“Teacher, that’s not quite right!”

When Gifted Children Challenge Authority and Their Teachers

Oh boy!  Here comes one of those steep, steep slopes on the raising-a-gifted-child roller coaster. It is that scary ascent and descent you ride when your gifted child zeroes in on her teacher’s mistakes and conclusively corrects misinformation presented in class. There seems to be no middle ground—she feels she must correct it, or challenge it. Period. Because, hey, what good is information if it is not accurate, right?

Gifted children are challenging to raise and to teach. They are rarely passive learners simply soaking in information. Gifted children are extremely curious, often asking profound questions and expecting nothing less than the correct answers. They are deeply passionate about topics that interest them and address these topics with a fury that can push teachers to reach beyond their prepared lesson plans.  And this curiosity and fury repeats itself at home also, giving parents a run for their money. Unless you recognize and understand these behaviors in gifted children, it would be easy to mistakenly judge these behaviors as being pushy, indulged or arrogant.

Challenging the teacher and authority is one of those passion-driven behaviors gifted children often have which may just benefit them more when they are an adult debating a coworker’s dubious information rather than a gifted student challenging his teacher on a presented fact he knows is not correct. As adults, we understand we shouldn’t take offense to another adult correcting a mistake we’ve made or disagreeing with something we’ve said—we just don’t seem to always view it as disrespectful or unacceptable. When a gifted child whose intellect and knowledge are often years ahead of his age corrects a teacher’s mistake in class or disagrees with information she has presented, it is most often judged as disrespectful and inappropriate behavior.

Yet, how many parents would want their child to accept anything an adult tells them without question? How many parents would want their children to think critically and question information presented to them if they feel it is inaccurate or questionable? How many of us would hope for our children to be active, engaged learners and be able to think critically and to work diligently to get to the truth, the right solution, the correct answer?

One of my gifted sons was more apt to question authority, challenge disputable information or correct a teacher’s mistakes. We had to handle each situation carefully as we wanted him to respect and have consideration for others, but we did not want him to lose his curiosity, his sense of justice nor his need for accurate information. And even though we were surprised each time we were notified of his challenging behavior, we were previously clearly warned when he was very young that this sort of thing would happen.

Our gifted son had an educational evaluation done by a child psychologist when he had just turned 5 years old. At the end of our appointment to review the results of his IQ testing with the psychologist, we were heading out the door when the psychologist pulled me back inside his office. His mood turned oddly solemn. He reiterated how very talkative, outgoing and friendly our son was, and he stressed how our son felt as comfortable talking to adults as he would with other children. But, this behavior which would otherwise be perceived as a compliment seemed to sound more like a criticism.

The psychologist wanted to warn me about my son’s interactions with adults. At the time, I listened to what he told me but I didn’t quite understand the very real glimpse into our future this wise psychologist offered to me. He explained that gifted children like my son often do not realize their place in society as children—they feel an equal standing among adults as with anyone. Because of my son’s above-average verbal skills and knowledge, he was extremely comfortable conversing with adults on many topics. The psychologist explained that because my son felt on equal footing when communicating with adults—he possessed no affiliation with the philosophy, children should be seen and not heard—there would likely be times where an adult would feel disrespected or insulted by having a child address or challenge him on an adult level.

The psychologist said that throughout my son’s childhood, he would very likely encounter adults who would be intimidated by his intelligence. He specifically mentioned that this would more likely occur in school with teachers who “lacked self-confidence” or were “weak and insecure.” The psychologist also warned that when my son addressed such a teacher as an equal, this could lead to retaliation against him in the classroom. At the time, the psychologist’s advice seemed a bit cryptic to me to the point where I dismissed it believing it would likely have little bearing on my son’s future. Yet, almost like a clairvoyant, this psychologist had accurately predicted some of the most emotionally devastating experiences my gifted son would have in his childhood. How was he able to see this all so clearly?

Before I understood that challenging authority (teachers and other adults) was a somewhat common behavior among gifted children, I actively disciplined my gifted child each time he informed me he had to correct or challenge one of his teachers—or help them, which is how he thought of it. Of course, all children should be expected to show respect and to understand there are social limits to correcting others, but recrimination by a teacher who has been challenged by a student is emotionally destructive to a child.

