I love the messiness of fragmented thoughts winding together to form something extraordinary. To me, the greatest gift is when someone invites me to collaborate on the conceptualization of an idea. It has been an honor to go through this process many times and share in the success of others when their ideas come to fruition. The following is a unique story of how a former gifted student invited me to help her conceptualize her dream.
Several years ago, summer was nearly over and back to school professional development was in full swing. I was kicking off the school year with a group of teachers in Portland, Oregon when a bright-eyed millennial walked up to me giddy to say hello. The beautiful young lady gave me a hug and I realized the young lady embracing me was Mandie, my former gifted student that was now all grown up. That day was the beginning of a delightful mentoring relationship that I hadn’t expected.
Several years had passed and our friendship blossomed. I watched Mandie grow both personally and professionally. For nearly a year she told me she wanted to start her own school and enroll in a Ph.D. program. Through deeply listening, I sensed a mismatch between what she was saying and where her heart was really wanting to take her. I invited her to grab some time on my calendar so we could find congruence between her heart’s desire and her giftedness.
Our coaching call had a familiar cadence. Mandie spoke logically about enrolling in a Ph.D. program and using the research from her dissertation to start a charter school. After a few open-ended questions, the conversation took an interesting turn and Mandie became more and more animated describing how she would equip the leaders in her virtual school with the necessary skills to build a strong sense of community and belonging among the student body. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, the spirit of that spunky 10-year-old gifted child I remembered began to emerge as she described how to masterfully create school culture using a unique blend of social media and grassroots student leadership development. In that instant, it became crystal clear to both of us that Mandie’s mission in life was to share her successful formula for equipping and empowering virtual schools to create invaluable human connections in the online environment. It was in that moment that hello edu was born.
Mandie invited me to come alongside her and help conceptualize her dream, a dream that doesn’t require a Ph.D. or a charter school of her own. Like all dreams, it starts with an idea followed closely with a carefully executed plan. Next week, I have invited Mandie to continue this story by sharing the foresight one needs to make a dream come to fruition.
Servant leaders can help gifted learners knit together their ideas to create their envisioned future. Below are three conceptualization strategies teachers (and parents) can leverage to become a fierce ally to the gifted learners they serve.
Boldly seek innovative solutions- Teachers need to help young people boldly seek innovative solutions. These solutions may or may not have been explored in the past, and sometimes the servant leader needs to point out the path that the child may have overlooked, a new and different way of reaching a potential solution.
Creating a well-designed learning experience- Creating a well-designed learning experience allows the student to participate in lessons that begin with the end in mind. Servant leaders help students begin with a clear understanding of the end result and then begin to lay the foundation of what is necessary to reach the desired outcome.
Making decisions between what is good, and what is best for students- Making decisions between what is good, and what is best for students, means differentiating between the two. A servant leader’s role is to help the learner see where they have come from and where they are going. The wisdom of an adult, coupled with a servant’s heart, can illuminate a young person’s path in ways they cannot see on their own. This wisdom helps differentiate a good path, from the best path.
Servant leaders help learners with both conceptualization and foresight. Conceptualization is the creative process people go through to cast their envisioned future. Foresight is the logical steps necessary to reach the end goal. When leveraged properly, conceptualization and foresight will help students dream big dreams and reach those goals through a thoughtful, step by step process.
In the comments below, or on your favorite social media using the hashtag #giftedresources, please share stories of students you know who are reaching their dreams.