As people all over the world have been watching the Olympics this summer, myself included, I wish the lessons shared by the participants would be equally applied to all kinds of smart. Whether your talents lie in linguistics, mathematics, music, art, nature, interpersonal, or intrapersonal areas of development, the requirements for success are the same.
As Gabby Douglas flew through the air, and touchingly a rare flying squirrel landed at our birdfeeder (no one in our area had ever seen one until this creature appeared for a few days and then again disappeared), here are a few talent-development lessons I felt were worth repeating:
- Opportunity is the key: From Michael Phelps to Gabby Douglas, from track sprinters from around the world to athletes of all backgrounds and specialties, we have heard how the doors of opportunity had to be opened. There are so many potentially talented children out there who are never recognized, supported, and applauded when successful; anchored when in trouble. Gabby’s mother made the supreme sacrifice for her little girl to shine.
- Letting go must happen sooner or later: Over the years I have seen parents struggle to let their talented children go to a summer camp in their area of passion, be it academics, music, or any other field. Gabby’s mother listened to Gabby and Gabby’s encouraging older sister when it was time for her to leave home. She let her go, not for a week, but for years of hard training, living with a new family and community, and facing a diverse world of new values and hard lessons.
- Hard work: In her first interview upon winning her gold medal, Gabby attributed her success to hard work and dedication. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it isn’t. Young talented children often think success comes naturally or with a little luck. The necessity of hard work, i.e., practice and persistence, must be taught. Our Olympic champions are great role models.
- Success is golden: Gabby became homesick in Iowa, but she persisted in reaching for her dreams. Of her win, she said, “I did think it was a gold-medal performance.” Self-confidence and focus are not easy to achieve when things go wrong, as they frequently did for members of the gymnastics team, including Gabby. But, as Gabby explained, “If you can push through the hard days, you can get through anything.”
- Belief is golden: “It’s very tough for me to focus,” Gabby reported in The New York Times, Aug. 2, 2012. But as Douglas was going to the Olympic arena, her mother called and said, “I believe in you, baby.” Douglas said, “I believe, too.”
- Success is not perfection: Even Michael Phelps did not always win. Doing your best and working through the disappointments are lessons that loving families bestow upon their talented youth. As Gabby inspires other young African Americans, her message is clear: I am so happy to be me, and although I would have preferred another gold, it’s not the end of the world that I didn’t get it. On to the next competition! On to the next challenge and new experience.
- Respect others for their talents and dreams: At WCATY summer programs, I have had students who received perfect 800’s on their SAT Math tests at ages as young as 13 and 14 sit in an advanced math classroom with other smart students who did not and most likely could not achieve perfection. I saw the same kind of respect and camaraderie in those classrooms as I’ve been observing among the gymnastics, swimming, track and other competitors. That their passion for their field includes a desire to experience new levels of knowledge or success by others as well as by themselves is exciting to behold.
In summary, may we realize that the lessons learned by our young Olympians are lessons to be learned, valued, and respected for children with all kinds of smart.
Posted in All kinds of smart or talent, Gifted and Talented Children, Lessons in talent development, Multiple Intelligences, Parenting talented children, Role models, The chance to learn
Tagged all kinds of smart, becoming good at something difficult, Lessons from Olympians, multiple intelligences, raising talented children, talent development
Dear Talent Search Top Scorers,
You have become a part of a tradition that goes back more than 20 years. Bob Clasen, Professor at UW-Madison and I, as state consultant for gifted programs at the Department of Public Instruction began recognizing the top scorers in Talent Search on the UW campus in 1989. I’m proud that 23 years later you have been invited to the University of Wisconsin to celebrate your interests and successes. I join you in letting the world know, “It’s good to be smart.” Thank you to WATG for honoring you and your parents and guests.
It would have been my delight to be with you this weekend, but I am making my way home from a vacation in the Bay Islands, Honduras with my grandsons, ages 6 and 9.
Jordan loves writing. Here he got to write on the table!
As they leave to travel to Colorado, I am thinking of you – our future in Wisconsin.
Benj has a new passion: snorkeling. He’s discovered the wonders of the underwater world.
Have any of you been reading the young adult novels by Terry Pratchett? I enjoy the wit and wisdom as well as the many links to literature and life in Pratchett’s books. From A Hat Full of Sky, I share this thought with you today: “With balloons, as with life itself, it is important to know when not to let go of the string. The whole point of balloons is to teach small children this.” As you continue to develop your talents and realize your dreams, always remember when NOT to let go of your strings!
Have a great day.
Ellie Schatz, State Consultant for Gifted, 1987-1990
Founder and President, WCATY, 1991-2006
Author, It’s Good to Be Smart, 2009
I read an article in the New York Times this week that made me nostalgic and hopeful at the same time that I continue to be alarmed by statistics that show little progress in three areas that greatly concern me.
First, we’re no closer to realizing an education system that will challenge all children than we were when I started my career (many years ago). With gifted children, this means that if they come to the classroom knowing what is about to be taught, the school has an obligation to find a way to take them to new levels of knowledge/understanding. When we know that happens in scattered schools across the nation, why can’t we ever learn to get it right?
