of charades begins by creating two decks of cards out of paper notecards – on the first, list an emotion on each card (frustration, joy, peace, embarrassment, anger, etc.). The more nuanced the emotions, the better. On the second set of cards, list a variety of activities (planting a garden, painting, riding a bike, baking cookies, etc.). Take turns having participants select both an emotion and activity card and then silently act out the scene for the others to guess. How long does it take to guess both the activity and emotion?
In pairs, have one person move and the other pretend to be their mirror, precisely reflecting back the same movements. For an extra dose of joy, add music.
3. Role Play
Any type of role playing game grows empathy. Get creative; invent characters and scenes inclusive of diverse perspectives and situations that invoke a range of emotions. Role playing can be particularly helpful to prepare for challenging conversations or circumstances. Prevent Bullying has a range of role playing ideas to increase empathy and compassion.
From Empathy to Compassion
The difference between empathy and compassion is distance and action; compassion sits close and collaborates to create change.
Feel weighed down or immobilized by the pain of another? Some pretend they are in a bubble; others imagine themselves surrounded by roses or bathed in a light of their favorite color. Visualizing oneself in peaceful surroundings can help the empath stay put and support rather than flee.
2. Feel Your Soles
Some scholars and empaths proclaim walking barefoot on the earth for a few minutes each day supports the nervous system. When feelings of anxiety arise, focusing attention to the soles of one’s feet can prevent avoidance behaviors. Simultaneously repeating a mantra can help too, “I am grounded, I am courageous, I am calm.” The Daily Meditation has a number of mantras suitable for children.
3. Connect Heart, Body and Mind
A favorite mini-meditation is to imagine a star of golden light radiating out from one’s heart. Take a deep breath in and visualize the light moving from the heart up to the center of one’s mind. Then breathe out and move the light down to your gut or solar plexus, your body’s center. Continue breathing in and out moving the star up and down through your heart, mind and body until you feel clear, connected and centered.
Compassion is the gold standard, a measure of both individual and collective success.
About SoulSpark Learning
SoulSpark optimizes the development and well-being of youth and the educators who care for them. Read Kate's bio in our Friends of Gifted Alliance here.
Thank you Kate for sharing your expertise, experience, and championing gifted learners, their families, and educators!
The more an individual has experience in an area and throughout related domains, the more creative that person can be. Fortunately, this type of domain expertise can be cultivated through careful, regular, deep practice. Think “Growth Mindset” with a booster pack.
Daniel Coyle discusses in his books, The Talent Code and The Little Book of Talent, the everyday strategies one can use to build exacting experience.
Firstly, growing expertise requires “deep practice” in the “sweet spot.” This is the area where a person is skirting the boundaries of his/her ability within a field fo work. Thinkaboutthelasttimeyoustruggledwitha problem and ultimately came to a solution. This is the type of uncomfortable edge the brain needs to grow. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Practicing in the uncomfortable zone also builds up the transit system of your brain. The more you repeat a new skill in the learning zone, the more a substance called myelin wraps itself around the connection. The more myelin, the faster the connection, the more automatic the skill. A good example is a gymnast learning a handstand. He/she will repeat that skill to the point when the body locks itself into a perfect handstand consistenly. Automaticity then frees cognitive energy to for use in novel situations or when incorporating creativity .
Lastly, be relentless in fixing errors. For example, pretend you are working on exponent laws in mathematics. You confuse “product of a power “with “power of a power.” Fix the confusion and practice it to the point of automaticity before going on to “power of a product.” Every domain has a series of skills that need to be built. Practice them relentlessly and fix errors as they occur.
TEACHING RESILIENCY AT HOME – 6 STRATEGIES
Resiliency is the protective cling film that helps us withstand life’s challenges and tribulations. It’s our lifeboat when the ship is sinking, giving us that extra time while we repair what’s gone wrong. Resilience is formed through a combination of genetics, temperament, and environmental forces.
Dr Loretta Giorcelli recently shared the six domains of resilience at a talk in Hong Kong, which including the following:
Below we look at each of those domains within the context of gifted children.
