Tag Archives: Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman

Nurturing Activism in Gifted Students

Having an awareness of how high gifted students can set the bar for themselves has made me proceed carefully into conversations around activism. One highly gifted child that I have the pleasure to know made the off-hand comment to me once that anything less than a Nobel Peace prize would seem an insignificant contribution. So while locally, nationally and internationally, child activists are doing amazing work and have been well recognized for their efforts, it is important to balance our conversations about these  tremendous role models with an understanding of the many layers to activism.

In our smallish community we are fortunate to have some amazing role models. One such individual is Tenille Nadkrynechny who at 15 began using her musical talents to ensure the homeless youth of our community have a safe shelter to go to. Her talents have been a source of inspiration to many of our local students. We are also very proud of Canadians Craig and Mark Kielberger whose activism began at the age of 12 championing the rights of child labourers. In the 21 years since their incredible work with the “Free the Children” organization has evolved into the internationally recognized Me to We movement. This movement has come to our community in the form of Mighty Peace Day. And we cannot forget Malala, who was catapulted onto the world stage after being shot for championing the right to go to school. She went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

So how does one begin talking about activism with students who have tremendous compassion and wish to make a difference in the world? Depending on the child and where they are setting their bar, it may start with a conversation about our fascination with eminence. In some of her talks, Linda Silverman reflects on eminence being a wrongheaded guide for giftedness when she explains how at one time eminence/giftedness was measured by the number of books one had written about them. Based on that interpretation the most gifted individual on the planet at one point would have been the race horse Sea Biscuit. While Sea Biscuit may have been a very gifted horse with a very gifted trainer, we can’t all be Sea Biscuit for a few obvious reasons. We also can’t all be Malala for just as obvious reasons.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t be activists. In fact, the next conversation might be about how activism is a daily activity-the product of a thoughtfully lived life. Every time we are faced with a situation that calls us to action: standing up for or to a friend, seeing someone in need, deciding what we will or will not purchase or consume, voting, choosing a topic for an assignment…we are activists. For my anxious and perfectionistic students who might find this concept paralyzing, I would turn to the The Virtues Project and contrast the excellence and moderation definitions with one another. In fact, it is the cultivation of these and other virtues as we proceed with pursuing our passion that will allow us, should an opportunity arrive, to be an activist for a cause larger than ourselves, and proceed with the confidence, compassion, integrity and humility required of those who might be called upon to lead.

Please take time to check out Hoagies Blog hop for more thoughts on this topic by clicking on the link below.



Where Caring Becomes Self-care

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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Giftedness 101 with Linda Kreger Silverman

This past week I had the opportunity to travel to the mid-high campus of Westmount Charter School in Calgary where Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman was presenting. The author of Gifted 101, which I consider to be one of the best books ever written in terms of giving a comprehensive overview of all things gifted, she has had a powerful influence on the assessment of giftedness. So much so that the new version of the WISC will reflect the more than 50 years of research she has conducted with gifted children.

There were several topics that she touched on over the three days of her session: parenting, assessment, visual spatial learning, the gifted in secondary school and the personality traits of the gifted. I am going to highlight some of the points from each session. What I find interesting as I review my notes is how sometimes the expertise she offers seems so straightforward, simple and I hesitate to say it: obvious. But you shouldn’t underestimate the complexity of what she is sharing despite its simple elegance.

If our Child is so Smart, Why Aren’t our Lives Easier?  In this session she shared an interesting chart that compared the time we spend parenting our children vs the time they will spend caring for us. We all chuckled as we reflected on the karmic significance of this but the point was not lost. Her broader and more controversial point was this: no matter what schools you put them in, it is their home life that determines what they will do with their lives. I have had many conversations with parents around the degree to which school experiences have influenced their children, and when your child feels like they don’t belong and aren’t appreciated, you would move to the other side of the planet to make them feel accepted and understood. But Linda cautions that you must remember your own significance as a parent to recognize their individuality, accept them for who they are, to listen, be honest and support their passions. The list goes on but the meaning is clear…these highly sensitive, emotional, curious, intense, perfectionistic children need home to be a safe and nurturing place.

Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner  “Are you a piler or a filer?” Linda asks her audience. You only need to look at my desk to know which one I am, although I can be a filer when desperate measures are required. Gifted visual-spatial learners can be a conundrum to those responsible for their learning as they don’t respond well to learning that is quite often auditory and sequential. Beyond being organizationally impaired and unconscious about time, they may have difficulty with easy tasks but show amazing ability with difficult and complex ones. They do not learn from repetition and drill and showing their work after they have arrived at a correct solution may be impossible. They think in pictures instead of words and are whole-part learners making step-by-step learning difficult for them. What can we do? For strategies for visual-spatial learners, visit www.VisualSpatial.org.

The Gifted in Secondary School The discussion around this topic was quite fascinating as Westmount provides a congregated setting for secondary students. Some of the questions that their teachers had were very similar to the ones that I have had asked of me, in particular the question of whether students remain gifted for their entire life. “Can we change the code if they are no longer demonstrating their giftedness?” The need for specialists who are able to engage students far beyond their grade level becomes evident in secondary school as the double whammy of not providing adequate challenge to a mind that is beginning to question the nature of the institution can create the illusion of lazy. A “lazy child” can be symptomatic of a learning environment that lacks opportunities for abstract reasoning and is focused on achievement of specific outcomes. As I write this statement it is important for secondary educators (I have been one myself) to understand that it is not an indictment of the teachers themselves but rather trying to draw attention to just how different the needs of these students can be with the added complexity of what is often an unwillingness to demonstrate ability within the normal expectations. In her handout there was some information about how to conduct student discussion groups with gifted learners that might be worthwhile exploring in our district.

The Assessment of the Gifted As attested to in previous posts, the area of assessment is one of the most perplexing for me and my angst was somewhat alleviated when Dr. Silverman made the statement “I know when a child is gifted, I cannot tell you when they are not.” Understanding the nature of “g” with brains that are often wired differently from the norm is not simple or straightforward.  If we are looking for the essence of giftedness, she tells us that we will find it in the abstract reasoning so timed tests, discontinue criteria/test ceilings, coding and other tests can throw us off. The other thing that makes a difference is rapport building…gifted students often need to feel there is a relationship before they will perform. But there are ways to address many of these items and I have brought back some great information to share with our district psychologists as we continue to grow in understanding our gifted learners.

I am so grateful to Westmount Charter School not only for hosting this event, but also for extending the invitation to me to attend. Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman will be at the international Dabrowski Congress in Canmore this summer and she is definitely worth seeing! She also offered to come to Grande Prairie to work with our program here so I will definitely explore this possibility!