The predicted scenario the child psychologist warned me about played out many times for my gifted son. Disagreeing with information the teacher presented in class, or correcting misspellings or mispronunciations the teacher had made backfired on our son. After the first few times, we would remind our gifted son, “Don’t correct the teacher! Try not to correct any adult even if they are wrong!” This never worked. His need for accurate information and his comfortableness with addressing adults prevented him from seeing his behavior as inappropriated in any way.

He, like many gifted children, crave accurate, truthful information—life is about truth, fairness and what is right. He had little control to not correct his teachers when they delivered questionable information or misspelled a word, and for him, it was intolerable that his classmates would learn incorrect information. He felt very strongly that it was his duty, his responsibility to make sure his classmates were learning accurate information. Not righting wrong information and allowing his classmates to learn incorrect information was completely unjustifiable in my son’s mind.

Knowing that challenging the teacher is common behavior among gifted children is the first step in handling these situations with your gifted child and their teacher. Work with your gifted child’s teacher to come to a workable, agreed upon solution to help your child find appropriate ways to ask the delving questions he needs answers to, challenge information he finds questionable, and to be able to correct misinformation or mistakes in a respectable way. We want our children to learn to become critical thinkers and not passive learners, so any solution which expects your child to not exercise his need to question, challenge, correct and debate information presented to him is unrealistic. A solution which respects both the teacher and your child’s needs may take some time to iron out, but is the better approach to strive for.

Helping our gifted children navigate a world which mostly misunderstands their giftedness while not damning their inherent needs, behaviors and personalities can often be parenting at its most precarious, but you probably already knew that raising and teaching a gifted child is a steep and scary slope on that roller coaster ride, right?

 

 

This post is the 4th in my “Gifted Lagniappe Series.” Check out the other posts in this series listed below.

 

It’s a Funny Thing: A Gifted Child’s Sense of Humor

The Gift of Gab

Peers–Enriching the Social Life of Your Gifted Child

 

The Gifted Lagniappe Series

22 Comments on ““Teacher, that’s not quite right!”

  1. The above comments are sad. It infuriates me when those in a position of power, abuse it and let their ego rule. No one is ever done learning – well, at least I hope not. I have always told my son that I am still learning and can make mistakes. Mistakes help us grow and any teacher who can not see this and decides to retaliates against a child, should be removed immediately from the teaching profession.

    On a lighter note, my son and I were going over basic punctuation and the book directions were to correct sentences that needed a period. While I knew he already knew how to do this (quick refresher), he seemed confused. He informed me that even though some sentences had a period, they were not correct. Why? Well, silly me had always told and showed him that a period is a small, filled in circle – a dot. My son kept insisting that some of the sentences did NOT have an appropriate period. He and I verbally went back and forth for about a minute, when he finally said, “Mom, it’s a small square that is colored in, not a small circle.” He then got his magnifying glass and sure enough, the typeface our grammar book was using had small, filled in squares as a period symbol.

    Cecil, I just cracked up! Needless to say, I admitted my mistake and we went over different types of fonts (again) and that even though some fonts use a small, filled in square as a period, it is okay.

    Psst….the font for your blog has small, filled in squares for periods. 😉 lol

    • Oh my gosh, Julie, I need to change that font right away–I can’t have squares instead of dots!!!! 🙂

      And you are absolutely right, we all make mistakes. When I taught kindergarten, I had kids always ready to catch my mistakes–I was happy they did. It meant they were paying attention and knew the correct information. What teacher would not want to show their students that it is okay to make mistakes by modeling how to accept responsibility for our mistakes? Oh, wait, there are some teachers like that–we had one of those teachers who hated her mistakes pointed out, actually it was two teachers, and they caused a lot of emotional damage to the kids in their class!

