Perspectives on giftedness: How are we different?
Gifted students not only think differently from most others, they also feel differently. They were born with a heightened awareness of and sensitivity to their surroundings, as well as enhanced cognitive ability. This heightened awareness can lead to isolation. “Why don’t I fit in? Why do I feel things so deeply? What’s wrong with me? Who is there to turn to who really understands?” Our students need others who understand and empathize with their complex lives, their need for meaning, and their difficulties living in a world in which they often feel alien.
At Westmount, we look at giftedness “from the inside out.” What does this mean for us? It means we strive to first know and honour who our students are before we can help them become the best they can be.
It means we know our kids are often not in sync with society. Why? Most people think in terms of simple cause and effect. The gifted tend to be more aware of interdependence. Our students see cause and effect as many pebbles thrown in a pond, which may look like chaos but in fact follows a logical pattern and structure. Our students tend to be highly aware of themselves and others, which can make them unusually concerned for others and critical of themselves. They see shades of grey – the overlap, exception and contradiction. No wonder our students are at times out of step in the world.
From this perspective, giftedness is not equated only to high academic achievement. Giftedness is how you are wired, not what you produce. At Westmount, we encourage students to choose to demonstrate their abilities in their individual ways. When students are not achieving what we believe is their potential, we work to understand the gap and help them bridge it, modeling perseverance, resilience and respect. From our perspective, achievement is the outcome, not the starting point. And that makes all the difference.
(Gifted 101, Silverman, 2013; Off the Charts: Asynchrony and the Gifted Child, Neville et al., 2013)