Archive for the ‘Social-Emotional’ Category

01.28

New Beginnings and Heaps of Gratitude

By Deborah Mersino

{Taking a deep breath….slowly exhaling…} Earlier this week, I accepted an offer to become the new Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in Eugene, Oregon. It’s a role of a lifetime for me. Of course, saying good-bye to Ingeniosus and #gtchat makes me tear up…talk about overexcitabilities in overdrive {Shaking my head as I pay homage to Dabrowski}.

Please know I am already working with my Global #gtchat Sponsors to pass the baton, and am truly hopeful #gtchat will continue on without me. Global #gtchat really belongs to all of YOU, who have helped make it what it is today. Your verve, generosity, dedication, creativity, authenticity, and collaborative energy have propelled it forward every chat, every week, every month, and every year.

This has all happened quite suddenly; so, it’s a bit of a whirlwind in the Mersino household right now. We are driving out to Eugene, Oregon this Wednesday with the girls to find a rental home and look at schools. It’s hard to comprehend us moving in about a week and a half {Another deep breath in…exhaling…}!

As such, it may take a bit to flesh out the details of #gtchat amid travel, packing, and general moving chaos. Therefore, I especially appreciate your patience, as I look to lay the groundwork for continued global chats to benefit gifted learners and those who serve them. I will make an announcement about #gtchat just as soon as possible.

Collaborating with all of you these past three years has been such a privilege. I will never look at Fridays the same way again. You have enriched my life, my learning, my understanding, and my appreciation for global connections. With every blog post, response, update, retweet, reply, direct message, and fast-moving chat, you have ignited the power of digital communications for good and given me hope for the future of gifted learners throughout the world.

My passion for gifted education will not lie dormant! As many of you know, though, I am also passionate about 21st Century Learning and am utterly impressed with what ISTE has done and is doing internationally. I have had the good fortune of meeting with the Senior Leadership Council, which I will be joining, and the Marketing and Communications Division team members. The caliber of talent and drive at this organization is beyond inspiring. I feel quite fortunate!

Many of you have sent me kind wishes, notes, emails, and posts recently. My heart overfloweth with gratitude. As I travel down this new road, I will carry all of your goodness with me. {Packing it internally}. This will give me courage and conviction to step into the future.

Thank you all for being such an integral part of my life. Here’s to continuing advocacy, social responsibility, and collaboration ripe with ideation, compassion, and strategic vision to impart all that is good for learners everywhere {Smiling as I think of the continued influence you will all have…}.

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” – Steve Jobs

11.17

How Grade Skipping Changed Everything

speed limit

By Deborah Mersino

I’ve only been knee-deep in the world of gifted and talented education for 3+ years. Prior to that, my exposure was somewhat minor. I read scores of parenting books (some on gifted children), and we had both girls tested for programming at the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. We also considered sending them to Quest Academy in Palatine, Illinois, prior to our move to Colorado. However, it wasn’t until this summer that we heard the words about our dd10 (dearest daughter who is 10), “She’s an excellent candidate for a grade skip, and she wants to…”

Then, a week or so later, the same scenario repeated itself with my younger daughter at the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. “She, too, would be a prime candidate for acceleration.”

My first reaction was, “Really? Are you serious?” For one, I thought acceleration was primarily geared toward early entrance to kindergarten and profoundly gifted kids entering college. Our two daughters, ages 9 and 10, were smack dab in the middle of elementary school. Did people really grade skip at this juncture? I had loads of questions:

  • How will we know if it’s the right decision?
  • What happens if one skips and the other one doesn’t want to?
  • What about the fact that one daughter doesn’t seem to be particularly fond of school? She’s not even getting top marks.
  • What about my perfectionistic daughter? Will it be too challenging for her?
  • What about socially? Are they mature enough to handle a skip?
  • Will the school be amenable? How do I even initiate the process of discussing acceleration?
  • Should we be concerned that there are equally bright students (perhaps even more advanced) in their current classes?  They do have peers. Shouldn’t they simply stay where they are?
  • Will they feel too much pressure? Is this just a novel idea that will wear off when the work seems harder?
  • What about learning gaps? What happens if they don’t know what they’re supposed to learn about Colorado history and/or certain science requirements?
  • What if they start and then hate it?