      • Julie and Celi; Those are the teachers I consider to be “deadwood”. A teacher should also be a lifelong learner. As one of you said, learning never really stops. What nerve of such teachers and other “crushers of tall poppies” to accuse the gifted of being arrogant, when it is THEY who are being arrogant, by refusing to learn, or learn from students; and who are so arrogant that they think a teacher’s certificate means they know everything.
        A very wise ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, the uber-geek of geeks, said that the wisest man [sic] is the one who knows how much he does not know. In other words, real wisdom comes from an awareness of how limited one’s knowledge truly is.
        In my fifty-one years on this planet (not that I came from another planet, rumour to the contrary), I have learned that awareness of one’s ignorance comes at two levels. At the first level, one may be just smart enough to realize that there are people vastly smarter than oneself. There are essentially two ways to handle that shocking realization. The first path leads to acceptance: “I am only so smart, I am not a genius, but I will do the best I can with what I have”. The second path, the dangerous one, is to say, “It’s unfair that there are people smarter than me. I will prove that they aren’t, and will do everything in my power to crush these smarty-pants, to put them in their place — beneath me”. Thus comes bullying and anti-intellectualism.
        At the second, higher level, is the level of achieving ignorance, in the Socratic sense. Among the most intensely brilliant people I have met, I have seen that they adhere to a number of beliefs, to wit:
        1) I realize how much I do not know
        2) I am always willing to learn new things, new ideas, new facts, even if they make me uncomfortable at first
        3) I am not only willing to be wrong, I WELCOME it, because it gives me a chance to self-correct, to try and get closer to “the truth”, and perhaps, to grow as a person
        4) I will commit to always having an open mind, but at the same time, being skeptical; I set a high standard for you to convince me, but I am always willing to be convinced, even at the expense of my own comfort.

        The best and greatest scientists, thinkers, philosophers all share these ideas. I am not among their ranks, but I nonetheless share in those ideals. So the question is, why do some people act so hostile to new ideas, or to being corrected? One could write a PhD thesis on the topic, but I won’t here. But if I may, I’d suggest a few reasons:
        1) The person is very emotionally insecure, and does not have a good sense of their own self-worth, so challenges to their facts and theories become challenges to the person’s worth (“neurosis”).
        2) Psychopathology: because the person has narcissistic (self-worship) or psychopathic/anti-social tendencies, they cannot accept a challenge to their own self-perceived and self-imagined magnificence.
        3) The person grew up in a family, religion, or culture that strongly values Appeal to Authority (a logical fallacy) as a means of establishing the truth. So they may say, “The Bible/Qu’ran/Holy Book [of my religion] says …. therefore it must be true”, or “The Clergyman said xyz, therefore it must be true”, or “My parents told me qrst, therefore it must be true, they are never wrong”, or “Karl Marx/Mao tse Dong/Adolf Hitler/Geroge Bush/Barack Obama said abc, and so-and-so is a great man, he must be right”.
        Sometimes even more moderate people will fall into the same trap, quoting, for example, a biologist and ethologist (Richard Dawkins) on the existence of G0d, and thinking because Dawkins is a famous biologist, he is therefore equipped to speak AS AN AUTHORITY on the nature of G0d; in fact, he is expressing his opinion, and his opinion, though well-reasoned, carries no more weight that does mine, or Einstein’s (“G0d does not play dice with the universe”); or quoting, for example, a psycholinguist (Noam Chomsky) as an expert on what caused the 9/11 tragedy/terrorist attack.
        4) Appeal to Status: this is the arena of many bad bosses, abusive teachers, power-obsessed bureaucrats, etc. #2 above and this are probably the most vexatious and troublesome for gifted people. This is the arena of bullies, people who, in the absence of any established power-structure, seek to create one of their own, with themselves, naturally, at the top. Such “status-hounds”, as Celi called them elsewhere on this page, may or may not be neurotic, or psychopathic, or narcissistic, but everyone who is a status-hound relishes power for its own sake, and all the benefits that power can provide.
        And to keep themselves at the top, they believe they must crush any threats to their power, which is why they bully. Just to be clear, not all bullies are power-mongering status-hounds. There are many reasons for bullying, and some bullies are also bullied. But I can assure you, while not all bullies are power-mongering status-hounds, it is the case that all power-mongering status-hounds are bullies.
        Many of the people in this last category also share one over-riding, virtually universal characteristic: they are mediocrities.They are NOT the best, or the brightest. They aren’t even that hard-working. If they do happen to do hard work, they only do enough to pass through school, or to keep their jobs. In my business management certificate program, in one class on labour relations, we were told by the teacher (and it came as something of a shock to me, though I should not have been surprised), that some of the strongest proponents of unionism are some of the weakest workers in a work-place. But the reason is clear: they have the most to gain from how unions protect the weakest workers, and the most to lose in a true meritocracy.
        So teachers who bully may have many reasons to bully, to tamp down their brightest charges, even to work to discourage students from being good learners, and instead to cause these students to give up on themselves. Mediocre behaviour is not limited to mediocrities. Gifted students can and, I think, often do, give up on themselves and become mediocre students; they have been so strongly punished for trying hard that they give up on themselves.
        I could go on about this but I won’t, as I have discussed this point, as has Celi, elsewhere. But I will say this: I think it is almost criminal when teachers’ unions seek to protect incompetent teachers — and any teacher who actively DIScourages a student from learning is by definition incompetent — from termination or dismissal.
        There is a famous saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”. I do NOT think this is true of all teachers, or of most teachers. I think it is true of a small but destructive percentage of teachers who really should not be teachers.
        Such teachers are the bane of every gifted student’s life. Teachers who discourage students from learning, supervisors who discourage excellence from their subordinates for fear of being replaced by them, bosses who actively bully subordinates because the boss or manager was inadequately trained as to how to lead people successfully, or alternatively, who is supervising staff he or she has no place supervising (in my life: a marketing grad supervising computer technical staff), union members who try to actively discourage fellow union “brothers” and “sisters” from working too hard (“Don’t work so hard! You’re making the rest of us look bad! The management might demand higher levels of work from us if they see that we could work harder!”), and students who try, for the same reason as bad unionists, to discourage other students from achieving (“Don’t work so hard! You’re making the rest of us look bad! The teacher might demand higher levels of work from us if he/she sees that we could work harder!”) — all of them are drags on excellence, a millstone around the necks of the gifted, and much of the reason why for too many gifted people, being gifted is not a gift but a curse, but with upsides.

