Several weeks (months!) ago I wrote a post titled 'THAT explains a lot!'. In the post I described several common characteristics of gifted learners and some of the possible positive and negative behaviors/attitudes we associate with those characteristics; today, I'll address how we, as parents and teachers, can go about addressing one of those characteristics. We'll take a look at all of them eventually, but today we'll focus on curiosity:
Characteristic: curious, has a variety of interests
Possible Positive Behaviors/Attitudes: asks deep and probing questions; gets excited about ideas; conducts individual research independent of assignments
Possible Negative Behaviors/Attitudes: goes on tangents; no follow-through; has difficulty making academic and social decisions
Teacher: Rather than discouraging creative ideas, work as with students as individually as possible to refine their ideas and help them focus those ideas into channels which accomplish the intent of the assignment. Gifted students may face particular frustration when their ideas don't translate into the product they hoped to see. According to Lovecky (1992), "The child needs to know that there is something to be learned from any idea, and doing something that does not turn out may lead in the future to another idea". If the student is still unhappy with the results of those investigations, validate their feelings but continue to emphasize Lovecky's point. Remember, the intent of grades is to measure mastery of the material, which can still happen even if the intended ends were a complete failure.
Parent: NEVER discourage your child from asking questions, even if those questions are beyond your ability to answer! Instead, validate her/his interests and assist your child in locating the resources needed for the question at hand. Encourage individual investigation, and make sure you familiarize yourself with your child's interest; there's no need to become an expert, but you should know enough to be a sounding board.
When your child has a decision to make, ask her/him about the intended results, and help your child work backward in a logical fashion. For example, "So you want to go to veterinary school? Okay, what are the requirements to get in? What kind of classes will you need to take as an undergraduate? In order to take those particular classes, which college or university do you think would be the best choice? What are the admission requirements, and what classes will you need to take in high school? In order to take those classes, what classes do you need to get right now, in middle school?" and so on...
This goes for all issues related to your child's academic needs: when you are unhappy with your child's teacher or school, speak up! Please understand that teachers and administrators are doing their best with their available resources, but they may not be aware of your child's needs or know how to help. Many states have no requirements for teachers to receive training in gifted education, so it may be helpful to meet your child's teacher with prepared articles or resource lists. Never be afraid to advocate for your child's interests, but remember that concrete suggestions are much better than a list of complaints.
Clark, B. (2004). Tips for parents: Helping parents understand their profoundly gifted children. Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Retrieved from http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10299.aspx