Category Archives: talented

Developing Talent – What should society expect from brilliance?


I often find myself listening to conversations about talent development for gifted children. Now, I actually believe altruistic talent development is a great thing for kids: take their areas of strength and help them grow. What’s not to love, right? As with any altruistic notion, implementation and the need to pay for said altruism often takes away from the vision. What troubles me most is a sense of entitlement society seems to feel toward a child’s brilliance and how this entitlement infects the idea of talent development and twists it. I don’t mean holding high expectations of meeting your potential. I have high expectations for my girls but I don’t have expectations of what meeting their potential looks like or how they will “owe me” for supporting and helping them develop. I mean the notion that society feels ownership toward an individual’s intellectual gifts. For instance, it makes me pretty crazed when people tell my eldest daughter,”Don’t be a philosopher. You are so smart, you should be a doctor and cure cancer.” As her parent, my first thought is,”Have you ever seen her artwork or listened to her music? My goodness, I wish she would quit taking art off the table of viable career paths.” My second thought runs along the lines of,”You don’t own her intellect. Why are you telling her what to do? You don’t even know her well.” This is followed closely with the thought,”She has never been on the path to be a doctor and has shown no interest in medical research. Is she smart enough to pass the courses? Sure. Does she have the passion for medicine? No.” These “well-meaning” adults don’t realize the damaging message they have just given her: “What you want to do is meaningless. You owe us a cure for cancer because you are wicked smart. Any other path is a waste.” Now, if this had only happened once, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. It has happened a countless and depressing number of times. This brings me to my worry about the movement toward talent development with gifted children. If I felt like we wanted to develop talent because supporting and encouraging our children is beneficial for society then I would be the first passenger on the ship. That isn’t what the conversation has been, in the United States. The conversation is,”If we develop the talents of academically gifted children, imagine what they can produce for our society.” It is subtle but the message is,”In return for developing your talent, you owe us.” Our society has also begun to send a second message,”Artists and philosophers are not as important to society as scientists and mathematicians.” I beg to differ. There is balance in all things. The great minds of science and mathematics were often also philosophers and artists. We can’t separate out talents like we are separating the wheat from the chaff because art and philosophy are not chaff. They are wheat just like science and mathematics.

Here is my opinion: We should develop talent because it is the best practice for growing well-rounded children. It is the fertilizer for the seeds. We should be ecstatic for the wheat we receive but not become angry with the seed if it didn’t produce enough wheat or maybe wasn’t the variety we thought we wanted. We enjoy the wheat we have and are grateful. The same holds true for talented children. They don’t owe society their gifts and we should be grateful when they share their great gifts with us in whichever form those gifts take. My daughters don’t owe society another *Sputnik moment. Society owes my daughters the support needed for their growth with no expectation of what that result will be. When support is freely given, people feel more inclined to give back. When support is given with demands, people feel protective of their gifts.

Think about it. Won’t our society be better for creating happy, supported children over creating the next Sputnik moment?

*This post is somewhat in response to Paula Olszewski-Kubilius’ opinion piece in The Hill on May 13, 2012 but it is mostly an aggregate of things I have pondered over the years. The article can be found here:

The Solution Finders: Thanking the Creative Educator


What? My first participation in a blog tour ever! Woot. Total writer’s block. Ever have those times where you know what you want to say but you can’t quite get it onto paper in such a way that it carries the impact it should have? Yeah, I’m there.

This week kicks off the International Year of Giftedness and Creativity guided by the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children. Needless to say, I am very excited to participate in the blog tour because supporting gifted and talented children is a huge passion of mine.

So why, why, why am I having such a hard time writing a post? I think I want to get it right. I want to create a post that celebrates all it is to be gifted and creative. I think it is probably an impossible task and therefore my brain has gone on strike.

I have decided I will just use one story and maybe not try to encompass all of our educator experiences in one blog post. Maybe I will write stories throughout the year celebrating educators who inspire.

Let’s start with our most recent experience. My younger two girls had always homeschooled until last year. We had the opportunity to travel a great deal with my husband for work and we enjoyed loads of cool adventures. As they grew up, they wanted to go to school and stay home and “be normal.” We felt as though this was a reasonable request so we registered for public school and began a different sort of adventure. To say we were a bit skeptical about what we would experience is probably an understatement.

My younger girls didn’t want me to push for them to receive gifted services even though we knew both girls had met gifted benchmarks all of their lives. I try to respect these requests when I feel no harm will likely come out of it and the reasoning was logical. *Here is a good place to add the caveat that I have been an advocate for gifted education for almost ten years. I speak at conferences and sit on committees and created a support network for parents when my eldest daughter was struggling with school placement. On the form for “Parent’s work”, I simply wrote “stay at home Mom.” E-mailing teachers? Remove my signature line. We went into last school year completely incognito.

On meet the teacher day, I knew I instantly liked Mrs. Angela Wrigglesworth. Well, first, let’s just say she has the greatest “book character” type name ever. She and my youngest daughter began talking and had many favorite books in common. I was beginning to feel pretty positive about the year to come. Upon speaking further, we found out that she had also been Ms. Texas Wheelchair 2004. By the end of that first meeting, I knew I was going to like Mrs. Wrigglesworth a lot.

Fast forward about two months and I am in love with Mrs. Wriggleworth. She sees each child as an individual and realizes their needs are all different and individually important. She encourages them to be their own person and to be unique. She is an example of setting and meeting your goals. I’m thinking,”Cool! Even if youngest doesn’t really learn anything from class, she will learn a lot from her teacher about life.” I went into this with low expectations of what she would learn so I wasn’t disappointed. As part of district protocol, she tests my youngest’s reading level and runs out of tests to give her to accurately assess her reading level. I receive a phone call from Mrs. Wrigglesworth and she says,”Mrs. Taylor, I have never had a child read at the level your daughter reads. I can only borrow books from the middle school but that won’t be the right level. I was thinking I would start a book club for your daughter and I. There are books she and I both want to read and this will help her have books on her level in class and someone to discuss them with.” I was elated. I didn’t even have to ask for help. I offered to purchase two copies of any book they were going to read and she could keep them, for the class, as a gift.

Why is Mrs. Wrigglesworth an inspiration? She had a problem and she came up with a creative solution.

Creativity comes in many forms. When a teacher uses creative solutions to help a gifted child a definitive message is sent to the child,”Your needs are important and I want to support you.” What a validating affirmation to the child and their parents. Bonds are formed and community grows. We all want to be part of a supportive and nurturing community.

I was not surprised when Angela Wrigglesworth was announced as our district’s elementary teacher of the year. I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving.

Thank you, Angela Wrigglesworth, for being a creative and inspirational teacher.

I encourage you to thank a creative, inspirational teacher in the comments. Let’s have a year of highlighting creative teachers of the gifted and celebrate the wonderful impact they have on our lives.