Mar 22, 2014

Every Child is NOT Gifted. A Look at Giftedness and Insecurity.



Recently I read a post on the blog The Momastery.  The post was entitled "Every Child is Gifted & Talented. Every Single One."  She went on to make a grand sweeping statement that said every single child is gifted and talented, in response to her friends' daughter's misunderstanding of the results of their school's G.A.T.E. test (where she discovered that she wasn't "gifted").  Near the end she concluded "...education is like Christmas. We’re all just opening our gifts, one at a time. And it is a fact that each and every child has a bright shiny present with her name on it, waiting there underneath the tree. God wrapped it up, and He’ll let us know when it’s time to unwrap it. In the meantime, we must believe that our children are okay."
Every Child is Gifted & Talented. Every Single One. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
Every Child is Gifted & Talented. Every Single One. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327

At this point in the post I started understanding what she was saying, and found something I can agree with whole-heartedly.  Up until this point in her post, I was struggling (maybe even yelling at my computer screen) with her faulty logic and "everybody's a winner" idealogy.  I absolutely agree with her that every child has value and potential.  I believe that every child has a capacity to learn, grow and express their unique skills and internal beauty... but I do not think that every child is "gifted". I. do. NOT.


I am a gifted adult.  My kids are gifted.  My husband is gifted.  It is not a "you are winning" type of label, but rather a "you are different" type of label.  While it is absolutely true that every child has a gift waiting to be unwrapped from a loving God who created them, so true (and beautiful too), giftedness suggests something different.
"Giftedness is 'asynchronous development' in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally." (Columbus Group, 1991)
 There is a reason that many of the greatest minds of the past have been thought to be "gifted" (From Ben Franklin to Einstein; from Bill Gates to William Shakespeare), because historical accounts of them have revealed the "oddness" and "extreme creativity" and "obsessive or hyper focus" that are typical of gifted people.  Many of those people struggled in their personal life, school life and professional life because of their giftedness.



In my experience, I knew I was "different" before I was tested.  Not because I was so much "smarter" than other kids my age, but because the games I wanted to play, stories I wanted to write, and questions I asked and was shushed set me apart from the other boys and girls my age.  They were all cubed pegs fitting in square holes, and I was a cylinder that just didn't FIT. In the same way, it was a relief when my son was labeled and shipped to the gifted class, because his differences were becoming more and more pronounced as he grew.

I fully embrace Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, but disagree that the "Gifted" label only addresses the types that are valued by standardized tests or WORSE "one sort of intelligence".  In fact, I struggled in school because my strongest intelligence is not the "Verbal/Linguistic" or "Logical/Mathematical", and yet my internal experience through-out my childhood and on into my adulthood has been extreme... and so very (very) different from the majority of my peers.  Even though I was fortunate enough to be tracked with gifted and high-achieving kids from 3rd through 12th, my unique, er, atypical neurological development caused an internal war inside me that was (and continues to be) at times, debilitating.

Being "Gifted and Talented" has very little to do with being "brilliant" or how well you can do school work, it has to do with the way the person relates to the world around them (think the autism spectrum).  Often the label may mean a child is better able to grasp the simple concepts taught in school faster than the average child, it is not a type of "intelligence", but what a child can DO with their intelligence that is different.

The comments on the post were a mismatch of gifted offense  (read about Dabrowski's Theory of Overexcitability to better understand the over-reaction) and non-gifted misunderstanding and hostility.  Here's the deal, education should not be a race, but it is (hence the bell curve, awards and letter grades), so many people see "gifted" education as a label that creates "elitism" and is an unfair advantage over kids who didn't get labeled, in this mama's opinion it absolutely IS NOT.  So much comes with that label, you should not wish it for your child unless they are actually gifted.  I can still remember one mom who was so offended that her child didn't pass the test, that she lashed out at me and another mom.

The fact that my child passed the test doesn't make him better than her child, it makes him different.  In the same way it would be absurd to get angry if my son was not as naturally good at sports as another child, giftedness is genetic, and you can't make your child gifted any more than you can make your child a natural baseball player.



Instead of seeing the acknowledgment of giftedness as the thing that is wounding, maybe we can see that it is the institution of school and comparisons, the rankings, the sorting that it requires to operate on its industrial model as the thing that is wounding. When people say “All children are gifted” they are trying to heal one wound but making another wound worse by erasing the experiences of others and denying their existence. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
Instead of seeing the acknowledgment of giftedness as the thing that is wounding, maybe we can see that it is the institution of school and comparisons, the rankings, the sorting that it requires to operate on its industrial model as the thing that is wounding. When people say “All children are gifted” they are trying to heal one wound but making another wound worse by erasing the experiences of others and denying their existence. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
Instead of seeing the acknowledgment of giftedness as the thing that is wounding, maybe we can see that it is the institution of school and comparisons, the rankings, the sorting that it requires to operate on its industrial model as the thing that is wounding. When people say “All children are gifted” they are trying to heal one wound but making another wound worse by erasing the experiences of others and denying their existence. - See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
The acknowledgement of giftedness seems to wound, even if it's not the label but the institution that is doing the wounding.  When G from the Momastery said "all children are gifted" she may have been trying to heal one wound, but was making another wound worse by minimizing and erasing the experiences of those labeled as "gifted" and (in a sense) denying their existence.  The sooner we stop taking the label personally, or reacting with fear or insecurity, the sooner we will begin to truly develop these amazing, beautiful and unique minds in a healthy and productive way.

