How do you see me? By vanessa white

We are same same but different, we are same same, but different yes we are
New Zealand native birds: Top row: piwakawaka (fantail), keruru (wood pigeon), kaka. Middle row: tui and takahe. Bottom row: kea and kiwi.

I, am one of many

I belong.

New Zealand Kea
New Zealand Kaka

We are the same

New Zealand Kea

yet different.

New Zealand Bellbird.

Whether chilling out

New Zealand Kea at Arthur's Pass village.

working on something challenging that's of interest

Silvereye drinking the nectar from harakeke (flax) flowers.
New Zealand Tui

or spending time with kindred spirits

New Zealand Kea in the Southern Alps.

It's nice to fit in

while being...

just me.

I am who I am.

How do you see me?

Same or Different?

The Kea is known for its curiosity, mischief and high level of intellect. It is but one of the many diverse species of birds which are native to New Zealand. While Kea are unique in many ways, in how they appear and in their behaviours, they also share a vast number of characteristics with other birds, and indeed, other animals. Think for a moment about the Kea.

  • What are the key features that we notice? How would you describe it to someone?
  • Would you share about your appreciation of its individuality?
  • Would you express your recognition of those attributes that you can identify in other birds or animals, or if you are familiar with the common behaviours of the Kea, perhaps attributes you can identify in yourself or someone you know?

If, we step back, and consider the biological classification system, we can see that it is premised on grouping based on shared characteristics. The Kea, along with the Kaka and Kakapo are all part of the small Strigopidae Family, sharing a significant number of attributes. These birds also have many commonalities with the Galah, Rose-ringed parakeet and Sulphur-crested cockatoo, and are part of a bigger group; the Psittaciformes Order. As we move up the levels of the biological classification system we see that even the most diverse of birds share common underpinnings. In essence, every bird is distinct from the next, yet all share characteristics at some level.

Top left: Kakapo, Bottom Left: Kea, Right: Kaka

Making sense of the world

Trying to make sense of our world is what we do. As a part of this process we instinctively group, classify, generalise and in some instances, stereotype. We use these approaches as we evolve and strengthen our own sense of identity and our perception of others, and determine our place in the world. We seek to find commonalities with others, forming in-groups and out-groups, those with whom we identify, and those with whom we don't. We discover, better understand and validate ourselves by finding others like us, who share aspects of our identity. Through membership as part of a group we share a collective identity, which can give a sense of personal strength and safety. Yet in developing an identity as part of a group, we are in the same instance, establishing a separation of self from others.

"Them" and "Us": A case of mistaken identity

Herein lies what I perceive to be the 'them and us' paradox. These very approaches we use to make sense of our world are those which can create division while also having the potential to unite. In considering perceptions of grouping, we can begin to appreciate how 'them' and 'us' are actually in some sense, part of a collective 'we', and demonstrate that among individuals, and the groups with which individuals associate, there is in fact some form of relatedness and shared identity. Through the art of helping people to develop awareness of similarities, perceptions of connectedness can form. This can help to build openness to understanding one another and compassionate consideration for the values that are held.

Just as we need to acknowledge and respond to difference, we must look for commonalities and identify and acknowledge these. Together, these characteristics are what constitute the identity of an individual or group and help to build a sense of community.

So my questions are:

  • How can grouping, classifying and generalising, as approaches that people are familiar and proficient in applying, be utilised in a way that bring acceptance and understanding in the field of gifted education?
  • Can an exploration of commonalities and explicit communication about these help to develop a sense of shared identity that could bring people together for the mutual purpose of effecting continued positive change for our gifted learners?

Inspiring people to identify with gifted learners and their needs could assist in breaking down the "them" and "us" mentality. While valuing and paying homage to our diversity, there is, I believe, potential for positive changes in perception of giftedness and talent through helping people to see that...

Underneath it all, we're just the same, same, same

This, I believe is the key to making progress in gifted education; our commonalities can serve to unite us in a way that increases acceptance and understanding of giftedness, and opens the way to enhanced practice which better meets the needs of gifted and talented learners.

New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour

This blog was written for the New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour 2015, the theme of which is "changing the way you see us".

About the author

Vanessa White is a gifted education specialist who resides in Waikato, New Zealand. She is dedicated to supporting gifted learners, their families' and teachers'. Vanessa enjoys helping others to better understand giftedness and talent, and the ways in which to provide for youngsters who exhibit these characteristics. Having recently completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Specialist Teaching (giftedness and talent), she is presently working on the Masters Programme, undertaking research; the focus of which is advancing early childhood educators access to professional development in gifted and talented education. This year Vanessa was voted onto the board for giftEDnz, the New Zealand Professional Association for Gifted Education. This is a role she values highly, working with enthusiastic and dedicated board members, and members of the New Zealand gifted education community, to promote positive national level change in support of gifted learners.

Created By
Vanessa White


Created with images by Mark Dumont - "Kea Close Up" • steintil2012 - "Fantail" • philip_wgtn_nz - "Kereru (New Zealand Wood Pigeon)" • Tomas Sobek - "New Zealand Kaka (Kākā, Nestor meridionalis)" • SidPix - "Tui" • SidPix - "Takahē" • Allie_Caulfield - "2001-12-02 01-03 Neuseeland 374" • Allie_Caulfield - "2001-12-02 01-03 Neuseeland 375" • eGuide Travel - "Arthurs Pass" • JSilver - "An Impertinent Kea" • SidPix - "Kaka" • AllWays Rental NZ - "Kea at Arthurs Pass" • GrahamAndDairne - "Rata tree" • __Wichid__ - "NZ Bellbird - sounds like a Tui" • supervillain - "Keas eating a sign" • lifacolor - untitled image • SidPix - "Silvereye" • Allie_Caulfield - "2001-12-02 01-03 Neuseeland 373" • __Wichid__ - "New Zealand Tui" • awiemuc - "kea_mt_cook_NZ" • GregTheBusker - "Kea" • Jason Pratt - "Kea" • fchelaru - "IMG_1103" • PhillipC - "Kea, Nga Manu, Waikanae, Wellington, New Zealand, 15 April 2006" • Mark Dumont - "Kea Attack" • NJKean - "Kea" • belgianchocolate - "kakapo" • SidPix - "Kea" • Matt Binns - "North Island Kaka" • awiemuc - "Flechten am Arthur's Pass, NZ" • Robert Nyman - "Walking to Mt Cook"