***WARNING – THIS IS A BIT RAMBLING***
Most of you know that in addition to being a gifted adult and working with parents and educators of gifted children, I am also the parent of two gifted children. This perspective – having children who are gifted while also being a educator in the field of giftedness – provides a perspective that has proven particularly helpful as I work with families. I am able to test out my ideas and strategies at home, in addition to talking with my own children about their giftedness and the things that are both easy and difficult for them. Things like high stakes testing.
Yes, it is a helpful perspective.
This has been particularly true over the last couple of weeks. In my school district, it is testing season. Students move from statewide assessments (thank you NCLB), to AP and IB testing, to finals. Can you say STRESSED?
The teachers have been wonderful, holding special “practice” testing sessions for the AP exams in the evenings and weekends. My oldest has participated in all of them. But, this is her first real experience with tests like the AP exam. And, being the crazy over-achiever that she is, she is not taking ONE AP exam…she is taking three. Even more next year.
Oh yes, it has been a very stressful few weeks.
She spent this last weekend studying like crazy – in study groups, with friends, and on her own.
Like most of her GT friends, she has a range of intensities she deals daily. Additionally, like most of her GT friends, she holds herself to a crazy standard. Most people think my husband and I have pushed her in this direction, insinuating that if she gets too overwhelmed it is somehow our fault, that our expectations are too high. Nothing can be farther from the truth. With her, we are always trying to tempter the expectations she has for herself with reasonableness…teaching her, rather than dictating to her, how to manage her high expectations with the realities of being intense. We have taught her about being balanced, stress reduction, taking breaks, and perspective. It is a never-ending job. And one we are only marginally successful at.
That said, I am proud of her. She has learned that the hives she is getting right now is related to her stress. She is learning to give herself breaks, learning that she studies better with certain friends than with others. She knows she needs sleep, and that she can, and has, overstudied for things.
She is learning balance.
At least, balance within the framework of an emotional intense being.
What I am most proud of, however, is that my 15 year old child understands that her intensity is normal for her. She is not afraid of it, she does not let it rule her, nor does she allow the intense nature of her emotions get too far out of line. Most days. She understands that her intensities push her to excel while simultaneously threatening her successes by exacerbating her stress. She embraces her intensities, while understanding it is kind of like embracing a sword.
I originally started this post with the intent of commenting on the realities of high-stakes tests on our intense kiddos. But, as I think about my daughter and her friends, think about their journey through high-stakes testing, AP and IB classes, and expectations that can spiral out of control, I am reminded by one truth – Intense kids are intense kids. Their intensities are their biggest asset, and their Achilles heel. But good or bad, relaxed or stressed, it is normal for them. So, rather than comment on the right or wrongs of high stakes testing, I offer this…
Help your children learn to balance their lives – help them embrace their intensities, while never losing sight of the potential pitfalls of being an intense being. Walk with them through the fire that is sometimes their lives. Do this and you will give them a gift that has no measure…
You will enable them to fully embrace what it means to be intense…
And what could be more amazing than that?