One of the messages that students were introduced to in the big picture presentation at the beginning of the year was the “secret” that being smart doesn’t mean that you always have the answer, do things quickly or never struggle. In fact, smart people know how to work hard even when they just aren’t sure and even when it takes awhile.
This message coincides with a good deal of research that indicates that underachievement among the gifted can often be traced back to a fear of risk taking. The gifted child, having been praised on many occasions for being smart and doing things so quickly and easily comes to believe that if they don’t know an answer or do struggle it will mean they are not smart. Rather than be “found out” and determined not to be so smart after all, gifted kids (and gifted adults as well) may avoid doing something for which there is not a guaranteed positive or successful outcome. Thus, they may avoid challenges.
As an attempt to illustrate Albert Einstein’s sentiment “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new” and to help students in grades 3-5 see that success, even among the gifted, often follows struggle and many mistakes, they are making entries in a booklet we are calling The Book of Secrets Every Smart Kid Should Know. After listening to a biography of a famous person from the book Gifted or Goof Off? Fact and Fiction of the Famous by Nancy Polette, students identify something they found surprising or interesting, struggles the person overcame and a way that they can relate to him/her. By the time their book is full of examples of famous gifted people who overcame struggles, we hope that students will make the connection between hard work, healthy risks and success.