Tag Archives: Lisa Hartwig

Disrespectful or Misunderstood? Gifted Students in the Classroom

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Gifted Students in the ClassroomI can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a parent say, “My child is gifted but he’s not one of those disrespectful know-it-all kids.” These parents are referring to the gifted gold standard: a child who knows the answers but politely participates in all of the class discussions with the appropriate amount of enthusiasm. Everyone wants this poster child, but they are hard to find, mostly because the traits that make them gifted also make it difficult for them to behave like model students. Parents might try to mold their gifted kids into this ideal, but it comes at a cost.

I learned the price of my son’s struggle to become a model student during our recent college road trip. We were sitting in a lecture hall filled with eager parents and high school students waiting to hear the admissions officer’s pearls of wisdom. Around 2:15, she started to talk. Around 2:25, I realized she hadn’t said anything. I had listened intently for 10 minutes and, as far as I could tell, she only made one point. Her speech was peppered with “…to put it another way” and “I don’t mean to repeat myself but…” I started to get annoyed. I was stuck in a room with 100 other awestruck parents and teenagers waiting for some information on the school’s culture, classes or admissions policies. Instead, I got a lot of words. So, I did what any mature 51 year old woman would do: I passed a note to my son. 10,000 words and still she hasn’t said anything, I wrote on a small notepad. My son’s eyes widened, he took the pen and wrote, I’m chewing gum to stay awake.

The information session went on for an hour and fifteen minutes. She made 3 points. By the time we left the school, I was mad.

Read the rest of Lisa’s story!

A 16 Year Old’s Guide to Colleges

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Be sure to check out the first part of Lisa’s college road trip journey!

ElonWe were 5 minutes into the student-led tour and I knew the school wasn’t the right place for my son. Our guide led us down the hallway of a beautiful colonial building. The walls were lined with cork board and sheets of brightly colored paper framing announcements and pictures of professors and administrators. “No, no, no,” I thought. “He’s going to hate this.”

I was trying to think like a 16 year old boy, or at least, my 16 year old boy. I had promised myself that I would allow him to set his own criteria when evaluating colleges. I admired how he navigated class selection, extracurricular activities and the work/life balance in his high school. I would not substitute my values for his now that he was looking for a college. So I tried to see the college through my son’s eyes.

It turns out that I was right—he hated the school. While the environment looked warm and nurturing to me, he felt smothered by the level of support suggested by the cheerfully decorated hallway and confirmed by our tour guide. We made a hasty exit at the tour’s end, skipping the information session and catching an earlier train to New York City. On the way out, my son said that he was really glad we made the trip. “I didn’t know if I would recognize a bad fit if I saw one. Now I know. I can trust my instincts.”

Thus began my son’s search for a methodology to assess the colleges we were visiting. What follows are his indicators of college excellence:

1. Personal Freedom

My son is on a quest for autonomy. He wants support at college to be available and encouraged, but not conspicuous. He disapproves of schools with multiple student committees tasked to help freshmen with everything from writing to public speaking skills. If he wants help, he will ask his professor. Jesuit priests in your dorm? Minus 5 points. A campus policy that encourages students to ask professors to lunch and gives them the funds to do it? Plus 10 points.
See what other factors were important to Lisa’s son!

The College Road Trip

By Lisa Hartwig

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

ElonIt’s the only fun part of the college application process: the college trip. It’s the chance for your child to dream before the harsh realities of test scores, class rank and GPAs hit. Best of all, parents are active participants. We get to be accomplices to the dream worlds our children are imagining.

Three years ago, I eagerly anticipated bonding with my oldest son on our whirlwind tour of 6 colleges in the east and one in the Midwest. I memorialized the trip with pictures of him scraping the snow off the windshield of our rented car, waking up with bed head and sampling cannoli in Boston. He was not amused. The defining moment of our trip happened during dinner midway into the week.

“I haven’t seen anyone in so long,” he said.

I not only wasn’t bonding with him, I wasn’t even someone.

Read more of Lisa’s story!

Brains or Beauty? Raising a Gifted Girl

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?

From the New York Times piece “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?”

I gave my 13-year-old daughter makeup for Christmas. I slipped powder, a makeup brush and tinted lip gloss in her stocking. At the time, I was aware of the message I might be sending, but I wanted her to stop raiding my makeup drawer when her friends come over. I didn’t want to take responsibility for the purchases, so they went into her stocking. Santa still fills the stockings.

I might have forgotten about my Christmas dilemma if I hadn’t read the New York Times op-ed piece “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?”  The author reviewed Google searches that used the words son or daughter. According to the author, parents are 2 ½ times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” On the other hand, parents are much more likely to initiate searches relating to their daughters’ appearance. The piece ends with the question “How would American girls’ lives be different if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?”

Read more about Lisa’s dilemma.

Saying Goodbye to the Wise Role Model

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Image from kidsedustuff.blogspot.com

Image from kidsedustuff.blogspot.com

I have a new year’s resolution. This year I am going to give up on being the parent I want to be. I am going to be the parent my children need. I know what my children need: my husband showed me.

My “schooling” happened on a weekday after I picked up my 16 year old from the BART station.

“How was your day?”

“Not very good. When dad get’s home, I need to talk to both of you.”

“Is it serious?”

“Yes.”

I coaxed him to tell me what happened. He refused. He silently wiped away tears on the drive home.

Later that evening, my husband and I sat on his brother’s bed as he told us what happened at school. I am going to spare you the details because I don’t think it’s fair to my son. It is only important that you know that he said something really stupid. This stupid thing took on a life of its own once it was passed from student to student in his small high school. He was called before the Dean of Student Life and told that she would be investigating the incident. If the facts warranted, he could be sent to the Disciplinary Committee and face suspension.

