Summer is in full swing, and with the long days and warm afternoons comes the typical hustle and bustle of August. Stores begin their marketing toward a school year that may be filled with apprehension or excitement for students and parents alike. But the lessons to be learned from summer are not quite over! This last week I had the opportunity to spend the week at SOAR G/T summer camp with a group of wonderfully gifted and talented young adults from around Wisconsin. This group of students, bright and curious, came together, some for the first time and some returning to learn with one another. They spent a week learning what it can mean to be gifted, surrounded by peers who share similarities and similar struggles. They were challenged to learn new things and explore different ways of understanding. These lessons are crucial for gifted kids as they learn to understand themselves and what it means for them to experience challenges in a world when so often they are not challenged in their daily settings.
As I spent the week growing with these students, there were also crucial lessons for me to learn. The most important take-away for me came from watching the campers learn methods to accomplish new tasks. When gifted students are presented with difficult things in school and within their comfort zone, they can learn to do the task so quickly that they require no instruction. The math problem, or piece of music, or logic puzzle can be accomplished with seemingly minimal effort as their brains adapt to the challenge before them. However, if you take a gifted kid and present them with something that requires more practice or steps to master, it is important to realize just how important teaching and providing these steps is. Time and time again this last week I heard the following from the campers -- “I always wanted to learn [something new], but I didn’t know the steps. You taught me the steps.” Regardless of whether this referred to learning chess, communication, or something seemingly insignificant, the effects of learning the steps to accomplishing something was powerful for the campers.
I believe this lesson also applies to parents and educators of gifted students as they advocate for gifted education. Sometimes it is important to combat frustration, and start at the beginning with step one. Learning how to advocate using a step-by-step approach can help individuals advocate for gifted education in a more sustainable way. Moreover, teaching people how to advocate using steps can help them understand the process and overcome the challenges faced with trying to advocate. As the school year approaches, do not be afraid to go back to step one, and, just as we should encourage gifted kids to practice and learn in steps, we should do the same for each other. Encourage one another to take things step-by-step in our fight for advocacy and representation for gifted students.