As a teacher of high ability or gifted students, I work with creative and gifted children all day long. Some children express their gifted potential in their writing, others in the arts, others in the way that they approach math problems, and others still in their verbal expression. There are others though, who exude creativity at home through the building of structures or the creation of projects, or even by how they organize their things.
Very few children fit into a mold, making it hard to define what a high ability learner looks like. So defining creativity, potential, and giftedness, in young children can be difficult.
Principessa is one of those children. There is no doubt in my mind that she is a creative child. There is no doubt in my mind that she has high level reasoning skills and even high levels of comprehension when it comes to abstract concepts.
The “problem” is, that her abilities, may or may not ever show up in a traditional classroom.
Yes, there are ability tests. Yes, there are rating scales. This is actually my busy time as scores of those ability tests have gone out to first and second graders all throughout our district, including Principessa. As many times as I have tried to help a parent understand test scores noting that they are just one piece of the bigger puzzle….it was my turn to open the envelope last week.
I will be honest, I had higher expectations. The test that Principessa took was the Naglieri NonVerbal Test, something that I would have thought she would do very well with. Puzzles, patterns, and so forth are HER thing. Part of me hoped to see a high score that would validate what I thought I saw in her…and it was not a bad score. It was a good score. But it was not as high as I thought it might be. In that moment, I became the parent that I talk to every day. The parent that just wants to advocate for her child. The parent that wants to make sure that there child is prepared for the future.
Professionally, I am all about looking at a big picture, honing in on a child’s strengths, and creating opportunities to nurture a child’s potential. But as a mom? Realizing that I had higher expectations for Principessa’s scores, I realized that I am conflicted. Is Principessa gifted? Is she simply a creative being? And….does it really matter?
I do know that this is a child who listens to current events on NPR or on the national evening news, making connections and relating her life to what she learns. I know that she can create just about anything out of cardboard and scotch tape. And I know that she has an uncanny ability to pick up tunes.
But the rest? The academic pieces? Those are harder to gauge.
In the end, I know that the advice or counsel that I give professionally to other parents, is true. In the very big picture of life, these scores…..don’t matter. What matters is that she can think independently. That she is able to reason. That she become a lifelong learner. That she be happy and healthy and live her childhood as a child, enjoying the freedom to play, to be silly, to run and jump and dance when she wants to. All the rest?
If I believe (and I do) in the idea of having a “growth mindset,” where intelligence is just the beginning… Where the important things are motivation, dedication, and the belief that we can do anything we set our mind to. If I believe in this mindset that nurtures resilience and a lifetime love of learning…the rest will come.