“Education has not always welcomed its brightest students. Outliers upset the apple cart. They don’t conform to the lesson plans.” – Linda Silverman (2013)
Over the years, the field of giftedness lost it’s initial and rightful place in psychology to the field of education and this has created a real crisis for gifted, talented, and creative families, because the majority of gifted children are not being identified. In fact, the majority of gifted children who are identified are likely not gifted at all. They are primarily just high achievers. Statistically speaking, only about 25% of high achievers are even gifted. If your head just tilted and you’re thinking, “What?” then please read-on. This crisis has got to end.
Here are some facts from decades of studies on giftedness:
- Play grounds are perilous for gifted children who question the rules of the game and try to make games more interesting or meaningful to them.
- Rejection is common both in and out of the classroom to most gifted children
- Teachers reject the child’s curiosities and inquiries into subject matter that may completely throw-off their lesson plans or the teachers don’t know the answers to.
- Children with extraordinary minds frequently do not divulge their true capabilities in unstimulating environments.
- Driven by their passions and curiosity, gifted children resent expectations that they maintain high grades in subjects that hold no interest to them. In fact, they may even reject the class altogether and get labeled as underachievers.
- Over 75% of gifted children hide their talents and try to blend-in with everyone else with the hope that they will not get rejected by their peers.
- Over 75% of gifted children are never identified, yet they silently watch their high achieving friends get labeled. Thus, they lose respect for the schooling system altogether.
- Giftedness impacts families. Those children who are not identified are treated differently than those identified and oftentimes this can trickle down to both parents and siblings.
“If most of the population does not acknowledge giftedness, or resents those of high intelligence, then multitudes of gifted individuals must camouflage who they really are in order to survive (Colangelo, 2002).
So, in a world where giftedness is often mislabeled as high achievement, how do we find these children? How can we rightly identify, nourish, and protect them? Just like with Pete’s Dragon, we pursue their hearts. In the movie Pete’s Dragon, the dragon only reveals itself when it is either furiously protecting something it loves (now that’s a gifted trait) or if it trusts the person looking for it. The person who seeings beyond the ability and awe and can be trusted with the dragon’s most precious and vulnerable trait, it’s heart. Gifted children are the same. They will reveal themselves, really reveal themselves once their hearts feel safe.
This doesn’t happen by just talking about ability and success. This happens by trying to understand the deep thoughts, concerns, and passions that are held by gifted kids and tapping into them. The teachers, counselors, coaches, and other pediatric professionals who really get the gifted are few and far between. Thus, my goal, as Head of School at Acton Academy Salado is to take this Acton Academy and enhance it to be completely gifted and talented friendly. Any child who is self-motivated is welcomed to join us, would love an Acton Academy and can be successful in our studios.
What makes my heart smile is that the students who will really love and appreciate the Acton Academy studio would be those who have been in hiding, our unseen academic dragons of Bell County, our truly gifted children. Finally, they can have a space where they can be curious to their hearts content, study at their own pace, embrace academic endeavors with both eyes wide open and hearts pounding with passion. The kids can feel accepted by their like-minded peers, other motivated children, and the eagles can feed off each others’ curiosities. The students will have guides who will give individual attention and treat each eagle with a high regard of respect, trust, and not try to limit them…ever. They can walk with confidence knowing that there is a zero bullying tolerance at their academy by either their peers or those adults who have the privilege to guide them. Finally, they can leave behind feelings of isolation and loneliness and embrace true friendship and feelings of acceptance. They trade boredom and busywork for passion and depth. They can walk into a studio and feel like they are home.
Shine Dragon, Shine!
Dr. Suzy Thompson