For far too many, they meet adults who turn a deaf ear, leaving them to feel unloved and under appreciated, and worse who misinterpret their strengths for weaknesses, or deficits. For many gifted learners, being true to themselves leaves them open to criticism, taunting, bullying, disrespect, not only from their age peers, but also from adults : teachers, community members, others who should feel an obligation to help and to nurture their strengths.
When they express their giftedness they are called crazy, too talkative, too busy, too smart, quirky. If their intense behavior is manifested in quiet, more subtle behaviors and they crave more isolation, they are criticized for not speaking up, being too sad, being anti-social, or too sensitive. Some have even reported teachers and other adults being threatened by the intelligence and wisdom of the gifted, and responding as though the child or teen was a 'danger' to others in the academic environment.
Research about the characteristics of gifted learners in particular, the intensities and 'overexcitabilities' of gifted people and first hand accounts of what it means to be gifted, has provided more than sufficient evidence of the great needs that gifted or genius children have for support and understanding.
Hughes' poem uses the metaphor of the eagle to express the ability of these young people to 'soar' when given the support and understanding they need. Without this support, understanding and love, the very spirit, the core of what makes them who they are will be destroyed.
So, for those of you who committed to nurturing the 'genius child'
- I encourage you during this school year, to do your part to show all children, including ALL gifted children in your environment that you appreciate them, value their strengths, and are available to do what you can to help them 'soar',
- I encourage you to look among ALL populations to seek out giftedness, appreciate them, and ensure that they have every opportunity to reach their highest potential, and
- I encourage you to actively show your children and your students through your attention to their intellectual and affective needs that you love the 'genius child' within. Anything less would be a travesty.
..can you love an eagle, tame or wild?
Wild or tame, can you love a monster of frightening name?
Nobody loves a genius child,
Kill him and let his soul run wild.
-Langston Hughes, 1947
For more information:
Piechowski, M. (2006) Mellow out-they say, If I only could: Intensities and sensitivities of the young and bright. Madison,WI:Yunasa books