 Pearl Buck said it best (this quote makes me tear up every time because of it's TRUTH)

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him…
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – - – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
- See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327

"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.

To him...
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create - - - so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating."

(Sidenote: Shortly after finding this quote, I had my 10 year old son read it and asked him what he thought.  He asked why I was writing about him in a random article online. I promised him that I didn't write this, but found it and he said "that is really strange, it's like she was describing me.")




If you think you or your child might be gifted and would like to read more information on the topic, here are some links to helpful articles and websites:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him…
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – - – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
- See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him…
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.
Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – - – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”
- See more at: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/03/18/child-gifted-talented-single-one/comment-page-2/#comment-373327
Characteristics of Gifted Children: A Closer Look
SENG - Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted
More about Dabrowski's Theory of Over-Excitability and Existential Depression
Hoagies Gifted Education
 
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Mar 4, 2014

Just Keep Swimmin'


Yesterday I had the opportunity to go visit some middle school classes (ahem, at the middle school my children will attend... dual purposes... that's what I like).  This was not my first observation day, nor will it be my last, but it impacted me.

As I am beginning on this journey to become a teacher, you may (or may not) be surprised by how many people have tried to "warn me off" from teaching.  I've had a number of non-teachers exclaim "I would never do that!  Good luck with that!"   I've had a handful of experienced teachers ask me "Are you sure you want to do this?" or worse "WHY on earth would you want to be a teacher?!"  (I always laugh awkwardly... hoping that they are being facetious).

I have also had some really good conversations with seasoned teachers encouraging me, telling me I would be great, and expressing a love for the career that I hope will be my future.

Some of my take-aways from those conversations:
  • Teaching is not for the faint of heart
  • Good teaching is really hard work... but...
  • Good teaching is really rewarding work
  •  You feel like you are failing a lot (especially those first few years)
  • If you can ignore or cope with the political and administrative stuff the kids will keep you going... but only... if you like kids.
  • Becoming a teacher might actually be harder than actually being a teacher 
Yesterday I had one of those days observing teachers, where I could see the passion and the exhaustion mixed together and it gave me hope.  Then I talked to a student teacher and I walked away from her honest experience feeling like this:

I am standing on the edge of a really cold, really big lake.
I know the water will be cold.  I know I will get used to it.
I know it will take energy to swim all the way across.  I know I have the ability  to do it.
I know will be people rowing alongside who are cheering me on, and as I come up for air I will hear their yells, their encouragement.  I know all this, but I still have to dive into that water.
My lungs are already screaming for air and I haven't even gone under.
My heart is already beating a rhythm in my chest and I haven't taken my first stroke.
My muscles and skin are tensing for the first cold plunge and I haven't even started swimming yet.
There are people in the water yelling at me that it's so much harder than they expected, that the water is colder or deeper or rougher than they expected... and I am starting to get nervous.

To quote Steven Curtis Chapman's Dive:  "My heart is racing and my knees are weak, as I walk to the edge. I know there is no turning back, once my feet have left the ledge. And in the rush I hear a voice that's telling me it's time to take the leap of faith, so here I go. I'm diving in, I'm going deep, in over my head I want to be, caught in the rush, lost in the flow, in over my head I want to go, the river's deep, the river's wide, the river's water is alive, So sink or swim, I'm diving in."

This is what I keep hearing in my mind...
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Mar 2, 2014

Strength is more than endurance

At the beginning of the New Year, I chose a word.  STRENGTH.

A word with loads of potential.  A word I have not stopped thinking about since I chose it.
I've been thinking about what it is.
I've been thinking about what it is not.
I've been considering how I can gain some.
I've been discouraged because I seem to lack much.

What a word to choose.  When I was in denial about suffering from yet another bout of depression.  When I have just started a new adventure, a new challenge (turned in my application just last week).
When I just limped away from a rough year, wounded and exhausted.
I am surrounded by so many friends who seem to have strength in spades, yet all seem to doubt they possess it in truth.

Today's thought is that Strength is MORE than just endurance.

I know this because I've lived it.  I tried to put my head down and endure, for years I've used that type of strength, and I discovered something -- when you just endure, one good shove and you will fall. 

