Giftedness of Olympic Proportions
Oh, the Summer Olympics! What gifted education professional can resist the temptation to point out the obvious when it comes to using the Olympics as a model for outstanding gifted educational programming? I’ve noted in the past how well this world event demonstrates just what can be accomplished on a personal level, when gifted athletes are given the best training, the best coaches, the best facilities, and incredible financial and emotional support. And we can’t ignore the fact that these elite athletes are allowed to be in groups of athletes of equally impressive ability and given the time and opportunity to hone their skills. Can you imagine Michael Phelps having to take a swimming class with a beginner, an intermediate or even an expert swimmer? It just wouldn‘t make sense, and that is a point that is even obvious to non-educators.Why is it such a giant leap for us to imagine what could be possible if students who are gifted with equally impressive mental abilities could have the best teachers, the best curriculum, the best materials, and incredible financial and emotional support? Can we imagine cures for cancers, solutions to global hunger, world peace, and possibilities we can’t even envision?
But the aspect of the Olympics that really struck me this year was the emotionality of the athletes and their families. After a competitor finished a particular event, there was usually a concurrent expression of emotion– sometimes tears, sometimes smiles, relief, pride, disappointment, and many other emotions. Few could argue that emotions play a significant role in the expression of giftedness, whether due to the culminating manifestation of tremendous dedication, practice, and commitment, or due to the feeling of accomplishment that the athlete (or student) feels in the moment.
At our Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) programs, we focus a lot on including the emotional aspects of giftedness in our programs, both in academics and in social areas. Michael Piechowski, James Webb, and many others have written about the emotional intensity that gifted individuals experience. We recognize and celebrate that intensity of emotion. We know these students (and athletes) feel passionately about what they love and care about and that they need avenues of expression for these intensities to be who they truly are. Whether it’s a global venue like the Olympics or just a small summer class, we hope all students– of all kinds of talent– will have the opportunity to pursue their passions and exercise their strengths to the fullest extent.
All the best,