Thankfully, we got all of these questions answered and then some. Between Dr. Linda Silverman, Barbara (“Bobbie”) Jackson Gilman, and Kim Boham at the Gifted Development Center, we not only discussed each question thoroughly, but we also learned an extraordinary amount about research on acceleration, how vital it is for the students to initiate the idea (not parents), and how to advocate with the school to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Many of you have asked me to share a bit more about our experiences. I’m going to simply provide a brief summary. As you can imagine, every child is different, and every school situation differs as well. This is not meant to be an exhaustive testimony on acceleration, but rather an example of how it unraveled for one family – ours. My hope is that you may resonate with some of the questions and/or concerns we had and learn a bit more about how to explore this option.

Here are some of the biggest lessons we learned:

  • Comprehensive assessment and testing is essential. We were fortunate to have both girls tested at the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. We started with a Needs Assessment. Then, the measures administered included the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fourth Edition (WISC-IV); Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III ACH), Self-Perception Profile – Ages 8-12, “What I Am Like”, Gifted Development Center Emotional Inventory, Characteristics of Giftedness in Children Scale, Introversion/Extraversion Continuum, Behavioral Checklist, Short Sensory Profile, Overexcitability Inventory for Parents (OIP). This is only a sampling of the tests/measurements available to families; these represent the customized recommendations based upon our girls’ Needs Assessments.
  • Having a psychologist who specializes in gifted learners is essential. Both our girls felt an immediate rapport with the testers. Given we have an introvert and an extrovert, I was delighted. Such camaraderie helped make the entire experience much more enjoyable. Both girls had fun, and my oldest even said, “Why can’t school be more like this?” Moreover, the amount of experience and discernment such experts bring can have a significant impact on the quality of the evaluation, recommendations, and consultation.
  • Proper assessment gives parents a clear picture of their student. As someone who is admittedly controlling, I thought I had a pretty good read on my girls. I was actually aghast upon looking at their WJ-III scores. “Really?” I thought. I was also surprised to hear some of the comments they both had made to their testers about school. Afterwards, we felt as if we had new lenses on, which would help us in the years to come.
  • Parents can discover hidden learning disabilities and/or minor glitches. We learned that both girls had small tracking issues with their vision, something that often goes undetected in regular eye exams. Both girls received referrals for visual-therapy. Parents of twice exceptional students benefit particularly from comprehensive assessments such as this.
  • The post-test consultation was worth its weight in gold. I found myself shaking my head in amazement as I learned new insights about their personality types, their strengths, nuances, outlooks on life and family, views on school, needs, and passions.
  • The Psychoeducational Evaluation we received allowed us to initiate discussions with our girls’ school in an ideal manner.

Iowa Acceleration Scale

In the days to follow, we contacted the school’s GT specialist, who offered to complete the Iowa Acceleration Scale for both girls. According to the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration, the Iowa Acceleration Scale offers the following:

  • A more objective look at the student;
  • An analysis of the major factors to be considered in making a decision;
  • Guidelines for weighting the relative importance of the major factors;
  • Documentation of the student’s strengths and concerns;
  • A numerical range to guide the discussion and decision of acceleration; and,
  • A standard of comparison with students who have had successful accelerations.

Together with the Psychoeducational Evaluation provided by the Gifted Development Center, this tool accessed additional factors. After the specialist discerned that both girls were, in fact, good candidates, he scheduled a meeting with the school principal, the assistant principal, the school counselor, the District’s Gifted and Talented Coordinator, and our entire family.

We sat down in July with this group at the school and had an informal discussion about what the girls wanted and their concerns. Both girls readily stated they wanted to do a whole grade-skip. After discussing specifics, including dd10 going into Middle School instead of 5th grade, we came to a final decision.

