you've never tried anything new."
Observation and Riff by C.J. Westerberg
During numerous conversations with parents, we've noticed something that went beyond a coincidence of anecdotes. When parents had more than one child, inevitably the comments would revolve around how different each of their children were.
1) Child #1: Good/great grades, no major problems, did well on tests. Driven by extrinsic motivators: school achievement awards, grades, honors, winning at school.
2) Child #2, often labeled "creative," showed few signs of actively pursuing the school/parent rewards of child #1 in school. In other words, this child was driven by another sense of purpose, interests or approaches, often in opposition to the "ideal" of school/class/teacher expectations. This child was described as always "creating" something: writing, tinkering, drawing, building, actively challenging, experimenting - "mad scientist" was a word that came up more often than not. Much of these projects had nothing to do with their schoolwork.
No surprise here, necessarily. These terrible stereotypes have existed for some time as if a child who is not doing well in school may be often labeled creative or pegged as having a learning disability or just lazy. Continuing this line of thinking, it was also interesting to discover what sort of things parents were most concerned about when relating to each of these two types of children.
The biggest concern with child #2 was how to "get them through school" with their drive still in tact, their spirit not broken and with the scores grades to get them into a good college.
However, they also sensed that this child in the real world will somehow figure it out and/or make things happen.
But there was another more secretive concern that unfolded with a little more conversation: parents were often worried about the academically-oriented child, (especially one that exhibited a lack of emotional intelligence skills), in terms of surviving in the real world: either lacking the "pluck" (aka initiative, self-motivation), the adaptability, and the ability to think beyond the test or the class. These children also tended not to handle "being wrong" very well and had a harder time with an open-ended challenge lacking in clear, specific directions because they feel more comfortable with finding the one right answer. They were good at playing the game, but maybe had no real "heart" in it, and would they one day wake up to it?
"In our expanded conception of giftedness,
we raise questions about the 'gifted child' label . . . (snip)
The conclusion: There is no one absolute profile.
- "Light Up Your Child's Mind," Renzulli, Joseph & Reis, Sally
Originally published The Daily Riff June 2010