There are many influences in a gifted child’s life that can contribute to underachievement, – health issues, family, relationships, and school. We will focus on part of the educational experience.
For many gifted children,the ordinary school setting quickly becomes uninteresting and unexciting. The enthusiasm, curiosity, and excitement quickly disappear.
Educational modifications can nurture and restore the motivation zeal and enthusiasm of a gifted child. It is important, though, not to simplistically think that all underachievement and motivation problems can be solved if only the correct educational options exist.
Children’s behaviors are not just random events. All behaviors, even maladaptive ones, are motivated to meet some need. In order to change another person’s motivation, find something that he want or needs – a motivation that already exists within him. Then perhaps you can modify and redirect tht motivation. (Webb)
It is up to the adults to figure out what the child’s motivations are and assist them with redirection.
If a child is already in a pattern of underachieving, it may be necessary to get professional help. What I am addressing is ways for teachers to help have an impact on motivating the gifted child through creative activities.
Encourage Sensible Risk-Taking in gifted children. When creative people defy the crowd and buying low and selling high, they take risks in much the same way as do people who invest. Some such investments simply may not pan out.
Few children are willing to take risks in school, because they learn that taking risks can be costly. Perfect test scores and papers receive praise and open up future possibilities. To help children learn to take sensible risks, adults can encourage them to take some intellectual risks with courses, with activities, and with what they say to adults – to develop a sense of how to assess risks. (Sternberg, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized)
Having the chance to develop a sense of how to assess risks is critically important for gifted children!
Adults and children should collaborate to identify and encourage any creative aspects of ideas that are presented. When suggested ideas don’t seem to have much value, teachers should suggest new approaches, preferably ones that incorporate at least some aspects of the previous ides that seemed in themselves not to have much value. (Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized)
Gifted children should be praised for generating ideas, regardless of whether some are silly or unrelated, while being encouraged to identify and develop their best ideas into high-quality projects.
Teachers also need to allow mistakes. Buying low and selling high carries a risk. Many ideas are unpopular simply because they are not good.
Although being successful often involves making mistakes along the way, schools are often unforgiving of mistakes. In hundreds of ways and in thousands of instances over the course of a school career, children learn that it is not alright to make mistakes. The result is that they become afraid to risk the independent and the sometimes flawed thinking that leads to creativity.
When children make mistakes, teachers should ask them to analyze and discuss the mistakes. Often, mistakes or weak ideas contain the germ of correct answers or good ideas. In Japan, teachers spend entire class periods asking children to analyze the mistakes in their mathematical thinking. For the teacher who wants to make a difference, exploring mistakes can be an opportunity for learning and growing. (Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized)
Encouraging Idea Generation and Allowing Mistakes can modulate emotional intensity and perfectionistic tendencies. It does not happen immediately, it takes time and practice. With practice, the creative culture of the classroom becomes more open and trusting, the children will respond to that culture with a willingness to take more risks.
Giving children latitude in making choices helps them to develop taste and good judgment, both of which are essential elements of creativity. (Sternberg 2003)
Sternberg continues, redefining a problem means taking a problem and turning it on its head. Many times in life individuals have a problem and they just don’t see how to solve it. They are stuck in a box. It is an aspect of problem finding, as opposed merely to problem solving. This process is the divergent part of creative thinking.
There are many ways teachers can encourage children to define and redefine problems for themselves, rather than – as is so often the case – doing it for them.
Adults can encourage creative thinking by having children choose their own topics for papers or presentations, choose their own ways of solving problems, and sometimes by having them choose again if they discover that their selection was a mistake.
Your definition of your situation makes all the difference in your ability to generate solutions.
If you see difficult life challenges as opportunities to be creative, then you will rise to the challenge and find solutions. If you think your school system or the requirements are too restrictive and do not allow you to be creative, you can either give up and be discouraged, or you can work to change the system, become a role model of creative thinking and find ways to integrate creativity into the system you are living with at the time.
Redefining problems is a crucial skill for gifted children who may get “stuck” in unhealthy definitions of their situation, believe they have no options and experience related stress. Children with emotional intensities can be vulnerable to these feelings.
Gifted Children with perfectionistic tendencies can practice this skill to create more flexibility in their thinking, thus dislodging beliefs that there is only one way to complete tasks.
Stress is a part of life; you cannot avoid it. Life consists of change, and change results in stress. When stress is severe, we don’t function as well as we normally do. We may doubt our ability to cope with the situation at hand, or even to manage ourselves. Feelings of anxiety and discomfort arise. If we see no solutions or alternatives, we can experience a major stress reaction that inhibits our ability to function effectively. If a feeling of helplessness or hopelessness accompanies the stress, depression can result.
This is often the experience of gifted children through different stages of their lives. Although extreme stress is harmful, some stress is beneficial. Stress motivates us to do our best. We need to be challenged.
Fortunately, most gifted children begin setting challenges for themselves at an early age, although they sometimes set unrealistic standards for themselves and others. With guidance, they can learn to adjust standards to realistic levels.
Webb states, long-term studies with a wide range of people over a period of more than 50 years have documented that the way in which individual handle stress predicts whether or not they will reach their potential. In the same way that academic ability can be cultivated so can many components of resilience and stress management.
Stress can be supported with creative strategies.