In the weeks following, we had several conversations about next steps. It was then that the GT specialist suggested our dd10 take the end-of-year 6th grade Math assessment. Based upon her Woodcock-Johnson III scores, he and the principal thought she might benefit from a double-acceleration in Math. After taking the test, she was given the option to go from 4th grade math directly to 7th grade math; she chose to give it a whirl.

We’re now several months into the school year, and I must say, the grade skips have had such an extraordinary positive impact on both girls. We’re fortunate that the receiving teachers welcomed the girls with open arms and understanding. The principal,  GT teacher, GT coordinator, and counselor proved so supportive and insightful. The adjustment has been much smoother than I anticipated. DD10 has confidence navigating the halls of middle school and has made good friends. She even went to her first dance right before Halloween! DD09 has finally gotten comfortable with not immediately knowing the answers in class and is developing much more of a growth mindset. She says this is her favorite year of school by far.

I realize we’re fortunate. Not all administrators and classroom teachers are familiar with the empirical research on acceleration. My hope is that this post might open a few minds. There will always be those who argue, “But you’re giving up a whole year with your kids!” and “They won’t have their driver’s license at the same time as other kids.” I feel more calm about our decision than ever.

Thanks to the experts at the Gifted Development Center and the girls’ school who guided us, I’m now aware of the dangers of not grade skipping students with certain profiles. Breezing through coursework without being sufficiently challenged and potentially losing interest in school altogether can prove debilitating – and even toxic – later on in life.

Here’s to promoting  a love for learning with no limits. Here’s to the psychologists, gifted specialists, and administrators who take the time to learn about the research and the cognitive and social-emotional needs of these learners. You’re impacting our collective futures, and I, for one, am utterly grateful.

10.18

Q&A with Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, author of Bright, Talented, & Black

by Deborah Mersino

On October 7, 2011, Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, author of Bright, Talented, & Black: A Guide for Families of African American Learners, served as a Guest Expert on Global #gtchat. What transpired during that hour moved me immensely and also touched those participating in the chat.

Our discussion about identifying and serving gifted learners from Argentina to Somoa highlighted the fact that many of the challenges pertinent to African American gifted learners today mimic the issues faced by gifted and talented individuals of other races worldwide. We were extremely fortunate to have Dr. Davis with us, as she shared her perspectives on how educators, parents, caregivers, and advocates of Black gifted learners can foster more support for this critical population.

Whether you are a parent or grandparent looking to support your gifted learner or an educator or administrator who wants to better understand the specific needs of Black gifted learners, you will find this book and Dr. Davis’ Web site to be an essential guide chock full of relevant, timely information and resources.

It’s been a privilege getting to know Dr. Davis these past few months; I highly respect her work. Later this month, I will share a follow-up post, which will include a sampling of the online resources she shares in her book and a poignant poem by her daughter, entitled “I Am.” For now, though, please enjoy this Q&A with a true game changer, who is working tirelessly to ensure we support all gifted and talented learners worldwide.

1. What inspired you to write this book?

As a gifted education coordinator in local school districts and later as state department director I was in contact w/ many parents & educators who were concerned, as I was, that schools were not appropriately identifying and serving all gifted learners. Too many Black students, low income, and other diverse populations were attending schools wherein their strengths were going unrecognized and thus, the children were unchallenged and their gifts and talents wasted. I also realized after my interactions w/ so many parents over the years, that one of the reasons that more white students were being served was because of strong advocacy on the part of their parents. I knew that whenever I had a chance to write a book it would be for Black parents who needed to know more about gifted education so they too could become strong advocates and ‘push’ schools to do more for their high potential and gifted learners. The black community & educators also needed to know more about challenges these students face and how conditions could be improved in schools for the benefit of more students.

