In her book, Giftedness 101, Linda Silverman shares these words with gifted advocates: “Be forewarned that if you ally with this unpopular cause, you, too, will feel the sting of anti-intellectualism aimed at you. You will soon learn firsthand about the prejudice that exists toward the gifted and their advocates. Expect to be derided at cocktail parties when you tell people what you do. An impressive number of people think they know more about the gifted than you do and they are delighted to share their opinions. Should you become a guardian of the gifted, know that there is no glory in it. This is not the route to eminence. When the scythe appears, you will have thrown in your lot with the tall poppies.” p.230
If I am to be honest, the years I have spent working with and coordinating programs for gifted students has been full of ups and downs. I have had the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas with many amazing educators as well as encountered doors that refused to open. Been dismissed as erudite/out of touch and welcomed as wise. Been thanked for my understanding and compassion as well as instructed to wear Kevlar. And there have been tears. A lot.
Is this any different than any educator/advocate who walks alongside children as they navigate the halls of learning? I don’t know but I suspect not as during this time I have witnessed the tears and fears of others on their own journeys down the “hallowed halls”. Some have been advocates who work with others also skirting around the edges of the normal curve and their journey (albeit somewhat better funded as we endeavour to leave no child behind) is laden with many of the same frustrations. But even those entrenched firmly “in the middle of it all” can feel overwhelmed in the broad expanse of the curve that encompasses the “average” and the above and below “average”. As we all scramble to somehow find the “best” way to “advocate” our way through the system, get the supports that we need, things can feel territorial and those who are on a different path may appear antagonistic. As many forces grapple to find a foothold in our schools, knowing the potential and future that rests with children, we can get caught up in the fractious “dream of a single logic” which is beautifully described by David Jardine in the foreward of David Smith’s book entitled Trying To Teach In A Season of Great Untruth.
How do we care for ourselves as we work to discover our own “truth” which can often come in conflict with other “truths”? I hesitate in recommending a “12 step program” as your body and mind likely have different requirements than mine and you may choose to focus more on alleviating the symptoms as opposed to my ongoing quest to find the source of my dis-ease. But I will tell you that when I am able to push to the periphery all the political, economic, pedagogic, social “agendas” that insist on a having a presence in my classroom and attend to the “radiance” of students as they uncover and discover the threads that connect them to a much larger world of language, ideas and inheritances, I go back to my own family with a smile on my face, a skip in my step and a song in my heart.
A week ago I would not have been able to articulate this as I have today and for this gift I must direct you to a paper by a former professor Dr. David Jardine, whose writing has always enthralled me. In reading his paper, “In Praise of Radiant Beings” I was reminded of the place we occupy in the nexus of truths, worlds, hopes and inheritances.
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