A Personal View on Being 'Gifted'
© Beverley Paine
I've alway found being gifted a burden - I'm convinced I'm not gifted enough and that sucks. I'm somewhere between normal and extraordinary - I never ever truly 'excel' at anything and that bugs me. I've been brought up to always do my best, but habitually only ever achieve 95%, which for most people would be brilliant and they'd be ecstatic to be able to do what I seem able to do with ease. But for me, because I'm driven by this external motivation to please others, deliver perfection (100% or A++) and always do the very best I can, achieve my potential, whatever that is, etc, etc, etc... I feel like an eternal failure.
I was identified as 'bright' and 'gifted' as a child. The teachers despaired because I looked eternally bored at school. I wasn't. I was somewhere else - in my head. I just have that kind of face. I look bored, or sad, or tired, unless I'm thoroughly engaged in a learning task, which is when I am truly enjoying myself. How can anyone be in that state in a classroom?
I remember, with absolute clarity, the look of disappointment on my year 11 teacher's face as he handed me back my assignment, with an 'A-'. 'A-' was always a failure to me. I was an 'A++' student, no less. A 'B' grade horrified me. A C and I felt depressed, ready to chuck it in. Failing year 12 hurt - but I'm so glad I began to abandon the need to fit into other people's ideas of who I should be halfway through that year and discover who I really am. People like me try to overcome the damage for the rest of their lives.
Although my abilities were paraded (Beverley as merit badge! - look at me, aren't I clever, I have a clever daughter!!!) no one took the time to help me identify my true strengths and value them enough to guide me into developing those abilities further. I found that as a bright kid adults had their own agendas about what was good for my future. Spending all day reading and writing fiction wasn't part of that. I had to be a scientist, a brain surgeon, or something along that vein - fame, prestige, university degrees, and a high paying job was the perceived end point of 'brightness'.
I remember desperately wanting to fail in grade 5, not only to win the kind of attention my not so bright (but artistically talented - again, not valued) sister had. Failure seemed the only way to be free of the pressure to perform.
I was one of those kids that enjoyed school, but year 12 was enough to put me off writing for a decade. It wasn't until I did a creative dance class as a young mum that I finally found a few words of poetry bubbling up from somewhere deep inside. I hugged those words and danced around the house for about an hour! It's been a long journey from there to published author. The wounds bite deep. I don't want to be gifted or talented because when you get there, when you do your best, they move the bar higher. If you are an author you have to be a JK Rowling or Steven King - the interest drops when people find out you're not on the best selling list.
I hate the cultural imperative in our western society that says we have win gold, nothing less. If you aren't first then you are a loser. I hate the phrase 'achieve his or her potential'. It's never enough. Bright kids work really hard to get there. It's not something they chose to do, they are driven by some innate force they can't turn off. I've spent my life wanting to turn that force off.
All children, from the tiniest babe, are alive with potential - but it's potential to grow and be and do, not anything in particular that we value or determine, but who they are. Given unconditional love, given selfless attention, a young person will spend his or her life learning about who he or she is, what they can do with ease and what is challenging. Given patient understanding and the time and space to discover this without external pressure to perform, he or she will learn that it's the challenging things that provide the most pleasure and satisfaction. Growing and learning and changing are exhilarating, breathless. Discovery and invention make the heart beat faster.Kids naturally push themselves to grow - in all directions. We are the ones that place limits on that growth - consciously and unconsciously. I always feel the need to back off around children. I've intervened and pushed my face into their time and space, thinking I was 'helping them learn and grow' all too often. Kids need us to back off more than anything, but to be there, beaming our unconditional love and faith all the time, quietly in the background. They need that reassurance that we care enough to be there for them, like a safety net, to catch them sometimes, to let them fall at other times, and always to pick them up and set them on the course again, without judgement. That's what makes parenting the hardest job in the world.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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