2. What are some of the most common challenges Black gifted learners face today?

There are three that always come to mind when this question is asked: 1) The first challenge is low expectations that many educators have for African American and other diverse populations simply because of their discriminatory behaviors/biases and lack of knowledge about the black culture. 2) The second challenge is related- teachers with minimal or no training about cultural diversity and how culture impacts the way students learn, how teachers lack understanding or experience with other groups and the strengths that culturally diverse populations can express in a culturally sensitive environment. 3) The third challenge is retention in gifted and advanced learner programs once identified and placed. Identifying students is a challenge, but without the right set of affective supports- many students will lose interest, feel out of place, and simply withdraw from services designed to prepare them for more challenging learning environments in high school and beyond. Supportive peer or cohort groupings of gifted learners from similar cultural groups have a strong impact on the retention of students in gifted and advanced learner programs. Engagement of parents & families also has a positive impact on student success and retention in gifted programs.

Bright Talented Black Book Cover

3. What do you hope parents will take away from reading “Bright, Talented, and Black: A Guide for Families of African American Gifted Learners”?

I hope that this book empowers parents to become Advocates and Champions for their children and others like them. When we do see a population of black students identified for gifted programs, these students are still under-represented as compared to the general population. Nationwide, while black students represent 17-18% of the general school-aged population, they still only represent 8% of the identified gifted population. When parents are empowered to speak up for their own children, my hope is that they will do the same for others. Far too many students are languishing in classrooms everyday because their teachers don’t recognize their gifts or refuse to and that parents don’t have the information they need to make good decisions about how to get schools to address their child’s strengths and provide the right services for them.

4. What can parents, educators, and community members of all races do to better ensure support for this critical population?

Becoming informed is the first step, the next is forming community-school task force groups to look into why schools and school districts are continuing to overlook or under-serve these students. Community-school task force groups can be VERY effective if they hold consistent meetings, with deliberate agendas to probe the school district and use information from Bright Talented & Black and other resources to inform their goals and objectives.

5. If a parent is concerned about their child or teen potentially underachieving, what can they do?

Underachievement is often difficult to spot. It is more than your seeing a ‘dip’ in school performance. Underachievement can have many causes, student-teacher relationship, school environment, the student’s own internal motivation, peer relationships and home issues are just some of the triggers. What is a bit tricky, however, is that some students may be getting ‘good grades’ and still underachieving, because the coursework lacks challenge and is too easy. Thus, those students may also be underachieving because of low level expectations and coursework.

When a parent realizes that a student who was once very satisfied and motivated by the school experience loses that motivation and satisfaction…the first step is to talk with your child. As a matter of fact, in research studies, high achieving Black students report that at home they talk frequently about school related matters, values, traditions and that their open honest conversations assist in keeping them focused in school. Accusations of the teacher, school, and student are not beneficial. But, a frank honest conversation about what is happening at school will usually reveal some clues. A meeting with the teacher(s) or counselor is also helpful. There are a number of excellent books to assist parents with tackling underachievement. I list many of those books in the Appendix of Bright, Talented & Black. Other resources can be found at the Social-Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) organization’s website.

6. How have your own experiences influenced your insights and advice?

My experiences as a student, parent, and educator taken together have enabled me to look at the issue of under-representation of Black students in gifted programs from many viewpoints. While my schooling took place many years ago, I was accelerated and grade-skipped during elementary school and for the most part, challenged across content areas. Later, in high school, I was bored and unchallenged- It was through the arts and leadership experiences that I had opportunities to stretch and have a more enriched experience. As a parent, I went into parenting then as a strong advocate, but not only for my children, but for others as well. I took advantage of numerous opportunities to initiate new programs that would serve more students and provide enrichment as well as acceleration for them. Working at the state department and seeing gifted education from a broader perspective did the most to inform my insights. It was through my work at the state level that I came to understand more fully what disadvantages some children had simply because of their ethnicity, their geography/location, or their income. Clearly, more work had to be done and I committed myself to devote my career to opening access and opportunities for students whose needs were not being met in schools in varied settings.

7. Although the title says it’s a guide for families, “Bright, Talented, & Black” is highly relevant for educators as well. What do hope educators will take a away from this book?