  2. I have pulled my gifted girl out of two expensive private schools because of teacher retaliation for just this thing. The first turned into a year-long bullying experience, and the second, I was able to be much more proactive but the teacher was more than impossible: he used my daughter’s allergens in classroom experiments (she reacted) and much more. In my observation girls who speak up like this get punished more severely for this. Do you have any information on that?

    But this is the best description I’ve seen. My child doesn’t accept her place as a child AT ALL. It will serve her as an adult, and now I have some good ideas how to proceed so that she doesn’t have a blind spot here and is aware of the effect she may have on adults, esp. teachers.

    Thank you!

    • Oh goodness, Brie, I knew challenging the teacher was common and I lightly brought up the retaliation piece only because it had happened to my son, but it does happen more than it should. It can be pretty brutal and traumatic.

      I have no information on gifted girls being singled out more than boys, but I see how sexism can play a role here.

      The saying a teacher can make or BREAK a child is so relevant with teacher retaliation.

      Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking experience with gifted children challenging the teacher. When parents are in the thick of a situation like this, it does help to know that others have experienced the same thing and that there is nothing wrong with their child because a teacher is negatively singling him out.

  3. Ah, college… if you didn’t go “I mean, like, you know, the thing” (with the noun you were talking about thrown in somewhere, plus a lot of gesturing) and insisted upon speaking in clear proper English with anyone who wasn’t a college student, then you were “rude and hard to deal with” there. (Funny, on the phone, when they couldn’t tell your age, it was all good and “adults” would open up with you about those “lazy slacker kids,” etc.) College students, by definition, aren’t adults and haven’t been allowed to be for some time… being gifted there can be a hassle.

  4. “The psychologist said that throughout my son’s childhood, he would very likely encounter adults who would be intimidated by his intelligence. He specifically mentioned that this would more likely occur in school with teachers who “lacked self-confidence” or were “weak and insecure.”

