“I don’t like asking questions in class because a lot of the teachers tell us we should already know the material.”
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I began to become furious after I heard gifted kid after gifted kid confess to sitting in a classroom confused and overwhelmed, yet too scared to ask their teacher for help.
Gifted kids are sometimes led to believe that they need to operate at a higher intellectual standard than the rest of the student population. This makes sense to a certain extent. The academic work is more challenging. More focus and dedication may be required. The teachers do need to move quickly because there is so much to cover. However, is the intellectual ability of gifted students so impenetrable that these students should become all-knowing beings of the universe? What happens when a gifted kid needs help understanding something?
Some gifted kids are fortunate enough to have teachers who they trust to be supportive. These teachers allow questions and do not mind reviewing information. They understand that practice and repetition can lead to mastery.
Some gifted kids will muster up the confidence to talk to their parents if their declining grades do not expose them first. Their parents may set them up with tutors who help.
However, many gifted students will suffer in denial and silence, too embarrassed to admit to others and themselves that they need assistance. For the first time in their lives, something has challenged them. Without intervention, these students may develop physical symptoms like headaches and stomach aches. They may exhibit significant mental health symptoms like depression and anxiety. They may fall into a pit of denial unaware of how dire their situation has become. Or, they may ask to take a day off from school, which turns into weeks of absences. They may allow so much classwork to pile up that the hope of getting back on track fades with each time they convince their parents to allow them to stay home from school yet another day.
How can we help these talented kids who think asking questions and making mistakes are deadly sins?
We can start by modeling growth-minded thinking. Teachers and parents can allow gifted kids to see them make mistakes and then make an action plan to recover from those mistakes. We can ask gifted kids for their help so that they can step into the expert role that they love while seeing that even us “all-knowing adults” still don’t have all the answers. We can show gifted kids how we challenge ourselves and push past our limits. We can allow gifted kids to see that our failures can lead to our successes and how we can exponentially increase our knowledge base simply by admitting to what we do not know. Then, maybe, just maybe, we can inspire our gifted kids to lower their impenetrable shields and allow us to help them help themselves.
The goal is that we guide our kids to step into a life that they can be happy and proud to live. So, let’s start creating experiences where gifted kids can feel the self-acceptance they need to become the next generation of innovators and thought leaders.
About the Author
Erica Whitfield is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and over 10 years of experience working with children and adolescents. She is the Founder of Positive Development, LLC, a counseling practice for youth located in Jacksonville, Florida. Erica combines expressive therapies using art, music, physical movement and writing, with evidenced-based therapeutic modalities such as CBT, solution-focused and positive psychology approaches to help children and adolescents process past trauma, transition during difficult life adjustments, form healthier relationships, perform better in school and work through self-harming behaviors. She specializes in providing strengths-based counseling and has helped hundreds of youth unleash their capabilities, transform obstacles into opportunities and find healthy ways to express their energy and creativity.