In December last year, I was asked to write a letter to a gifted young woman as part of ‘21 letters’ to celebrate her 21st birthday. When I sat down to write this blog on “Celebrating Giftedness”, I knew that I wanted to share a quote from that letter.
“You were the first person that I ever fought for and I did it because you gave me the strength to. And it changed my life.”
She was one of many amazing (or sometimes interesting) students that I have had the privilege of knowing. And every one of them has influenced my life.
Some of them have even succeeded despite having me as a teacher. I fully acknowledge that I was not a perfect teacher and for some of them, a class with me was the epitome of exasperation. For others, they loved every second. And for some, they will barely remember my name or my face.
I taught in a classroom for over 18 years, over 5,000 students would have had some kind of daily interaction with me over that period of time. For some, like the one above, we changed each other’s lives. For others, we were ships in passing in the harbour. In proximity, causing a few ripples, but having no lasting impact.
Many of our bloggers have mentioned Gagne’s catalysts – those from the environment and those intrapersonal skills. In the course of a gifted child’s schooling they have thousands of interactions with adults and, we know, that it is only ONE adult that could be the catalyst to catapult them to their success.
It is only ONE adult that could be the catalyst to catapult them to their success.
I wasn’t identified as a gifted as a child. I was in the “higher end” of the class. I also had unrecognised stealth dyslexia but enough coping strategies that that would not be picked up until my 30’s. My teacher training was not in giftedness nor special needs, it was mainstream, the status quo.
My catalyst came in the form of a 14-year-old girl who needed me to listen to her. She wasn’t the one to start my journey but she certainly showed me that my original plan was no longer going to be sufficient. It was not going to give me the satisfaction I craved nor the children I worked with the support that they needed.
That catalyst changed the direction of my life, the purpose of my journey and ultimately, is the foundation for every decision I now make.
Sometimes we get caught up in programmes, systems, the big picture. We need slow down in order to recognise and celebrate those catalysts of success. We need to remember that catalysts do not always appear with a big flashing sign above our heads. They are not things that we prepare for. Or ask for. Or seek.
They are just there. With that cheeky little element of chance thrown in.
Want to be a catalyst for a gifted child?
Get to know them. Listen to them. Celebrate their strengths and support their, sometimes, quirky ways. Be that ‘one’ who ‘gets them’.
Then they may allow you to be a catalyst.
Brooke Trenwith is President of the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children, a New Zealand Representative on the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children and a MOE Accredited consultant through Cognition Education. She has taught early childhood through to university level, worked as a Gifted and Talented Coordinator and was assistant director of an English School in Kaohsiung, Taiwan responsible for teacher training and curriculum development. Brooke was project leader of the Te Toi Tupu Ministry of Education contract, helping schools develop robust, transparent and cohesive approaches to gifted and twice-exceptional education. Her new company, Potential to Performance Ltd runs online courses as well as face to face support for both educators and parents, providing practical inspiration. Brooke’s specialisations include giftedness, inclusive education, relationship-based learning/cultural responsiveness, coaching and change management, thinking skills, digital fluency, innovative learning and collaborative practice. In 2018, Brooke participated in the Ministry of Education Summit (Auckland) and is on the Reference Group for the Ministerial Review of Curriculum, Progress and Achievement (Year 1-10).