Gifted Awareness Week

2019 – Finding solace away from home

Finding Solace Away From Home - Sara Selkirk

It was January 2018 and this New Year had brought our family from New Zealand into a new home – Australia. 

Within three weeks, by eldest had fallen off the monkey bars and fractured his arm, requiring surgery. He was four and a half. I will never forget his bravery and my apprehension as they took him into theatre. Nor will I forget him waking up from the anesthetic. He screamed. A lot. There was rage in his eyes. The nurses tempted him with Icy poles and he hissed at them and very expansively told them where they could go. It was then that the nurses looked at me and one muttered under her breath: “Is he always like this?”

 

It was a comment that was very familiar to me by now. People who met us, whom we played with often asked similar questions. “Oh he’s just tired” or “He must be getting sick…” I would often say. Those who knew us better knew that it was not the case.

 

This particular little powder keg has been catching everyone off guard since the day he was born. “Very alert” all the hospital notes said. Didn’t we know it. He never slept. He fixed my gaze in the car mirror at 3 weeks of age. He was smiling at the same time and giggling a few weeks after that. I felt crazy for showing him books at 6 weeks but I recall genuinely feeling like he was following the pages and the story. By age one he spoke over 100 words and had full sentences including complex and abstract topics by 18 months. It would take me some years, and another much more “typical” baby later, to really appreciate how abnormal all this was. But at the time he was just our special boy.

 

Family humored us for a while – being new parents, being the first grandchild. Yes, of course he was special, aren’t they all? But it wasn’t until the preschool years that we began to run into problems. His emotional outbursts were unsettling. He would shout and protest for hours over seemingly small incidents. The line between overstimulation and under stimulation was a fine one that left us on edge every day. Grandparents were adamant it was our “soft” approach to parenting and lack of boundaries. But how do you set boundaries with a 3 year old who won’t accept “because I said so “as valid enough reasoning? Who seems to have little regard for any kind of authority? Who questions everything? All the time.

 

It was an isolating experience. He attended kindergarten but some of his behaviors meant that potential friendships did not progress. Not everyone was willing to look beyond the behaviors to the wonderful inquisitive, kind and compassionate child. We had long conversations in caron the way to kindergarten about the melting point of titanium, only to have him open the car door on arrival and scream: “Bum bum poo poo!” at the top of his voice to his peers. He knew exactly how to modify his behavior to impress them. He flew under the radar well.

 

Whilst looking for other activities locally to fit his interests of science and philosophy we stumbled upon a one-day-a-week kindergarten extension program. I didn’t know much about this at the time but figured it would give us another day of childcare and seemed to fit his interests. Through his passionate teacher at this program we learnt about asynchronous development. We met a number of like-minded families with bright and quirky kids. To speak with these parents who had also had similar experiences was a breath of fresh air. Who had faced some of the same challenges, the same questions and same looks from others when their kids did or said something out of the box. It was unusual to suddenly have a network of friends whom we didn’t have to explain ourselves to. Whom we didn’t need to make excuses for.

2019 – Find Your Tribe – Love Them Hard

Find Your Tribe - Love Them Hard - Tracy Riley

This blog was created by Dr Tracy Riley, as a member of the Board of giftEDnz: The Professional Association for Gifted Education. She has found her tribe in gifted education – and she loves them hard.

Your tribe is made up of the people you connect with through shared passions and commitment. Members of your tribe affirm, validate, inspire, and challenge you.

 

As Sir Ken Robinson reminds us, “Often we need other people to help us recognise our real talents. Often we can help other people to discover theirs.” Being part of a tribe enables validation of not only who you are and what your talents are, but also connects you with other like minds to kick around ideas, actively question and seek answers, laugh at the possibilities, and cry over the impossibilities.

 

Brené Brown says in her TED Talk, Finding our Way to True Belonging, “True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are.”

In other words, being part of a tribe helps us become ourselves. From the shared experiences of learning, being, and doing with others of like-mind, we gain a greater sense of identity. We are inspired by the tribe, as its members drive one another to push the supposed limits of our talents.