    I’ve been encountering that seemingly all my life. In grade four and six, I had teachers who REALLY didn’t like that I corrected them. These two teachers were friends and both tried to convince my parents that I was mentally handicapped!
    I had a grade 10 science teacher who hated me for the entire semester because I questioned his use of an out-dated model of the atom, instead of the Quantum Mechanics model. He told me that most of the kids were ‘too stupid’ to understand Quantum Mechanics, which was a tacit acknowledgement that I wasn’t ‘too stupid’ at all. But then he did everything he could to turn me off science and humiliate me if I made even one mistake (which was very rare, given that my dad is a scientist and I was and still am in love with science). He didn’t succeed in turning me off science, though he did humiliate me.
    But it didn’t stop at elementary or high school. I have had bosses who’ve been absolutely infuriated that I was smarter than they were. I have mentioned this in previous posts; for such bosses, their overriding assumption is that their status as boss makes them the smartest person in the business.
    Now, that’s one thing to do if you work in a warehouse or a gas station. but I had a job at one point, in a computer technical support company, and the boss there hated the fact that ALL of us technical staff were smarter than he was. We tried to explain to him that areas like technology (part of STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering Mathematics) tend to attract the very brightest, and he should be grateful that he had such smart staff. But for him, the issue was status, not merit. He didn’t care about whether we were good techs. He wanted subservient staff, and IT is one of the very last fields where you are likely to find sheep-like people working there.
    What I see over and over again for the teachers you mentioned, for the bosses I have had who have resented me for being smart, their overwhelming issue is one of social status. The teachers/bosses/bullies who go after ultra-smart people do so, I believe (and I have the research literature to support my conclusions) because they are so strongly fixated on achieving status, and believe that their position at a senior level automatically grants them superior intelligence status, even if, objectively, that’s not true.
    I was forced out (now permanently) from an organization that recycled computers, because three of the staff there felt very threatened by a group of what turned out to be the very smartest people (and I was lucky or unlucky enough to be swept up by them into their ranks) in the organization, and who wanted to make some fundamental changes that would have made the staff far more responsible to the Board of Directors.
    Somehow, I became targeted as the leader of the group, probably because at the same time I was president of a group consisting of IT professionals, students and hobbyists who were very interested in a non-Windows operating system called Linux, which this recycling group also promoted for their refurbished computers that they sold to raise money. One of the three resented me (I learned through the gossip mill) for being president of that Linux organization. As the recycling group’s volunteer coordinator, she wanted HER organization to be the premier Linux organization in our city, not our Linux Users Group (not its name, just what it did). The second staff wanted me out because he was of the belief that people with physical handicaps, as I am, could not be anything other than also mentally rather dim (physical handicap = mental handicap), and so prevented me from actively participating in the once-weekly free computer repair sessions that the recycling group held. But the worst treatment I got was from a student intern who later became the volunteer coordinator (Famous quote from him: “I don’t need to read your resume or skills sheet to know you are incompetent!”). I had accidentally pisse off this guy, Michael, because one “Windowless Wednesday”, I fixed a computer of another client, where he (Michael) had been struggling to fix the client’s computer for an hour, without success. My solution was to use the next version of Linux (Ubuntu Linux 12.04, for those who care, instead of the client’s then version, 11.04), that I knew (and Michael didn’t) would repair the client’s problem.
    Only thing was, Michael was so convinced of his own magnificence that eh refused to ask any of us mere “helper-volunteers” for help, as he was a STAFF MEMBER, not a mere “helper-volunteer”. And the fact that Michael was a STAFF MEMBER (sound the trumpets! release the white doves! Spread out the Rose Petals in front of the Demi-God, Michael D.!) menat that he must, by reason of his hugely elevated status, be FAR smarter than any of us mere earthworm “helper-volunteers”. So you can imagine how out-of-joint his nose got at the idea that a mere “helper-volunteer” — and a physically handicapped one at that (me) — could best him for repairing a client’s computer!
    I had thought that grades eight and nine were the worst for me, but I have been mistaken. The worst of my bullying experiences as a child and adolescent were from grades 4 through 9, and part of grade 10. In these formative years, I learned what a curse being gifted could be and large part of that had to do with status; teachers bullied because their occupational status was threatened by gifted kids. Bullies bullied in part because their social status was threatened. Bullies of course also bully the exceptional children, the socially awkward, the “outliers”, and those whose behaviour or level of intellectual or emotional ability or disability they don’t understand. Bullying is very much about enforcing a social order, a pecking order if you will, in which the most popular (or in the case of behaviourally disturbed kids who bully) the least popular go after the most vulnerable, much as what happens among many group animals that are only somewhat related (bees and ants don’t have a social pecking order within the workers or drones, because all the workers are sisters, and the drones are all brothers). Among flocks of birds, or wolf-packs and among the ‘great apes’, such social dominance patterns are nearly universal, and in which alpha and beta males and females are established based on a rough-and-ready merit system (weakest at the bottom, most powerful at the top).
    The difference among humans is that we have the ability to NOT establish such pecking orders if we so choose. There will always be more and less dominant individuals. Not everyone is a follower, and not everyone is a leader. But that doesn’t have to be established by bullying; natural personality differences will sort themselves out; leaders will arise, others will follow.
    Because of the high degree of our social organization as a species, and because we are the undoubted masters of the use of symbolic language, we have created relatively artificial roles (jobs, in many cases, but also elected positions, and inherited ones, such as monarchy). The problem for teachers (and bosses) comes when they mistake their assigned and artificial role-superiority for natural superiority (“I must be the smartest person in this business, because I am the boss”; “I must be the smartest person in the room, because I am the oldest and I am the teacher”). If they make this attribution error, and then encounter a gifted person, the result is conflict, not because the child or gifted adult is in the wrong to correct the adult per se, (though a child should respect his or her elders, and so do the correction in as polite a manner as possible), but because the teacher or boss misunderstands their assigned role as being synonymous with being naturally superior. Therein lies the conflict between role and status.
    With bullies, lacking a natural role as superior or inferior, the temptation is to create just such a hierarchy out of thin air, out of whole cloth. I believe they do so because of a whole passel of reasons. For some, physical dominance is key. These are the athletes, for example, who create a pecking order relatively unique to American & Canadian culture. North American culture has an almost fetishistic obsession with athletes and athletics. They are adored as heroes (the reason for which entirely eludes me; athletic prowess does not, for me, translate into heroism, which I associate with bravery and daring-do, not the ability to sink baskets, throw touchdowns, or hit home-runs). There is a huge tie-in, of course, with business at the college and professional sports level. Contrast this with the relative disdain to which high-school geeks and nerds are treated. These same nerds and geeks become the STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, & Math) professionals and scientists of tomorrow.