The positive-oriented parent(s), extended family, caregivers, friends and physical surroundings all factor in to creating a secure environment. These individuals must be competent, present and available to the child in order to create that deep sense of emotional security. Limits and boundaries are also critical. However for those used to the intensity of Hong Kong, a healthy dose of independence is also needed, where the child feels that the caregiver is confident enough in the child to strike out on his/her own. Sheeber et al.(2007) noted, “The most widely reported finding with regard to family processes is that depression is inversely related to the level of support, attachment, and approval adolescents experience in the family environment.”
It is time to strengthen the bonds between parent(s)-student-school in order to create an environment where children can thrive. Gifted children often find school a place to endure rather than thrive, a place of boredom and a place where their thoughts, ideas and sense of place are actively squashed. This leads to depression, disillusionment and underachievement. Critical to a gifted child’s sense of success includes high self-esteem, a sense of optimism and ability to achieve self-mastery. Some studies have recognized that advanced problem solving ability and intellectual curiosity can also be a buffer of resilience in gifted individuals. Helping your child find that one teacher or coach that ‘mentors’ your child, even in a difficult school environment can give your child that extra dose of flexibility.
Studies show that when gifted children are put in a room, most often they will seek and find other gifted children as friends across multiple grade levels. A recent 2015 study debunked the myth that gifted children are socially less competent. The study indicates that gifted children were “highly popular with classmates” and actually “extended their own friendships throughout the intellectual range in their classroom.” The critical point for our gifted children is to help them facilitate finding at least one close friend. In Hong Kong, that also means helping our children build internal resiliency in case your family or that friend has to relocate.
TALENT AND INTERESTS
Consider professional athletes for a moment...immediately, one can deduce this is a segment of the population trained for resiliency. Studies indicate that professional athletes, and athletes at high levels in general are trained in a number of techniques such as "goal setting, imagery, relaxation, concentration, and self-talk". In the majority of cases, athletes and musicians also train in an area they like or love. They are the ones that take their interest and commit to it's development. No matter your child's pursuit, perhaps it is worth letting him/her explore these areas, even if they are unconventional. As another recent speaker mentioned, "Kids are now able to make careers out of things that never existed 20 years ago such as professional gaming, YouTube and more." If a child never has the opportunity to explore their talents and interests, they will never know how successful they could become.
Looking at the bright side of life not only can help you enjoy life more, but it also provides a buffer when the going gets tough. Parents that model progress in lieu of perfection, framing problems as opportunities for problem solving and teaching goal setting methods can help children learn to cope with everyday demands. Organizational skills can also help take the burden off of the multitude of stresses our children manage from elementary school to university. Using techniques such as bullet journaling and visual schedule organizers provide a backbone structure where mental energy can be devoted to other endeavours. In fact, the more we can help our children automate everyday processes, the more thinking power they can devote to learning. Whether your child’s temperament is glass half full or glass half empty, it’s critical as parents to listen and allow our children to express negative feelings and that seeking help is also a positive value.
Knowing where you are vulnerable in the six domains can help you assess those situations where resilience is lost. Elizabeth Meckstroth studied how gifted children adapt to the dominant social culture without losing their personal identity and values. She says in her paper, “Two of the more valued life goals of gifted children are self respect and happiness” (Parker & Colangelo, 1979). Although definitions of self respect and happiness vary with individuals, researchers, such as G. E. Vaillant, found that potentially highly successful people who were healthy experienced similar amounts and types of stresses but were able to develop strategies for coping with these challenges in their life” (Webb, Meckstroth & Tolan, 1982).
One of the biggest roadblocks to receiving services for children begins defining the word “gifted.” How a teacher, administrator, educational organization, institution, state/region, or country views the term can make or break a child’s opportunity to access accelerated learning, competitions, peers and social-emotional wellbeing. In some cases it can be a score such as in IQ tests or programmes like John’s Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (JHUCTY) or Davidson Academy. In either case, understanding how you and others around you define the complex web of definitions is critical in your journey as parent and advocate.
How does your child's school view gifted education? How does the program gatekeeper define gifted children? What is your personal definition? Are there laws that govern the term? What test should your child take? What about special populations within gifted such as twice-exceptional, profoundly gifted or a language learner?
Top Definitions of Gifted Across the World
“Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).”