 

This shared inspiration can be intense, creating what Sir Ken calls an alchemy of synergy – this is the power of the collective, who bring our strengths and interests together to create something much greater than our individual selves.

 

Find your tribe.

 

Gifted learners, like all of us, are seeking a tribe, a powerful sense of belonging, that collectively honours and celebrates their individual strengths, differences, quirkiness, interests, abilities and qualities. Even those who may prefer their own company and working independently will ultimately benefit from being connected to like minds.

 

Finding your tribe isn’t always easy, despite lists of tips and tricks on social media. Gifted learners may feel as Lissa Rankin describes in her blog, like “the odd duck swimming with swans, who all seemed to enjoy a sense of belonging I never quite felt.” Research in New Zealand concluded that gifted students seek relationships with others who think in similar ways, as intellectual peers and friends in and out of school. Being in like-minded peer groups for learning is one way to connect with others and feel a sense of belonging.

 

A maths ability group, gifted programme one day a week, or accelerated English class may not necessarily be a gifted learner’s tribe. As another meme explains, Your vibe attracts your tribe. Finding your tribe requires confidence, risk taking, a willingness to try new things with new people in new places. How can parents and teachers support gifted learners in finding their tribe?

 

Lisa Gemert suggests a range of ways to enhance self-concept in gifted learners that will give them the confidence to create their vibe.

  • Teach service, because when we serve others, we feel satisfaction and experience gratitude.

  • Recognise accomplishments and contributions.

  • Be practically optimistic (without platitudes).

  • Teach social skills, like manners and sharing, to assist with developing friends.

  • Encourage care for others, including pets.

  • Praise effort and persistence, constructively and specifically for outcomes

  • Teach goal setting and persistence with tasks pitched above their level.

  • Build confidence in their intuition, helping them follow their gut instincts.

  • Display and share the mementoes – awards, certificates, artwork, models – from their achievements.

  • Communicate your admiration, gratitude, and pride through notes in lunch boxes, messages in notebooks, text messages, or other ways that work for you.

 

Building confidence is a fundamental step in connecting with others, through taking risks, building new relationships, engaging in new experiences or facing challenges. As confidence grows, other practical ways of helping gifted learners find their tribe include encouraging them to join local clubs and community groups, participate in competitions, attend meet-ups, volunteer, play sports, start a new hobby, get a paid job, join an online group, or start a book group, club, or other shared activity. These types of experiences may be in or out of school, supported by parents, teachers, coaches, or community members.

 

Your vibe attracts your tribe.

 

How can you help ensure that all gifted learners have opportunities to connect with like-minded peers? Advocate.

  • The first step to effective advocacy is to know your stuff. Inform yourself on the importance of belonging (for all learners) and the difference it can make to engagement and achievement in school by reading widely. (Google Scholar is a good starting point.)

  • Maximise your impact by joining with other advocates through your membership in a professional organisation or association (like AAEGT), working with parents of other gifted students in your local school or through special programmes, or engaging in other learning, development, and networking online.

  • Share your messages widely by being willing to work with media – social media, print media, radio, and tv.

  • Whatever you do, advocate for gifted learners by reminding others that all learners need to have opportunities to find their tribe. Use inspirational messages.

 
 

CALL IT A CLAN. CALL IT A NETWORK. CALL IT A TRIBE. CALL IT FAMILY: WHATEVER YOU CALL IT, WHOEVER YOU ARE, YOU NEED ONE. – JANE HOWARD

 

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE DREAMERS AND THE DOERS, THE BELIEVERS AND THE THINKERS, BUT MOST OF ALL SURROUND YOURSELF, WITH THOSE WHO SEE THE GREATNESS WITHIN YOU, EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T. – EDMUND LEE

 

Find your tribe.

LOVE THEM HARD.

2019 – Not What I Expected

Not What I Expected - Laura Motherway

From the moment he was born, my son was challenging my expectations of what a baby should be. He came into the world exactly how and when he wanted to- on a very inconvenient New Year Eve. Fast forward a few months, I found myself with a baby who I expected to be goo-ing and gaaa-ing at finger puppets, but instead would sit in a high chair looking intently at people in cafes predicting the moment before someone would laugh and then bursting out laughing in unison with them.