You see, endurance sounds good, but often when you are in "endurance mode", you are running yourself into the ground.  You are pushing and pushing and pushing yourself and suddenly you wake up and you realize that you can't pick that foot up and put it in front of the other. 

You hit a wall.

True strength comes from outside of ourselves.   It is that moment when you can't take another step, you are weary and ready to fall, and suddenly there is Someone there beside you, Someone who is encouraging you to keep going.  Someone who is helping you to "rise on wings like eagles." 

That kind of strength comes from OUTSIDE of yourself.

That is the kind of strength I need when I can't find my hope. 
That is the kind of strength I need when my body is failing to fight off another anxiety attack, when my mind is weak and my heart is heavy.

This strength:
Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom. 
 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31


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Feb 21, 2014

The best thing about the title of this blog

I created the title of this blog based on my own experiences as a mom.
Motherhood is hard, yet is FULL of moments of irrepressible joy and absurd "Circus" moments as well.  When I started this blog I was working in the private sector for a Christian non-profit, working primarily with Pregnant and Parenting teens.  Though I rarely wrote about this topic, I often experienced the joy and circus there as well.

God has called me to another journey, another path.   I just turned in my application for the credential program to become a High School English teacher 2 days ago.

As I prepare for this shift in my lifestyle, I am learning how much I don't know about the public school system (as a product of public schools and a parent of kids in public school, this never ceases to amaze me), I am also becoming increasingly excited about this new chapter in my life.

I can't wait to have the opportunity to share my love for learning and writing and reading with my future students.  (I just heard at least a dozen "well, bless her heart" - I know teaching isn't all sunshine and roses, but I also know that very few things have squelched my passion for life, for learning, for teaching and for "lovin' on" teens, I don't expect that this will change)

I realized today that the name of my blog can also describe being a teacher.  So, in honor of my new career choice, and the continuation of the Circus in my own home, I plan to share some of my favorite teaching quotes in this place in the weeks, months, and hopefully, years to come.

As I learn more, and have the opportunity to observe other, more experienced teachers, I am slowly constructing my teaching ideology or critical pedagogy.   I hope to share those ideas with you and to invite you to laugh at and alongside me as I discover more and develop more as a teacher and as a student (we're looking at a year of full time college... 15 years after I graduated from college... yikes.) 

These quotes will undoubtedly find themselves stapled to my future classroom walls.

 


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Feb 20, 2014

Just another 30-Minute Day

Depression sucks.  There I said it.   I have struggled with depression on and off for more than 20 years.   This year is an "on" year. 

It doesn't have to rule me.  It doesn't have to destroy my confidence, or my effectiveness.

Some days I only make it through the day because I live 30 minutes at a time.  When I look in my calendar and I "get the big picture", I begin to feel overwhelmed and want to hide under the covers until it's over.   If I focus on the next 30 minutes, I begin to feel like I can do anything at all.

If my kids are driving me crazy with their fighting or whining or kid-like behavior, I focus on making it through the next 30 minutes. Maybe I plan to spend 15 with my daughter and 15 with my son.  Time goes by, the kids get the attention they crave, and I can feel like I accomplished something, even if it was sitting really close to my 10 year old on the couch while he tells me all about the youtube video he watched at school.

If my house is a huge disaster, I am frequently paralyzed by the enormity of what I need to do (I could spend hours in this paralyzed state).  If I focus on doing just one or two things in the next 30 minutes, I realize I can clean the whole house that way, just half-hour by half-hour.  In 30 minutes I could have my living room totally picked up and vacuumed.  In another 30 minutes I could have the kids' bathroom counter and sinks sprayed and wiped down, and their toilet clean.  Add just one more 30 minute block and I could have the kitchen clean. 

If I am having a really hard day, sometimes I just do one 30 minute block and then I "reward" myself with 15-30 minutes of reading or Facebook, and then I do another 30 minute block. 

My writing has suffered since my depression has reared it's ugly head once more.  I went from writing 4-5 times a week to maybe 1-2 times a month.   I tried to explain it away with a dozen different excuses, but in the end the reality of my "situation" couldn't be denied.

Almost anything you procrastinate doing can be done in 30-minute-increments.   Bible study. Writing.  Cleaning.  Exercise. Reaching out to a friend with a phone call or a texted conversation.  Laundry.  Dishes.  Yard-work.  Organizing a drawer. You name it, you can do it (or some of it) in just 30 minutes.  

The 30 minute rule also is great if you struggle with focus.  Set the timer and ONLY do ONE thing for that 30 minute time, don't allow yourself to even leave the room to "drop off" items in the next room.  Make a pile by the door and only "deliver" after the 30 minutes is over.

If you are in a post-Christmas funk or you live in the haze of depression or anxiety every day, I encourage you to take life in smaller chunks... it just might make the difference!

Do you ever feel "stuck" because of depression or just the stress of life?  How do you cope? 



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