    Athletes are the people everyone wants. STEM professionals are the people everyone needs.

    But because of the vaunted social status (and concomitant alpha-male perceived sexual prowess) of athletes, they almost always occupy the very top social tier in elementary and high-schools, and have a carved-out niche in US colleges; they aren’t the valedictorians, Rhodes scholars, or scholarship-winners, but they are a major driver of alumni-donations to the schools, and so occupy a specially reserved status in college and university; this is, as I say more prevalent in US post-secondary schools, with their much greater preponderance of privately-funded schools as compared to Canada. The perceived sexual alpha-status doesn’t make its appearance till high-school and adolescence, just to be clear.
    Children from abusive families will often turn their anger and aggression towards others; these are the bullies whose behaviour we can, as a society, most easily comprehend, but they are not the only bullies, as I’ve illustrated above.
    Another reason is the formation of social in-groups and out-groups, some of which form out of common interest (chess club, and the like), some of which form as a result of belonging to an elite or specialized group within the school (if there is a special class for high-achieving students; athletes; music or art students [band members]). Others form out-groups as a result of finding themselves socially outcast (Goths, greasers, dope-heads, etc.). Still others are just small social cliques, and being in or out of any of the above-mentioned groups can be reason enough to be bullied by others.
    Physical appearance (too short, too tall, too fat, too thin, larger- or smaller-than normal breasts for some girls) can be an obvious source of bullying.
    And then there are the behavioural exceptionalites, and these can range from being mentally handicapped to being exceptionally gifted, being exceptionally socially awkward, suffering from mild to moderate Aspbergers’ or other Autism Spectrum Disorders, and so forth.
    Children are not known for their compassionate understanding of differences, and the gifted are definitely different.
    So in school, there is the presence of these social, physical, behavioural and status differences; combine that with combine that with individuals who suffer behavioural disorders, or who have a poor self-image due to their domestic life or some physical exception; kids who are desperate for social acceptance and who will do anything to gain social acceptance, even at the cost of other students, and you have a truly toxic mixture.