 
 

Fast forward a few years and I found myself with a pre-schooler who fought every household rule we had and was neither motivated by reward or consequence- just compelled to do what he wanted, when he wanted to do it.

 

It has only been a few months since my son has been identified as profoundly gifted. It came about as a complete accident. My husband and I were searching for ways to help with some challenging behaviours and enormously overwhelming emotions our son was experiencing. We were half expecting the psychologist to tell us that our son had some attention or impulse control challenges, but instead she told us he was bored. She told us his intellect was ranked in excess of the 99.9th percentile, and there was actually no way of knowing how intelligent he was since he reached ceiling scores in most of the tests she conducted. We were astonished. Not because we didn’t think our son was extraordinary, but because he wasn’t showing any of the attributes I associated with giftedness.

 

In hindsight I guess it’s no surprise that my son would challenge my expectations of what giftedness is as he challenged me in just about every other way.

 

I had always thought giftedness looked like pre-schoolers sitting quietly teaching themselves to read and write and being enthralled by mathematical games, but this was absolutely nothing like our son. We were so naive! What giftedness looks like in our family is pirates skidding across wooden floors, Broadway musicals recited verbatim and homemade pulleys to hoist toys (and sometimes children) up to the patio rafters. It is standing in the shower and not being able to figure out how a toy army man has ended up on the wrong side of the grouted drain. It’s the often hilarious but deliberately inappropriate commentary during a church service. It’s the strongly worded feedback received about an incorrect song lyric, or an emotional outburst about the perceived unfairness of a rule. It’s also being told how beautiful you look when you wear a new dress or change your hair in the slightest way. It’s being able to take a young child to a Fringe Festival play and hearing them laugh the moment before the joke is delivered. It’s enormous love, enormous laughter and enormous curiosity. It’s so much fun!

 

My son is extraordinary. All my children are. I am sure many people think he is badly behaved or at least rather cheeky… which I suppose he is! He is still trying to work out why he is different to his mates at school, why he sometimes gets in trouble for reasons he doesn’t understand or why he sometimes struggles to feel like he belongs. Sometimes giftedness can look a lot like something else. My son challenges the way I thought things should be, so I am certain he does the same for other people. I am praying he never stops challenging me, and hoping he continues to challenge what people think. This world needs more disruptors. More people who make us stop and re-consider our position on things. I am excited to see what the future holds for our son and our family, I just hope I have the energy to keep up.

2019 – Former PEAC Student Inspires

Former Primary Extension and Challenge (PEAC) Student Inspires Current Participants at Special Gifted Awareness Week Event - Kirsteen McCrory

During Gifted Awareness Week, Nicola Thomas joined a class of current PEAC students at the Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA) taking part in weekly course called “AQWA Experts” to share her story and to inspire the futures of a new generation of students. These students complete the course by attending sessions at AQWA one morning a week over ten weeks, culminating in them presenting their own ‘expert’ talk about one of AQWA’s resident creatures to an audience of their peers and parents, onsite at AQWA.

 

Nicola, a former PEAC student, is currently in her final year of a double major in Marine Science and Conservation Biology at UWA. She has taken part in three turtle tagging programs through Pendoley Environmental and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

 

Through these programs she tagged flatback and hawksbill turtles on three sites along the northern WA coastline. Just recently she finished a placement with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, in which she did field work on seagrass, freshwater invertebrates and water sampling. She is taking part in survey work through the Department of Fisheries with both abalone and tailor research. She volunteers as a SCUBA aquarist at AQWA, and also with the Swan Estuary Reserves Action Group (SERAG). Through SERAG, her name was put forward for the Swan Alcoa Landcare Program (SALP) Budding Landcare Award, and she was chosen as a finalist. She has also recently attended Conservation Camp in Albany.