I do hope that educators will use this book as a resource guide to help them become more familiar with the intellectual and affective needs of African American gifted learners. I also hope that the book will provide resources, strategies and programs they might utilize locally in developing improved services options for these children and others whose needs are currently not met in gifted programs. I believe that Bright, Talented & Black while written with the African American community in mind can serve to enhance understandings of the nature and needs of all gifted children. With that in mind- I think that educators will find this a useful tool that they want to be sure to have on their bookshelf and one that they will gladly refer to others.

8. Is there anything else you would like to share?

I would just like to say in another generation, I do hope that we can ERADICATE the whole notion of under-representation from our educational jargon. Identifying the gifts of learners from all ethnic groups is critical to our survival as a nation and as individuals. We can no longer afford to waste anyone’s gifts and talents. The cure to cancer, AIDS, the nation’s economic dilemma, development of an educational model that is efficient, effective & equitable, and the end to the energy and ecological crisis lie in the mind, heart and soul of a gifted learner somewhere right now. No one knows who that gifted learner may be, what neighborhood they may come from or what hue their skin may be, or how much money their family may have. But it is our shared obligation to seek them out, nurture them and provide options for the development of their ideas.

About Joy Lawson Davis, Ed.D.

Dr. Davis is an assistant Professor of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, she teaches undergraduate & graduate courses in Diversity Education & Gifted Education, respectively. She began her career in gifted education as a local coordinator in Virginia and eventually served for five years as State Specialist for Gifted Programs, K-12 for the Commonwealth of VA. As a sought-out expert in the area of Diversity in Gifted Education, Dr. Davis has provided services to districts across the country, in the Caribbean and South Africa. She holds two degrees (Masters and Doctorate) in gifted education from The College of William & Mary in Virginia, and is currently serving Co- Chair of the National Association for Gifted Children’s Diversity & Equity Committee. Dr. Davis also writes a column for Teaching for High Potential, a publication of the NAGC and is co-editor of MOSAIC, the Special Populations Network newsletter for NAGC. Most recently, Dr. Davis was named to the Advisory Board of Gifted Child Today, a practitioner-oriented peer reviewed journal with the largest subscription base of any gifted education journal in the nation. Dr. Davis is married, has three adult children, and shares four grandchildren with her husband.

09.12

Take Five: Spotlight on Resources for Gifted Learners

By Deborah Mersino

On 09.02.11, our #gtchat session focused on five resources and sites resplendent with information and opportunities for educators, parents, and gifted education advocates. As promised, I am recapping the resources here. Please share these five finds with classroom educators, gifted specialists, administrators, friends, parents, students, and tech lovers. The links are live, so simply scroll over them to access.

{Drum roll, please….}

#1 – www.brianhousand.com

After you take a moment to appreciate the clever logo, dive into this site, designed by  Brian Housand, an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University in the department of Curriculum and Instruction. You’ll be happy you did. Many of you may know Brian from his novel presentations at NAGC, Confratuate, and Edufest (among others). This forward-thinking educator never tires of “exploring ways in which technology can enhance the learning environment” and “striving to define what it means to be creatively productive in a digital age.”

If you click on 2011, 2010, and/or 2009 on www.brianhousand.com, you will see just how busy this digital guru has been. Be sure to click on the “60 in 60” presentation in 2011, where Brian introduces “60 Sites in 60 Minutes.” And although you won’t hear Brian’s riveting dialogue, you will see some of the most current apps and sites worth exploring. You’ll also get a true sense of what the future of education could look like.

#2 – www.byrdseed.com

Perhaps one of the finest gifted education blogs available today, Ian Byrd crafts regular posts to stretch our thinking – and benefit the minds and spirits of gifted learners. Ian has taught in a gifted classroom since 2007 and was a GATE student himself from first through sixth grade. He’s quickly becoming one of the most sought-after speakers for professional development in gifted education. To me, it makes perfect sense. This humble, yet wickedly creative soul has tenaciously devoted himself to making education come alive for gifted learners via sound gifted education practices mixed with relevant life and digital applications. More than 3,400 educators have already signed up to receive his free PDF entitled, “Improve Your Gifted Classroom: 7 Ways in 7 Days.” Whether you’re looking for lesson plans, resources, and/or fresh ideas, Ian’s blog and site will inspire.

