Have you ever been “outside” of the group? Gifted kids feel outside of the norm, because quite frankly, they are. As fierce allies to gifted learners it is up to parents and teachers to help heal the awkwardness they feel using empathy. This vlog offers strategies for using empathy to heal to help gifted learners navigate their differences and feel good about who they are.
For our family, servant leadership plays out every weekend when we take our motorcycles to the mountains to ride. As the most experienced rider, my husband is the steward of our time, talent, and resources. He knows everyone’s riding level and chooses trails that will challenge, but not frustrate the family. He has chosen the best bike for each person based on their size, riding ability, and the type of riding we are doing that day. It is a joy to watch our son’s take care of one another on the trail and the teamwork and collaboration they demonstrate are beautiful. If one goes over, the other is there immediately to check on the person and give them a hand up. Just this weekend my teenager lost his sprocket going about 30 miles an hour. His back tire locked up and he lost control of the bike and crashed but had no major injuries. It was a freak accident and we were in the middle of nowhere with a disabled bike and the potential for a great lesson in stewardship.
Time- In this case, time was on our side. It was still early in the day and although it was chilly, we had lots of daylight left and plenty of time to plan on how we were going to fix the bike and get everyone back to the staging area. Time was our friend because there were no major injuries and the day was young.
Talent- My husband was the only person with the talent necessary to fix the sprocket so we could ride out. Although he was the only one with the mechanical talent to fix the bike, the rest of us had work to do too. My oldest was the muscle and helped with the physical aspects of fixing the bike. My youngest son and I were in charge of finding the missing sprocket and the bolt along the trail.
Resources- The necessary resources was the biggest challenge we faced. We were about 3o minutes from the truck, which held most of the tools we needed to fix the bike. With only 3 bikes that were working, my husband took my oldest back to the truck to get both tools to either fix the bike or rope to tow it back. I stayed in the mountains with my youngest, to watch over the bikes while they were gone.
I am happy to report that we worked together to get the bike off the mountain. Gravity was on our side, and we jerry-rigged a solution to get the disabled bike back down to the truck. We relied on leadership from our most experienced rider/mechanic and the talents of the other people within the family.
Servant leaders are stewards of their gifted student’s time, talents, and resources. Below are 4 stewardship strategies teachers (and parents) can leverage to become a fierce ally to the gifted learners they serve.
Holding all aspects of the learning in trust- Holding all aspects of the learning in trust means the teacher oversees the student’s time,
resources, space, learning, etc in the utmost confidence of the learner. This requires a great deal of trust because they must be able to match the needs of the student with the content they are teaching. This requires an ability to individualize. In future articles, I will share how technology can transform learning and help a teacher differentiate lessons for all learners. Teachers need to be willing to give control of the learning experiences over to their students and then respond to the unique need of each learner. This approach empowers the student with an appropriate level of freedom to explore his or her own learning objectives.
Foster joint decision making- Servant teachers exercise stewardship by fostering joint decision making. Sharing the power over decisions creates a shared passion for the outcome of the process. Shared thinking takes place and the experience benefits from the input of both the teacher and the student. This mutuality is important because it balances out the learning experience.
Give the students what they need, no more, no less- When practiced, the teacher offers guidance for the students but does not take on the learning. The teacher one source of learning, but brings together the best human, print, and digital resources for the student to make meaning of the content and make it their own.
Be a fierce steward of educational time, student’s talent, and classroom resources- As a fierce steward of time, the gifted teacher might assess a student’s prior knowledge and design curriculum around the student’s passions and interests because they have already mastered within the prescribed curriculum. As a steward of talent, the teacher must assess each student’s abilities and match the content to the learner’s individual needs. As a steward of resources, the teacher must assess the needs of each learner to bring forward the best human, print, and digital resources to meet each child’s needs.
When the teacher has a servant’s heart and puts the student’s needs first, students can reach their full potential. In the comments below, or on your favorite social media using the hashtag #giftedresources, please share how you are stewarding the time, talents, and resources of the gifted students in your life.
I vividly remember the morning of 9/11/2001 and the days that followed. Every morning I gathered for a morning meeting with the gifted students in my K-5 gifted pullout program. We would gather together on the colorful rug in the classroom library and reconnect after a week apart, sharing pieces of ourselves, and HEALING.
These young gifted students came to school after watching the news with tears in their eyes, and the weight of the world on their shoulders because of all of the destruction of the terror attack on US soil. With a heightened awareness of the world around them, these images left them feeling powerless because they wanted to help but felt unable to do anything at all. Their minds were grown up but trapped in an eight-year-old body with a sense of very little power to make a difference.
I think about the gifted children in the classrooms around the world today and the teachers who will help them heal. In the United States students are seeing pictures of the devastation from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the destruction from wildfires in the western states, plus monsoon flooding in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. And these are just the weather related incidents and do not account for the massive earthquake in Mexico, Kim Jung-un, and pictures of 9/11 anniversary video. These images are outside of their immediate influence but there is also the pain occurring within their communities, schools, families, and even within themselves. Young people are hurting and teachers are in a unique position to heal their hearts so they can learn, grow, and develop into self-reliant young adults.
The servant-leader has the ability to transform the situation and create a classroom community of healing. An ability to understand the cognitive, social, and emotional needs facing today’s gifted students, is a critical teacher attribute that can help teachers create a safe classroom environment where students are nurtured and healing occurs. The purpose of this article is to share four healing strategies teachers can leverage to become a fierce ally to gifted students. These strategies can be used by parents also to build improve their relationship with their child.
Respond in a healing manner when problems arise- Responding in a healing manner when problems arise comes from listening and responding to the needs of each student in a way that promotes healing body, mind, or spirit. Through words of encouragement and a calm presence, the teacher can encourage healing, perhaps healing brokenness caused by years of feeling alienated and radically different from their age appropriate peers.
Conveying understanding through body language- Conveying understanding through body language is part of intensely listening and focusing on the person. People will respond to not only your words but how you present yourself. Mirror their body language to create a connection and make time to be with them through the difficult emotions.
Create a safe place to explore feelings- Creating a safe place to explore feelings encourages the healing process. The servant leader understands where students are in the journey of life and help to soften the blows of rejection and failure that may come along the way. The safe space may come as a morning meeting. This ritual creates a classroom culture of healing, promoting authenticity, genuine caring, and respect for every student.
Help them find an intellectual peer- Helping gifted children find an intellectual peer is one of the most powerful gifts you can give a child. Gifted students are more different from one another than they are alike, but within the school community, a teacher can likely help them find an intellectual peer with a shared affinity. Fostering this relationship helps both children move out of isolation and become interdependent within the school community, facilitating healthy social and emotional development.
At Gifted Resources, we believe teachers are Servant Leaders in the classroom and parents are the Servant Leaders in the home.
Healing is one disposition of a servant leader that when leveraged properly, will create a classroom environment where gifted students will thrive. This week, practice one of these strategies to become a fierce ally to the gifted students you serve. Share the results in the comments below or on social media using the hashtag #giftedresources I am looking forward to hearing more about how you are transforming education for the students you serve.