 

Nicola was a PEAC student whilst attending Churchlands Primary School. She took part in many biology based courses. Her two most influential courses were Swamp Stars and Marine Science Madness. About “Swamp Stars” (based at the Henderson Environmental Centre at Star Swamp in North Beach) with PEAC teacher Kirsteen McCrory, Nicola says, “It gave me a good understanding of the ecology and biology of Perth and I’ve also found the principles to be very relevant while doing my conservation camp down in Albany.”

 

Of “Marine Science Madness” (based at AQWA) with former PEAC teacher Sabine Winton, Nicola says, “It inspired me to work towards achieving a much greater understanding of marine biology. Since then I have directed all my work and spare time to learning all I can about the underwater world, and loving every second of it.”

 

PEAC allows like-minded government school students in Years 5 and 6 to interact and work together in an environment of choice and active learning. The program focuses on developing the students’ personal and social and critical and creative skills, whilst accessing and applying above-level curriculum content.

 

The Year 6 students in AQWA Experts who met Nicola at the Gifted Awareness Week event had the following things to say about their own experiences and their sense of belonging within the program.

 

“At PEAC you get to work with different kids that think like you.” Sienna

 

“PEAC is amazing because cooperating with other people with the same interests extends your learning extraordinarily.” Nic

 

“We can cope with being bombarded with facts and knowledge they never dreamed of having. That means we all belong.” Fiona

 

“I feel like I can share myself more freely because I’m with people like me. I think that PEAC has given me a chance to see what I want to do with my life. I think that meeting Nicola has really sparked my interest in marine science.” Bonnie

 

“It is great to extend our learning with other students from other schools that think the same way: creative, inspired and smart. To me PEAC means learning with no limit. It means learning and meeting new people to study and learn with.” Reef

 

“The reason why I love going to PEAC is because I get to be with people that are like me.” Samantha

“PEAC is a good place for me to be with other like-minded peers. I can be challenged and extended along with everyone around me. I can belong rather than being the only person extended.” Elijah

 

PEAC acknowledges their long-standing relationship with AQWA and thanks them for their continued support of the program and each individual student. In partnership with PEAC, AQWA regularly host two different PEAC courses: the Science-based “AQWA Experts” and English-based ‘AQWA Authors”.

 

2019 – Gifted Girl

Gifted Girl - Chloe

My name is Chloe and I’m nine and three quarters. I would say I’m fairly normal (for someone who is much more different). It’s just that some people would think I’m weird, crazy or pushed too hard. You see, I’m one of the people classified as ‘gifted’.


When I was little (approx. ten months old), my mum took me to a mothers’ group outing. There were not many toys available to play with, so I started ‘reading’ through book after book after book.

I was quite happy in preschool and kindergarten, even though the work was too easy for me, because no one really noticed that I was different. Although once, I wrote in pen and the teacher was very angry even it was quite neat because she wanted us to write in pencil only. Then when I was in year one I started diverting away from the other kids in the school. Even though I tried to connect with the other kids, I just was too different or I was the opposite gender or too young.

 

I often used to feel terribly bored and immensely lonely at school. I would come home every day feeling very depressed. The work was much too easy and I got every question correct but my yearly and half-yearly reports weren’t great. I don’t know why, but I felt the teachers hated me. One time, my previous school trialed coding class, and let me tell you one thing: it was way too easy (I already had my own website I coded myself). I tried to communicate with the teachers via my mum (I was too scared), but they just thought mum was pushing me too hard when in reality I was the one getting my mother to talk to them.

 

I played pretend at school because I had no real friends. The girls were all about dance and looking pretty, but I don’t like just gossiping about my hair or how good my jazz moves are. Also, most of the boys liked sport or found it too awkward to play with me because I was a girl.

 

This year I made it in the gifted class at a more welcoming school. I’m happy now at my current school, but I feel there are other less lucky gifted children out there; ones who cannot reach their full potential because there are no special classes or schools where they live, or any at all. There are also ones who cannot get an education because of the mere fact that they are girls, or kids who stay in hospital or with non-tangible disabilities like dyslexia or Irlen syndrome.

 

I want those children to be and make themselves heard, and we should try and make a change in the world, starting with our communities. I would like people to recognise and respect gifted children — and, on that case — any other children who are ‘different’: transgender, with a disability etc. .