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The Diverse Doctor

In the weeks and months leading up to Gifted Awareness Week this year, I've been immersing myself in a new fandom, that of Doctor Who. I've enjoyed (thanks to Netflix) the different regenerations of the Doctor, his various companions, his adventures and travels and troubles, and mostly I've enjoyed his musings about life and humanity. So merging my new interest (obsession?) with Gifted Awareness Week I thought it apt to look at lessons about diversity from Doctor Who and think about how these might apply to the very real context of gifted education in New Zealand.

Lessons in diversity from Doctor Who:

Image credit: Flickr user: Doctor Who Spoilers, licensed for use CC BY 2.0

- an awareness that life exists in many variations

The Doctor takes many forms. He understands, at the most fundamental level, that he himself is the very embodiment of diversity. From this understanding, he is then aware, from his travels in time and space, that life takes many forms. Some life forms are intent on causing harm, some are peaceable but incompatible with other life forms, and some are just trying to make their way in the universe (Hitch-Hiker's Guide style). The Doctor understands that life is diverse, never uniform or homogenous. In the same way, we was teachers need to understand that giftedness is diverse - it can exist across all ages and stages of life, across all social groups, all cultures, all genders, and in concert with any number of other conditions. Giftedness can take different forms, can make itself known in different ways, and can have different outcomes. Gifted learners are as diverse a group as any other learners.

Image credit: Flickr user: Materialscientist, licensed for use CC BY 2.0

- an acceptance of all of these variations of life
Here we see the Ood, an alien species who pop up from time to time in Doctor Who. Despite their odd appearance, the Doctor, as always, actively accepts each and every life form as valid, worthwhile and important. Even when the life forms he counters go against his very firmly held non-violence policy, even when the life forms seem trivial, even when the life forms are unseen, he continues to accept all life as important. He lives and breathes that acceptance through his deeds and his words. He has a constant translation field around himself and his TARDIS to help with mutual understanding of language, and when this doesn't work (which is surprisingly often) his efforts to make himself understood and to understand other life forms prevail. Most importantly, I think, the Doctor demands that all life forms are treated fairly and reasonably by all other life forms. This does not mean that all life forms are treated equally, and nor does he demand or expect equality. In the same way, as teachers we need to build on our awareness of all the variations of giftedness and actively accept all these variations. 'Actively' here means to learn more about, to ponder ways to engage and excite gifted learners, to help them to extend their strengths, and to seek out new opportunities for all gifted learners. We must make the effort to understand and be understood, to work in genuine partnership, and to treat all gifted learners fairly (not equally).

Image credit: Flickr user: Doctor Who Spoilers, licensed for use CC BY 2.0

- a desire to help others understand all of the above
Here we see the Doctor with some of his companions, the Ponds. He actively makes super-human efforts (or in his case super-not-human efforts) to help others, his companions, supporters or adversaries in equal measures, understand that life is diverse and to accept this diversity. Through all of his travels he is helping those with him or against to recognise the value of all life forms, of all our differences, and of all our similarities. Once we as teachers are aware of and accept giftedness in all its variations, we are in a strong position to help others understand, working alongside and with other teachers to help them also reach a place of awareness and acceptance of all the variations of giftedness.

Image credit: Flickr user: Doctor Who Spoilers, licensed for use CC BY 2.0

- self-understanding leading to other-understanding, and other-understanding leading to self-understanding

In this picture we see the Doctor in three of his forms, each seeking to understand the each other as one struggles with making a decision about using an 'ultimate' weapon. The Doctor takes great care to understand himself, in all his forms, and then uses that understanding to feed into his understanding of others. This becomes a self improving cycle, with his understanding of others then feeding into his understanding of himself. Understanding diversity can only begin from a position of self-awareness. For gifted learners to understand and accept themselves, they must be supported in their developing self-understandings, relating these understandings to others and then back to themselves.

And finally, from MindPlus students...

We talked about diversity in my MindPlus classes this past week. When the word diversity arose, one student asked 'what's that supposed to mean?' and another answered 'that everyone and everything is different', then another added 'and that's actually OK'... which is exactly what Doctor Who would have said! Gifted learners ARE diverse learners, so let's learn from Doctor Who... be aware of their diversity, accept their diversity, help others to understand, and help gifted learners to understand themselves.

#Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour 2017

*Doctor Who, TARDIS and all related names, images, etc. are property of the British Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.*


  1. While I've enjoyed Dr Who for decades, I do hope that the next regeneration of the Doctor embraces diversity beyond the white British male :-)


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