Monthly Archives: November 2013

Giving Thanks for the Whiners and the Braggarts and the Smug

By Lisa Hartwig

Lisa is the mother of 3 gifted children and lives outside of San Francisco.

Every time I write about my kids, I’m afraid you’ll think I’m a whiner* or a braggart* or smug*. And it isn’t just when I write. I feel the same way when I’m talking with people I know. So I try not to write or talk about their accomplishments. Of course, my fear comes from my own insecurities (my husband tells me I care too much about what people think). But it also comes from the experience of seeing other parents of gifted kids get ridiculed for talking about their children. A neighbor’s child was called “the experiment” because his mother got him extra time in the kindergarten classroom. Blog posts like “Shut Up About What a Burden Your Gifted Child Is” and “I Hate Hearing About your Gifted Child” berate parents for complaining about their first-world problems. Most of the time, I try to ignore these comments, put my head down and quietly work on my children’s behalf. My behavior, for the most part, gets my children what they need. The problem is that it robs me of what I need.

I need to feel connected.

I didn’t expect to find a connection when I ran into a 19-year-old boutique clerk with fuchsia hair. I immediately liked this girl after she recognized me 15 years after attending nursery school with my son. While exchanging updates, I told her about his new major: Storytelling. She got very excited and told me about a storyteller/researcher she admired. On the back of my receipt, in big loopy letters, she wrote, “Ted Talk: Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability.” I went home and watched the Ted Talk three times.

According to Brené Brown, connection is what gives meaning to our lives. To be connected, we must be vulnerable. The problem is that vulnerability is also at the core of shame– the belief that there is something about us that makes us unworthy of connection. So, people try to numb vulnerability through drugs, alcohol and food. Less obvious are those who seek to numb this feeling by making what is uncertain, certain; or pretending that what they do doesn’t have an effect on other people. These are the people who are convinced that parents are creating Frankenstein creatures when they get extra time in the classroom for their children. These are the bloggers who are so annoyed by the problems of others that they tell a segment of the population to “shut up.” The beauty of the last two reactions is that they feed right into my insecurities and silence me. I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t always know what to say. My children make me feel vulnerable. Maybe I should just be quiet.

My son is teaching me how to embrace vulnerability. During his ninth grade Identity and Ethnic Studies class, he made a video explaining the feelings he has about his sexual orientation. I was concerned when he posted the video on YouTube, so I checked the entry daily for unkind or cruel comments. Two thousand eight hundred views and two years later, he doesn’t have a single negative comment on his video. He allowed himself to be seen, and people responded with admiration. Fourteen years old and he was already braver than I was at 49.

So this Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks to those people who embrace vulnerability. Thank you to the mothers who share stories of their gifted children’s personal struggles with an audience of people who may not understand or appreciate their pain. Thank you to the parents who face a potential backlash when they confront teachers and administrators to say their gifted child needs more than the school is offering. Thank you to the children who expose the personal details of their lives on the chance that some other child might benefit from their story. Thank you to the whiners, the braggarts and the smug because you make me feel connected.

*borrowed from the comment section of a blog about parents of gifted children.

Where do you find community as the parent of a gifted child? Please share in the comment section below.

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These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things…

One of the perks of being a gifted individual is an interest in, well, everything!

The IEA staff is a passionate group with many different interests and hobbies, which often lead to very interesting collections. Here are some of the things IEA staff members like to collect:

Zadra: I LOVE notebooks, journals and fountain pens. Lately, I’ve also really gotten into Nail Art. People’s imaginations are so boundless! Pinterest is my favorite place to get new ideas on how to decorate my nails, but YouTube has great tutorials, too. I also enjoy Tarot cards – the decks are the perfect combination of beauty and math!

See what other IEA staff members collect!

Chapter 1: The One Thing Needful – What Is It?

By Louise Hindle

Louise Hindle is IEA’s Academy Coordinator. A British import, Louise graduated from the University of Manchester with a B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature and Language, completed her post-graduate teacher training at The University of Cambridge, and has recently completed her dissertation in Educational Leadership and Innovation with the University of Warwick. Louise has 20 years of experience in education as a high school literature teacher, lead teacher, administrator, adviser, and consultant. IEA’s Academy program, described here, provides elementary and middle school students with challenging enrichment classes that focus on exploration and application of knowledge.

Mr. Gradgrind

Mr. Gradgrind

“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts….Plant nothing else, and root out everything else… nothing else will ever be of any service,” declares Mr. Gradgrind in Charles Dickens’ novel Hard Times. Gradgrind is, of course, a grotesque parody of all that education shouldn’t be. Ingrained in his face, Gradgrind, like the educational system he advocates, is “inflexible, dry and dictatorial,” demanding only closed-answer responses with absolutely no space to think, let alone enquire. Inexorable in his approach, Gradgrind looks at his room of students and sees “empty vessels,” vessels he must fill to the brim with the facts he determines most useful. The one thing needful in this context is a 19th century industrialized utilitarian view of education: keep it if it’s “useful,” lose it if it’s not, and let’s not think about who decides what’s useful. Furthermore, it’s an educational system where the distance between the teacher and the students is a steadfastly vast unexplored wasteland, devoid of personal interaction, engagement or – dare we say it – enthusiasm for teaching and learning.
Read Louise’s reflections on “the one thing needful” for our bright young minds!

The Many Faces of Gifted: Albert

By Carole Rosner

Every gifted person has a unique story. The following story is part of a series of posts depicting the many faces of gifted by highlighting gifted children and adults we have found through IEA programs. IEA’s Apprenticeship Program – mentioned in this story – links gifted high school students from across the country with mentors who advance each participant’s skills through the application of knowledge and exposure to real world experiences.

Albert-Keung
Albert Keung
2000 Apprentice, Aeronautical Engineering, Occidental College
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Boston University/Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Can you imagine what it would be like to fly in an unpowered glider over Southern California? Albert Keung didn’t have to imagine it; he actually did it in the summer of 2000. Albert was an Apprentice in the Aeronautical Engineering program at Occidental College and mentored by the late Dr. Paul MacCready, founder of AeroVironment, Inc. and known as the “father of human-powered flight.”

Read more about Albert’s Apprenticeship and career path!