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Celebrating Success - From the Horses' Mouths

Horse, Teeth, Yawning, Open Mouth, Funny, Laughing

Celebrate Gifted Aotearoa NZ: Catalysts of Success is a great theme for Gifted Awareness Week 2018. It's positive, hopeful, reflective and fun! This theme combines some interesting ideas, and I asked my MindPlus classes (one-day-a-week specialist programme for gifted learners, part of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education) what they thought about this theme for Gifted Awareness Week.  So here come some ideas from the horses' mouths... 

Firstly, celebratingGifted Awareness Week is indeed a week of celebration for those of us who are connected to gifted education, as learners, parents, teachers, or as interested parties. It gives us all of a specific time and reason to recognise and feel proud of our gifted learners. Having this specific time helps us to get past some of the reasons why gifted learners (and perhaps also their parents) can be reluctant to celebrate their success.  Here are some of the things my students said: 

⁃ “Sometimes my success isn't recognised as success by other people." 
⁃ “People think I'm just bragging." 
⁃ "I might sound arrogant, or over-confident, or cocky when I share my successes with others." 
⁃ "It can be embarrassing, frankly." 
⁃ “There never seems to be a good time." 
⁃ “When I'm really successful, it's so rare, that I forget to take time to celebrate." 
⁃ “Lots of things I do are really successful, so it's just really a big deal." 
⁃ “What other people think is successful is not what I think are my successes."

Success, though, is a more complex idea, one with layers of meaning. So again, from the horses' mouths:

Success is a feeling: 
⁃ “It’s about being happy about what you have done."
⁃ “It’s a feeling inside your brain, like a chemical reaction."
⁃ “A reason to be proud." 
⁃ “A sense of achievement."

Success is an outcome: 
⁃ “It’s an outcome of your actions, your work."
⁃ “It's accomplishing your dreams or thoughts."
⁃ “Having something you worked towards and wanted."
⁃ “Something you are happy about achieving."

Success is a process: 
⁃ “It's from what you do... you have to work to be successful."
⁃ “It's not just the end of something."

And most importantly, for almost all of my students, success is something personal to you. Many students said that what they considered a success may be different from what anyone else thought - they shared many stories of successes that could be considered unconventional, surprising, or even unimportant to those around them. Many also said that their successes may be completely unrelated to school. 

Catalysts of success are reasonably easily identified by Francoys Gagne in his Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (2.0), divided into intra- and inter-personal factors, growing up, and good old-fashioned serendipity. Here's what gifted learners said about what helped or hindered their success:

⁃ "Success can be helped by anyone with knowledge."
⁃ "My success is helped by family and friends, especially friends who are like you."
⁃ "Success can be helped along by people around you and yourself." 

⁃ "Success is helped by school (sometimes)."
⁃ "My success isn’t helped by anything that happens at my school."
⁃ "The right kind of teaching."
⁃ "Getting what you need for your learning."

Inside myself
⁃ Again, most importantly, most students identified intrapersonal catalysts, things from within themselves, as critical supports for their successes. Plenty of ideas here around determination, persistence, hard work, being interested, making your own decisions, having choices, and doing things your way.

When I sat with students and their thoughts, some very clear ideas jumped out at me:

Students found it hard to celebrate their own successes publicly, worrying about seen as arrogant  or braggy. For me, this means we need to make sure our class and school cultures warmly embrace and celebrate success for all students. Gifted Awareness Week gives us all the perfect opportunity to do this!  

Students see their successes linked to emotions, likely reflecting their characteristics as gifted learners. For me, this is a great reminder to 'tune in' to the rich, deep emotional world of gifted learners. 

Students see their success as coming largely from within themselves and due to their own efforts. For me, this means that students need the time and space to heavily invest in their own 'success-making' endeavours, their own projects and self-determined goals. 

Students identified that they needed particular people (knowledgeable people and like-minded peers) and particular help (the right kind of teaching, getting what you need) to support their success. As parents and teachers, we would be wise to listen to what students say they need to support their success, and provide this when it's needed. 

During Gifted Awareness Week in 2018, take time with the gifted folk around you to ask them about their successes, and to celebrate!

This blog is part of the 2018 Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour. 


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