When I was a resource teacher for gifted students it was extremely important for me to ensure that our students had the opportunity to be with like peers as much time during the school day as educators could manage. It was vital for their intellectual and emotional well-being that they interacted with others who shared their abilities, their passion for learning, as well as their sensitivities and intensities. The placement gifted students using the “sprinkle” method (placing one in one classroom and perhaps a couple in another) was tantamount to malpractice in my view. Many of us have spent our childhood thinking that there was something wrong with us because we were so different from other children, not recognizing that it was our giftedness that made us feel so isolated. When we did have the chance to congregate with others like ourselves, it was a joy to feel included. For many gifted individuals, that time does not occur until late high school, college, or later.
Where do you feel most included – at home, in church, with your community, with other gifted individuals, with multiage groups, in diverse settings? Adults have the freedom to choose our friendships and we tend to gravitate toward others who enjoy the same careers, hobbies, and other interests. Although difficult to an extent, for many gifted adults, like peers are not impossible to find – at work, in places of worship, in our social activities.
What about our gifted elders? How do they find their tribe? I propose that – similar to younger counterparts – elders may consider their tribe as composed of between one and 7.4 billion individuals. They may prefer a community of one, of a small group, of large groups, or a global community. Allow me to explain.
In a previous post, we referenced research that indicated that the majority of gifted individuals are introverts. Therefore, many gifted elders may be content to be a tribe of one. They are gratified in pursuing their interests and continued self-actualization without the need to socialize beyond a small group of family or friends. This is their right and, in my opinion, it is a right that needs to be honored and protected, especially in residential care facilities. Too often I see introverts who are pressured to interact in settings that do not respond to who they are under the mandate of socialization. We know that many early childhood educators oppose academic acceleration with the argument, which has been proven incorrect by research, that acceleration harms social development. In the same way, residential caregivers must understand that most gifted elders require quiet time alone and unless they show clinical signs of depression or another difficulty, they deserve the choice to decline activities without sanctions or criticism.
Finally, my readers are probably asking why I would write that gifted elders may consider themselves as members of a tribe of 7.4 billion. That statistic represents the Earth’s current population. Once more we have to look at the familiar characteristics of gifted children in order to understand the gifted elder. We know that most gifted children have a hunger to learn about their world, have a strong sense of justice, and are concerned about problems in the world. That hunger does not stop when childhood ends. My experience following the lives of the many gifted children that I have taught and mentored demonstrates that, when given the opportunity, gifted individuals possess a lifelong dedication to learning about their world and making it a more just, healthier, and more peaceful globe. Gifted elders have so much to share in this regard when given the chance to do so.
To conclude, my third be-attitude for gifted elders is – Find your tribe. For some this will mean reaching out globally through technology to find their like peers. For others, their community is a small social group of intimate friends, or quiet, reflective time spent alone. Indeed others may want to be a part of a larger face-to-face community. The important thing is that we as family, friends, and caregivers assist them and creating their special community.
*Photo by Malcome Payne on Flicker (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
This blog post is a part of the September Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop, . Read more about Gifted and Community by clicking on the link below.