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Transformative Experiences in Gifted Youth

Posted by Categories: Gifted Education, Gifted Students

Transformative ExperienceThe term transformation is commonly used in gifted education to refer to our goal for student products. Educators seek products from students that demonstrate a transformation of information, meaning that the student has applied newly gained information in authentic and innovative ways. Today, however, I want to address a different kind of transformation, one that is physical and emotional in gifted children when they experience something transformative.

The physical/emotional result I am referring to can derive from many different types of experiences. Some examples could include a student being asked a truly provocative or intriguingly challenging question, having an aha moment about a creative idea or invention, or realizing that one has found an understanding teacher or a new like-minded peer. Sometimes, this transformative experience can come from discovering a new area of passion within the curriculum that makes the student become fully engaged and absorbed with the new topic.

The term emotional intensity is often used in describing a characteristic of the gifted. We might consider that emotional intensity could be the impetus for the transformation I am referencing. It denotes a different way of experiencing the world, one which is all-encompassing and deeply absorbing—intense.  Dabrowski’s Emotional Overexcitability suggests that students with this characteristic feel emotions more intensely than others. What we observe when we witness this intensity or overexcitability in action presents itself in many ways.

In my experience, I have observed students exhibit a burst of energy in their enthusiasm, or go completely silent in their awe or absorption. I have seen students sigh with relief at being understood, or simply break into a wide, rarely-seen, smile. When such happiness emerges, there is a lightness around all involved. It’s wonderful to sense a weight lifted from children’s shoulders and to feel the release of positive energy. There is an awareness of the moment, of its importance. We long to freeze such moments, but they only last until routines return, or ideas are played out, or other situations change.

It is my hope that, as educators and parents, we will make it our goal to increase the number of such transformative moments for gifted children so they will be able to validate and enjoy their intense passions, which are so important in the creative process. What can you do today to fuel that intensity in your students so that you can also witness such a transformation?

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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