    My personal experience with bullies is that the worst of them, the ones who are truly malign (as opposed to the ones who ‘accidentally’ bully; who don’t intend any harm, they just have no clue how very hurtful their actions and comments are) is that they, the truly nasty bullies, are obsessed with their own self-importance and their own social status.
    Such people have really fragile self-esteem and self-image; they are what I referred to in another comment as being “poseurs”. As I wrote there, if 2% of the population is gifted, and half of that is what used to be called “genius”,then that 2% is lost in a sea of pretenders (about 10% of the population), people who scream from the highest roof-tops just how brilliant, genius, sexy funny, magnificent they are, and do so primarily because they have a fear in their heart of hearts that they really aren’t much of anything at all.
    Sir Isaac Newton wrote, “If I can see farther, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants”. These poseurs convince themselves that if they can see farther, it’s because they’re either standing on the faces of their victims, or have shoved their victims face-first into the nastiest muck they can find, and are jumping up and down on their victim’s buttocks.
    The key thing that they believe elevates their social status is to try and either destroy the weakest around them (classic bully stuff) or humiliate and make miserable those who they believe could turf them from their self-appointed status as World’s Greatest Genius (irrespective of their actual IQ). These targets are, of course, the gifted.
    In challenging the gifted for the status of being “genius” — for poseurs never settle for merely being ‘gifted’ — any affront to their perceived advanced geniosity (if I may be so bold as to create a new word) must be dealt with in the harshest manner. No affront can be tolerated.
    I recall, especially in Grades 8 & 9, where I had to deal with a large group of 30 or so South Asian boys from three small villages in northern India, whose parents had decided to flee miserable economic conditions (made worse by their low-caste status as Dalits, or Untouchables) and tyrannical village Headmen who ran the villages as their own personal mediaeval fiefdoms. All the Headmens’ families were related to each other and controlled thousands of acres of farmland between them, so it was flee to the big city, or get out of India. But the trauma of living under such brutal conditions had scarred not just the fathers, but their sons as well, such that when the sons came to Canada, they did so with chips on their shoulders, angry against anyone whom they perceived as having higher social status, whether by reason of race/ethnicity (Jews and Hong-Kong Chinese) or by reason of better grades (or, as in my case, the appearance thereof). The Headmen’s sons always were given the top marks in school whether they deserved them or not, because the village teachers depended on the village Headmen for their jobs, and in the 1950’s and 1960’s in India, a ruined reputation in one location meant that it would be damnedly near impossible to get another teaching job anywhere in India. This was what I learned over the three years that these boys were in my high school, Sir Winston Churchill.
    So these boys thought that if other children at SWC got high grades, it wasn’t because they earned them, but because they were being shown favouritism. And since it was mainly the Jewish and Hong-Kong Chinese students who were the top performers, they (we) became the targets of these boys’ enmity and hatred.
    Thus, these boys waged a campaign of bullying and terror against fellow Grade 8 & 9 students. Their older brothers seemed to have, en masse, joined various street gangs, while simultaneously working in the sawmills along the F****r River, as their fathers had and still were. The boys in my age cohort were just in school long enough to kill enough time to turn 16 so that they could get jobs that paid five times the minimum wage. Otherwise they hated school and hated those who loved school. The daughters were killing time till they could become old enough to marry some prosperous sawmill worker (who, more often than not, was also prosperous due to dabbling in drug sales, thanks to their street gang affiliation).
    The level of hatred for anything remotely intellectual among these children (about 55-60 in total) was fierce. Anyone who declared their intention to attend university after high school made themselves a target for a severe beat-down. When I was in grade 9, these boys developed a plan to knife the class valedictorian on graduation day so that she couldn’t accept the award. They didn’t want to kill her, just stab her severely enough to prevent her from ascending the stage (she was a hated Hong-Kong Chinese).
    According to the police reports given in the local newspapers after the cops foiled the plan, the boys (grade 11 students, all from this small band of families from these three villages in India) were also going to sexually molest (but not rape) the girl, so she’d be humiliated. The boys were arrested, the girl didn’t show up, but her father did, to collect the Valedictory award, read out her speech (in a heavy Chinese accent) and accept the several scholarships she’d earned.
    I could tell you many tales of the mistreatment I and others went through, but that would add pages and pages, and this is long enough already. Any student who outshone these boys in class made themselves targets for violence. The girls who did so were equally targeted by the Indian girls from these villages, but in their case, the victims would be targets of nasty rumour campaigns, cold exclusions not just from social events, but even from group projects such that at times, teachers had to form groups of girls based on race and ethnicity for classroom projects, in order to ensure that Jewish and Chinese girls weren’t especially mistreated.