Second, we continue to under-identify disadvantaged children from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In NYC, “black children made up 11 percent of this year’s gifted kindergarten classes, down from 15 percent in 2009-10. Representation of Hispanic students was 12 percent in both years. The school system as a whole is roughly 70 percent black and Hispanic.”
Third, why do we under-identify? Because we continue to rely on testing, not authentic testing of what is important in a child’s real world, but rote testing of facts and skills that disadvantaged children have had little or no opportunity to learn.
So why am I nostalgic and hopeful? One article stood out from all the rest. Entitled, “A Sleepaway Camp Where Math Is the Main Sport,” it immediately caught my eye. Is this a Talent Search-based program? Is it even WCATY (the program I founded) today? No to both questions. It is a program for NYC public school students entering 8th grade, where at least 75% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. They represent a diverse population and their past experiences with challenge and opportunity were sadly lacking, but they have three positive characteristics in common: they love learning; they love math, and they are good at learning! Add to that, they love this program and are “cruising” through mathematical concepts that ordinarily most students wouldn’t see before college.
One of the criticisms of the program is that these children cannot catch up with their more privileged peers in the short time they attend the program. As I told parents of underachievers when they were considering attendance at a WCATY summer “camp,” it is true that their school may not have changed and that there will be a hard road ahead, but the children will have changed. They will dream bigger dreams; they will be aware of possibilities; they will refuse to stand still; they will seek additional opportunities; and they have found advocates who can help them to made valuable connections. I can tell many heart-warming stories of WCATY students who have done just that.
Posted in Gifted and Talented Children, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Growing up smart, Passion for a field of learning, Showing versus hiding one's talents, Cumulative advantage, The chance to learn, Teaching smart kids, school models, Excellence in education, Passion in teaching and learning, Compassion and respect, Diversity of giftedness, Awesome children, Early identification of giftedness, Role models, High expectations, Serious learning, Learning by doing, Advocacy for the gifted, Testing
Tagged caring about ideas, life-long learning, raising smart children, be smart, becoming good at something difficult, self-confidence comes with accomplishment, academically minded, school models, smartness across diverse populations, passionate teachers, passionate learners, Diversity of giftedness, Cumulative educational advantage, Role models, high expectations, authentic testing, dreaming big dreams
National Parenting Gifted Children Week is hosted by SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted).
Follow their Blog Tour
Download SENG’s free NPGC Week ebook, The Joy and the Challenge: Parenting Gifted Children.
On June 24, The New York Times reviewed Alexandra Robbins’ “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,” in which she states that although adults are proudly admitting their earlier nerd status now that they have achieved success, “there have been surprisingly few trickle-down effects… bullying and exclusion are rampant” (in our schools). She elaborates, “many of the traits that correlate with ‘outsider’ status among high school students — originality, self-awareness, courage, resilience, integrity and passion — reveal themselves as assets later in life.”
The review is less than an endorsement of Robbins’ writing style or message, and I do not agree with the concept of overachievement, the topic and title of her previous book. However, as the reviewer – Jessica Bruder – points out, “None of this dampens the urgency of her broader message. Adults tell students that it gets better, that the world changes after school, that being ‘different’ will pay off sometime after graduation. But no one explains to them why.”
The article concludes that Robbins is “dead on: teenagers need to hear that adolescence ends. And more than that, they need to believe it.”
The point of “Grandma Says It’s Good to Be Smart” is that for many gifted kids, the teenage years are too late for this message. That is why they don’t believe it. Grandma says start telling them that it’s good/cool to be smart early on. Starting in infancy and toddlerhood, smart and gifted children need to feel good about their abilities and have that message reinforced every time an unfortunate incident of name-calling, bullying, or negative peer pressure to hide who they are and what they know occurs.
In honor of SENG’s National Parenting Gifted Children Week, I am offering a special price for “Grandma Says It’s Good to Be Smart.” Start your little ones on a path to believing in themselves and their talents at an early age. Go to the “Contact Ellie Books” page of www.allkindsofsmart.com for details on how to order.
Posted in Gifted and Talented Children, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Smart, Early Learning, Young Children, Children's Books, Growing up smart, It's Good to Be Smart, The chance to learn, Smart is cool, Passion in teaching and learning, Picture books, Awesome children, Early identification of giftedness, Parenting for academic success, Grandma says it's good to be creative, Grandma Says It's Good to Be Curious, Developing a child's curiosity, Special Book Offer, Role models, Serious learning, smart child, Grandma says it's good to read, Early reading leads to later success, Parenting for adulthood, Learning by doing, Natural learning, National Parenting Gifted Children Week, Advocacy for the gifted
Tagged pre-k to 2nd grade learners, life-long learning, raising smart children, Buy now, parent alert, grandparent alert, learning is fun, children's picture books, ages 0-7, whimsical pictures attract children, reading with your little one, passionate learners, National Parenting Gifted Children Week, SENG