- National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)
“Children and young people with one or more abilities developed to a level significantly ahead of their year group (or with the potential to develop those abilities).”
- Department for Children, Schools and Families UK
“Gifted children may show their extraordinary performance in different aspects, for example, in cognitive domains, leadership, arts and sports. Therefore, gifted children are best identified using multiple methods, such as behavioral checklists, teacher/parent/peer/self nomination, standardized tests and IQ tests.”
– Education Bureau of Hong Kong (EDB)
“Gifted behavior occurs when there is an interaction among three basic clusters of human traits: above-average general and/or specific abilities, high levels of task commitment (motivation), and high levels of creativity.”
– Joseph Renzulli (University of Connecticut)
Multiple Intelligence Theory suggests intelligence is based on eight different areas of human potential.
– Howard Gardner (Harvard)
“Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (2008) provides research-based definitions of giftedness and talent that are directly and logically connected to teaching and learning. According to Gagné, gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability.”
– Australian Curriculum
“ ‘Gifted child’ means a child who is of lawful school age, who due to superior intellect or advanced learning ability, or both, is not afforded an opportunity for otherwise attainable progress and development in regular classroom instruction and who needs special instruction or special ancillary services, or both, to achieve at levels commensurate with the child’s intellect and ability.”
IQ Tests: Generally a full-scale IQ (FSIQ) of 130 and above.
It’s clear just by looking at the information above, there are many ways to view intelligence. Some will be based on IQ scores whilst others will look at a variety of data points. The important take-away is to know how your child’s teacher, school, community and government view as to how they define gifted children.
ySTRESS REDUCTION AT HOME
Gifted children are intense inside and out. Their thoughts are intense, their interactions with friends and adults are intense, and their physical fitness needs can be intense. (See overexcitabilities for more information on intensity.)
So, what is the cause of our child’s stress and how as parents can we turn the dial down to help them relax at home?
RELAXATION AND STRESS RELIEF
Many ideas for children also work for adults. Spend some family time discussing ideas to try.
"According to researchers, of the eight essential elements a child receives from other children as (s)he grows up, seven can be found in friendship. These are affection, intimacy, a reliable alliance, instrumental aid, nurturance, companionship and an enhancement of self-worth." It's time to make playdates and relaxing social situations a part of our child's everyday life. Best Friends, Worst Enemies - Understanding the Social Lives of Children by Michael Thompson and Catherine O'Neill Grace is the most important book detailing friendships, relationships and the social-emotional development of children. Learn more about the intricate interplay of relationships during school, birthday parties, bullying, conflict and reconciliation over the 265 pages of research, real family stories and bonus information. Memorable tidbits throughout help parents "take the long view" and that "Real security is psychological and emotional. It means that every child feels safe and respected and able to focus on learning." That simple statement translates to every environment your child will touch. Particularly helpful is Chapter 12 - What Parents Can Do. Especially for our children and those that "help" them throughout the day (and generally prioritize social-emotional development), the book gives guidance on typical friendship development, conflicts and resolution, reasons to relax and help your child(ren) "cover the basics", how parents can manage and support friendships at all ages and create an environment at home to encourage solid, stable relationships.
Are you thinking about having your child complete an educational assessment? There are some important questions you need to ask yourself and the psychologist before your child takes the tests. As Psychology Today points out, "Early testing and identification can be a controversial subject, but many advocates of gifted children believe that they should be identified as soon as possible so that their unique needs and talents can be acknowledged and nurtured right from the start. Early identification is also important when a young child is showing behavioral or social differences - not fitting in, being highly focused on unusual interests, appearing more distractible or inattentive than others of the same age - and parents want to understand the cause." Ultimately, high-ability is a learning difference. An educational assessment is one tool that can be used to distinguish that difference and/or if your child has an unmet or undiscovered learning need. In addition, because testing is expensive, it is important to find the right person to conduct the testing and to consider how this test could change and influence your child's educational future.
4 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
12 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR PSYCHOLOGIST
View the entire article on Psychology Today here.
For an inventory of testing options see Hoagies Gifted Testing Inventory. In Hong Kong (and worldwide) the WISC-V, WPPSI-IV and the SB-5 are the most widely accepted tests.