Training with Dr. Brandi Maynard

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Teaching Gifted Students the Art of Struggling



Have you ever had to struggle?  We all do on a regular basis, right?  I seem to be in the center of a couple struggles right now in my life.  Usually things come easy for me, but I am working on a project that is really stretching me.  I find myself turning ideas over and over in my head as I try and understand the best way to serve gifted students in the age of Common Core Standards.  This piece is not about Common Core, we can talk about that another time, rather it is about struggling through something when you are not used to struggling.
My own son is struggling in school right now.  In the age of high stakes testing I see the frustration in his eyes when we begin a topic he doesn’t understand and he feels like he is never going to get it.  As parents, we teach him to persevere by saying “It isn’t going to be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it.”
Gifted kids on the other hand, are not used to the feeling of angst that comes along with struggling on something.  Things come easy to them and when they have to struggle they often break down because the feeling is so foreign and they do not know how to cope with it.   We need to teach them the art of the struggle.  Here are a few suggestions that parents and teachers can do to help students who are struggling.

  1. Help students take a deep breath and calm themselves.  In order to tackle difficult things they have to be in a good place emotionally.
  2. Through storytelling, share a time in your life when you struggled with something and how you worked through the struggle.  Be sure to add that it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
  3. Teach them some positive self talk by modeling it aloud.  Their brain should be reacting positively to the task at hand.  At first use your voice to teach them the kinds of things they should be saying to themselves.  
  4. Transfer the ownership to the student by having them share with you what their brain is telling them.  Correct the child if they are experiencing negative self talk.
  5. Remind them that the struggle isn’t going to be easy, but it will be worth it.

It is my nature as a mother to want to protect my children from struggles.  I think many of us feel that way.  But like the story of the butterfly that has to fight her way out of the cocoon in order to survive, I have learned that we must give our children wings to fly.  I will tell you something—it is much easier to help your child through struggles on “small” things when they are younger, rather than them having to experience their first struggles in high school or college when the stakes are much higher.  Find the little things that might create struggle and be the voice on their shoulder to help them through the difficult moments.  This voice will be with them as they face bigger challenges in the future.  Remember, it isn’t going to be easy but I promise you, it will be worth it.

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