#3 – www.everydayintensity.com

During our #gtchat session, I actually shared a different resource in this #3 spot, only to later realize the site had grown cobwebs {gasp} from being poorly managed. In its place, I’m pleased to highlight one of my favorite new streams, the Everyday Intensity blog, which I personally have delivered via email because it’s.that.good. Lisa Rivero has been a strong force for good via social media platforms this past year. She not only serves on the Board of SENG, but also teaches, writes books, and now pens a Creative Synthesis blog for Psychology Today.

In Everyday Intensity, Lisa asks,

  • Do you want to know how to live with more intensity?
  • Are you interested in finding and sharing resources that pertain to intense learners (children and adults), giftedness, creativity, and personal growth?
  • Are you looking for ways to learn about and discuss giftedness that move away from the gifted label?

If you’re looking for wisdom and grounded insights, this site will open your eyes and evoke a sense of community and wonder. You’ll find yourself nodding your head in agreement and shifting your thinking regularly. After all, isn’t that what the best blogs do?

#4 – www.activehistory.co.uk

Russel Tar (@RusselTarr) was one of the first educators I started following on Twitter back in 2009, and he’s still one of the best. Currently working as the Head of History at the International School of Toulouse, Russel has created the ActiveHistory site for teachers and students of World History, and he regularly offers up some of the best history resources on the planet. His site is chock-full of interactive simulations, decision-making games, self-marking quizzes, worksheets, and lesson plans designed to make education captivating.

ActiveHistory has received acclaim throughout the world. The New York Times, The Guardian and other major news outlets have praised the apps on the site, including his Head2Head Interviews, where students can have virtual conversations with historical figures like Hitler or King Henry VIII. Whether you want your students to compare and contrast the rise of power of Mao to Stalin, interview William the Conqueror or pass sentences on criminals living in the 19th Century, this site is for you. Even if you want to devise a new IB Study Unit on Pinochet, he’s got you covered.

Unlike all the other sites listed in this recap, ActiveHistory costs, but it is reasonable. While you can often get free resources from @RusselTarr on Twitter, he does require a small fee to access the full content of the site. Fees for a whole school run $150.00 US/$125 Euros. Single teacher access runs $60 US/$50 Euros. Please let me know if and when you start utilizing this site; I will gladly share your experiences – and those of your students – with others. Personally, I can’t wait to create an online book club in seconds…just one of the many activities available.

#5 – Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) offers many vital opportunities for educators; however, not everyone may know about this laudable awards program for gifted students in grades 3 through 6.

Please note that the deadline for this year’s awards program has passed. I’m sharing this because I hope you will keep students in mind for next year!

Here’s what the NAGC site says about the awards:

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is pleased to announce the NAGC – Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards program for the 2010-2011 school year. Originally funded by the Nicholas Green Foundation and NAGC, this awards program is designed to recognize distinguished achievement in academics, leadership, or the arts, in children grades 3 through 6. NAGC believes that the Nicholas Green Distinguished Student Awards inspire children to achieve to their fullest potential, highlight high-ability students, and draw attention to the educational needs of our nation’s gifted and talented students.

The Nicholas Green Foundation was established by Maggie and Reg Green to honor the memory of their seven-year-old son Nicholas who was killed in a drive-by shooting while visiting Italy in 1994. The Greens paired with NAGC to start the Distinguished Student Awards because they wanted to recognize young people who are: 1.) working hard to make the most of their lives to develop their unique gifts and talents and 2.) around the age of Nicholas at the time of his death.

One child in each state may be named a Nicholas Green Distinguished Student. Each winner receives a $500 U.S. savings bond and an NAGC Certificate of Excellence. Eligible students may be nominated by parents, teachers, students, or community/civic groups.
Thank you to NAGC and Maggie and Reg Green for this program.