See what Lisa learned from this conversation with her son.

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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Helpful or Over-Involved?

By Lisa Hartwig

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

My middle son is a junior in high school. It’s time for him to start thinking about college. To help the process along, his school invited a speaker from Colleges that Change Lives to speak to the parents and students. She reminded the parents that the search should be student-centered. To make her point she told stories about over-involved parents who push their children aside during college fairs in order to speak to the admissions officers and those who get their pronouns confused when talking about the application process, as in, “We are still in the process of writing our essays.”

I have never pushed my children, and I am very conscious of which pronoun I use. That said, I was very involved in my oldest son’s college search, and I plan to do the same for my middle son. My experience has given me sympathy for the parents she ridiculed. It’s a fine line between over-involved helicopter parent and helpful consultant. But whichever side of the line you fall, there will be consequences for your child and a corresponding label of their own.

Read more of Lisa’s story here!

Doing Homework the Wrong Way

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Student writingThere is a right way to approach your school work and a wrong way. The right way is to plan ahead, break the project down into manageable pieces, allow enough time to proofread and edit your work and make sure the final work product looks good. The wrong way is to wait to begin until the night before the project is due, handwrite it (neatly at first, and nearly illegibly by the end) on the pages of a notebook and stay up all night completing it. My middle son took the second approach. But this isn’t a story about getting my son to do his homework the right way. This is about learning to accept his way.

To properly tell the story of my son’s “wrong way” project, I have to go back to the spring, when I attended the Bradley Seminar with my son. All of the attendees completed a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and learned about their personality types and their underlying characteristics. The facilitator asked the parents and students to line up on various sides of the conference room to join others with the same “type”. For the most part, my son and I were on the opposite sides of the room (no surprise). Most of our differences I understood, except one: how we deal with the outside world. I am a “judging” type. He is a “perceiving” type. This difference turns out to be a big one for us. Judging types like to plan and prefer an orderly life. Perceiving types are flexible and open to new experiences. Perceivers are enervated by deadlines. They take in information until the last minute and then complete their work in a burst of energy. Once I realized that my son was not going to share my love of lists and schedules, I stopped monitoring his work habits. I gave up on encouraging him to complete his school work in the right way.

The way my son completed his final project for his English class embodied his perceiving nature. The prompt for the project was “What is your American Voice?” My son decided to write his memoir. It would be in the form of a diary, written in a journal. He chose to write it in a red leather journal he purchased on a family vacation in France. He began the project the evening before it was due. He completed the 86 page memoir during his study hall, an hour before his English class.

My son was anxious about revealing so much of himself in a school project, so he sent his teacher an email expressing his concern. After reading my son’s work, the teacher emailed him back, and this is what he said:

It’s lovely, really…Your book is remarkably well-written for someone who just sat down and started writing. I guess writing isn’t ALWAYS rewriting. You have a natural gift for storytelling.

In this instance his natural work style worked for him. This is often the case. His rapid intellectual processing, long attention span and excellent memory allow him to produce quality work in a condensed period of time. There are instances, however, when his last minute burst of energy and inspiration isn’t enough. Last week he started running with the cross country team after not running all summer. On the third day, he injured his knee. His body was telling him what his English teacher did not: some tasks require the slow and steady approach.

My husband talked with my son and tried to make the connection between his preferred way of doing things and the possible consequences of his work style. His English project worked out because he is a good writer and he spent weeks crafting the story in his head. He likes to immerse himself in a burst of creative concentration. He also knew the teacher well. His knee reminded him that he cannot always be successful doing what is most natural for him. Running, like other skills (for example, music and foreign languages), require steady and persistent effort.

Last spring at the CDB Seminar I learned that there was a whole group of people who share what I initially thought was the wrong way of doing things. And it works for them, most of the time. Understanding this helped me let go of the need to organize, schedule and generally oversee my son’s life. It also helped my son identify his default work style. Over time, he will need to discover when his work style works for him and when it doesn’t so that he can be conscious about the need to modify it when circumstances require. I’m not really sure I can help him with this. As flexible as he thinks he is, he’s not really interested in trying things my way. In the meantime, I’m hoping that any further insights he may gain will not involve a visit to the emergency room.

That’s Just Not Fair

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Vintage Balance Scale“That’s not fair.” It’s my daughter’s motto. It is usually followed by a list of reasons why my request (to walk the dog or clean her room) is unfair and unreasonable. Her reasons are complicated, and I sometimes have difficulty understanding them. Her excellent memory allows her to reach back several weeks to describe previous events and conversations that provide evidence of the irrationality of my request. When she does this, I’m at a loss. I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast.

My daughter expects the world to operate in a way that is entirely fair and logical. She hates inconsistency. In her world, the rules are the same for everyone—children and adults alike. A rule and the intent behind the rule must match precisely. She demands precision from herself and those around her. The thought process she uses to support her positions is complex. I understand that there is a phrase to describe this behavior: “logical imperative.”

Read more about Lisa’s daughter and her strong logical imperative.

Motivating Without Grades

By Lisa Hartwig

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

Report_CardMy oldest son didn’t get his first letter grade until he was a senior in high school. His elementary and middle schools did not give grades. In high school, the students only received a single GPA. His assessments were in the form of red lined papers or handwritten comments. By the time he received his first letter grade in the fall of his senior year of high school, it was too late to make any difference; the letters had no meaning and they did not motivate him.

See what Lisa learned about her son’s motivation.