The metaphor explained
The New Zeland Kea are renowned for their cognitive abilities and curiosity. When pondering about the role of curiosity in learning, it struck me that these birds, in all their vibrancy, provide a good metaphor for our gifted learners. With their striking red and orange feathers tucked away out of sight, the Kea seem quite unremarkable. Akin to this, gifted learners may not stand out in an obvious way either, blending in among their age peers. The abilities and qualities of gifted learners may be difficult to spot. It might be that we are not sure what to look for, and as such fail to notice these characteristics, or it may be that we simply haven't had the opportunity to see these in the school context. This may be because the child is choosing to hide them in order to fit in with age peers, or because an opportunity hasn't arisen for the child to use these skills in the school setting yet.
Abilities and qualities may be hidden if a child feels this will be more acceptable to others and help him or her to fit in.
Sometimes we might get to see a 'flash of brilliance', or perhaps be aware of a child's intensity or sensitivity, but not realise this is part of something bigger; part of being a gifted learner. We may observe behaviours, such as the Kea's mischief, without making the connection that these may be arising through the need for more challenge.
In many instances it can take the presentation of opportunity that piques a child's interest, and which provides sufficient challenge to engage the learner, before we start to see just what a child is capable of, and begin to get a true idea of his or her potential. Through provisions which fit the interests, strengths and learning needs of gifted learners, these children have the chance to both demonstrate and develop their abilities and qualities.
It is important to note however, that in order to recognise what it is that we are seeing, we first need to be familiar with the conceptions of giftedness which are relevant to our own educational context, as well as the associated characteristics. We need to be open to the interpretations of others in relation to behaviours and characteristics which are observed, particularly those of parents and whanau of learners, who can offer great insight into their child which we might not otherwise be afforded.