I asked if she is resentful of her school experience and those who didn’t understand, both teachers and students alike. She said she was resentful for awhile, but now, looking back, is simply deeply saddened that the school was so intolerant of someone who was different. She reflected on how other students who were different in her school were treated and wished she had made the connection that they were alike and made more contact with them. She said she wishes the school was more tolerant but sees a parallel to today with other groups of students who are not accepted in schools. Sadly, she said, gifted students still aren’t accepted for who they are in K-12 school. She is very happy she has found a place where she can thrive and be herself with like-minded people who don’t think she is abnormal, but wishes she was accepted during K-12 school because she could have learned so much more.
Finally, I asked what she would say to educators, parents, and others who don’t understand those who are gifted, in order to make school a better place for people like her. She said that adults have to admit that sometimes students know more than they do and rather than being insulted or challenged by that to embrace it and allow the student to go as far as they can, while bringing the teacher or other adult with them on the journey. She said that if the classroom could become a place where students who are gifted can be viewed as an interesting person with contributions that others may not have thought of, and a place where they are free to pursue their learning even if it means they do it while others are doing something else, where teachers actually ask the gifted student what they want to pursue, then the school may begin to change and accept people who are different with all of their gifts, and the gifted student will be allowed to actually learn.
Her last comment was that people in schools need to learn how to think outside of the box; we’ve been doing school the same way far too long.
As a place to start on the road to thinking outside of the box, here is a tip sheet from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. It is a good read for all adults.
Tips for Teachers: Successful Strategies for Teaching Gifted Learners