So go to the NAGC site, print out the application information, and put it on your bulletin board as an encouraging reminder to think about possible student nominees for next year. During our #gtchat, educator Krissy Venosdale (@KTVee) made this worthy suggestion!

That’s it for this recap; I appreciate you stopping by. My hope is that you will not only check out these resources regularly, but also will gladly share them with others. As always, I welcome your comments.

08.24

No Bullying – Guest Post by Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman

by Linda Kreger Silverman

We have greater awareness today of the harmful effects of teasing and bullying, but there is one area of our lives where it remains unchecked: within ourselves. Even the most sensitive and compassionate among us, who would never intentionally hurt another, do not think twice about mercilessly berating themselves. I would like us to examine this accepted practice. What we have labeled “perfectionism,” and have tried to cure in gifted children, may actually be this self-denigration exposed, which is uncomfortable for us to view.

As Peace Pilgrim and Virginia Satir have affirmed, peace in the world can only be attained when we have achieved peace within. If our children could read our minds (when they are little, some of them can…), would they hear words of self-comfort that they could emulate? How often are we our own Greek Chorus, our own cheering team? Have we ever asked ourselves if it is OK to treat ourselves the way we do?

I wrote this in the last chapter of Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner:

We expend an inordinate amount of psychic energy defending ourselves from blame and ridicule, and the vast majority of time the judgments we are defending against are from ourselves!  Can you imagine what it would be like to totally accept yourself, and not have to justify your thoughts, your actions, your reasoning?  Not have to defend yourself?  Not have to answer, “Why did you do that?”  “Why didn’t you…?”  No “you should haves”?  We are so used to living in an internal court of law that we assume it is “natural” and appropriate to continually prosecute ourselves.  But it’s only our left hemispheres running amok. (Silverman, 2002, pp. 348-349)

Jill Bolte Taylor (2006), author of My Stroke of Insight, offers wonderful suggestions for keeping that part of our brain in check. I urge you to listen to her Ted Talk on YouTube. If these ideas resonate with you, I promise that you will find those 18 minutes enlightening and her book even more so. Jill is a brain researcher who experienced a massive left-hemispheric stroke and documented the different realities of our left and right hemispheres. She says that there is tiny portion of our left hemisphere, no bigger than a peanut, which gives us all these negative messages. We are so used to this brain circuitry that we do not even question its appropriateness. But we have choices about listening to it and we can teach our children that they have choices as well.  In Chapter 18 of her book, Jill gives practical, concrete advice for dealing effectively with these persistent cognitive loops of negativity.

At the end of an exhausting day, when my own “Peanut Gallery” reminds me of all the things I didn’t get done, and starts to make me feel guilty, I now hear another voice in my head with competing messages. This appreciative voice says to me, “Look what you accomplished today! Good job! You’ve done enough. Now it’s time to rest and rejuvenate. Everything else will wait until tomorrow.”

Consciously create your own positive messages and discuss them with your children. Before they go to sleep at night, ask them to share a positive message about themselves with you and to think about it as they fall asleep. Let me know if it makes a difference in the happiness quotient in your family. I would love to hear your stories. Write to me at gifted@gifteddevelopment.com.

More about Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.

Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist.  She directs the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, and its subsidiary, the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. Over 6,000 children have been assessed at the Gifted Development Center in the last 32 years.  She also founded Visual-Spatial Resource.  Her Ph.D. is in educational psychology and special education from the University of Southern California.  For nine years, she served on the faculty of the University of Denver in counseling psychology and gifted education.  She co-chaired the NAGC Task Force on IQ Interpretation, during which research was conducted leading to extended norms on the WISC-IV.  She has been studying the psychology and education of the gifted since 1961 and has written over 300 articles, chapters and books, including Counseling the Gifted and Talented, Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner and Advanced Development:  A Collection of Works on Gifted Adults.