    Any signs I showed in class that I knew more than the bullies, was smart, or liked learning, was dealt with via knuckle-punches to the back of the head as I walked out of class, spit-balls, being spat upon (balls of phlegm gathered from the boy’s sinuses), fists smashed into lockers inches from my head as an intimidation technique (“Don’t act so smart! You’re making the rest of us look dumb!”), threats of being beaten up after class, and on a few occasions, threats of sexual violence and rarer still, actual sexual assaults that usually saw me having my genitals grabbed, or grabbed and twisted, and on at least two occasions, being lifted inches of the floor by a fellow grabbing my genitals and lifting me up by them.
    If ever the teachers complained about the conduct of these boys, the boys’ fathers would come to PTA meetings literally screaming “RACISM!” because their sons were being singled out as bullies. The problem was, it was almost only these boys, and a small group of Irish kids whose fathers worked as stevedores down on the F****r River docks, and who were just as anti-intellectual/anti-school. They too were just in school long enough to kill enough time to turn 16 so that they could get jobs that paid five times the minimum wage on the docks. I had run-ins with the Irish boys too, and they were hateful of Jews not just because of our elevated social status — the Jews and HK Chinese came from Oakridge, the upper-middle-class neighbourhood to the north of the school, whereas the Indian and Irish boys came from Marpole, to the south of the school, which was along the banks of the F****r River, and was the only west-side working-class neighbourhood. All other working-class neighbourhoods were in the East of the city. I was even more targeted because for grades eight and nine, my family lived in the very upscale neighbourhood of Shaughnessy, where all the “richies” lived.
    It made no difference that Shaughnessy was divided into two halves, the northern part being truly among the richest houses in all of Western Canada, whereas the southern half contained doctors, lawyers, (smaller) businessmen, engineers, accountants, and of course, many professors from the nearby university (as was my Dad, at least partly; he mainly worked in a government research lab that was located on the University campus, as a senior scientist and then lab director). They didn’t care what part of Shaughnessy we lived in. The mere fact that I lived in Shaughnessy made me a target of especial hatred, due to my perceived elevated social status.
    Status was key for these bullies, as it is for all bullies, and those teachers or other adults who feel threatened by super-smart children, or bosses by super-smart employees, if the boss has a particularly weak sense of self.
    Grades 4-9 were the worst, and grades 7, 8 and nine the worst of the worst, (I had to repeat grade 7, and in the special school I attended, which was for students with behavioural problems, I was again identified as [extremely] gifted, but the class-size was smaller, and with the help of the teachers, I was able to get a handle on my behaviour, and soon flourished, becoming quite popular among the students, and able to stand up to the two or three bullies and gain their respect and even friendship. But when I returned to the regular school system, though I didn’t have behavioural problems, I went back into the maelstrom of bullying and status-obsession; I explained why earlier.
    Things did ease up starting in grade 10, and especially after I switched to a school with a much less (sorry, this is politically incorrect to say, but true) working-class contingent of students. given that a high percentage of the students were Jewish or Chinese, I was almost never a target for bullies for being smart (Chinese and Jewish cultures both emphasize learning and study, education, and the high valuation of teachers; the word “rabbi” means spiritual teacher).
    In university, I truly bloomed, because merit rather than social status was key. People who attended college and university were for the most part there because they wanted to be there, and if they didn’t want to be there, they were adults and could drop out. Professors really valued my input, especially once I became computer-literate and had a very huge work-around for my neurological disability; freed from the mechanics to having to write, I was able to focus on the content. My grades on essays went up from C’s and the occasional B to A’s and the occasional B. My intellectual powers as a fairly smart student (one with an IQ in the 99.1st percentile of the general population) made me highly respected, rather than hated, because one’s social status in university is almost completely dependent on one’s ability, not one’s ability to be a social manipulator, a party-hearty type, a fashion-plate, or some other facile, empty, shallow criterion. It was some of the best time of my life; I truly enjoyed university, though I had to work very hard (I attended two of Canada’s top universities).

    Work and the work-world was a shock.

    I worked in a union-setting, a series of societies for mentally handicapped people in their group homes, sheltered workshops, etc. which was also quasi-governmental. Again, status in several forms became important. Seniority was the most key, so though I had a BA in psychology, I found myself mopping floors, while people with more seniority and almost no training in behavioural science developed (really bad) behavioural management programs for clients.
    Another form of status was how well one kow-towed to the provincial and federal union in place in many of the group home societies.. “Competency”, as understood by the unions, consisted of (1) whether one voted for the ‘correct’ political party in provincial and federal elections, (2) did one attend union meetings? (3) did one advocate blindly anything the Local’s board decided was the cause du jour? (I was infuriated, as a Jew and a Zionist, that my union dues were going to help fund the Marxist People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), at the tune of $500; when I objected, the shop steward told me the Union knew better what to do with my money than I did — the Union, by reason of being the Union, was automatically smarter than I am).
    Also, because the president of the provincial union at that time, was a viciously anti-university and anti-intellectual type, he was trying to drive out all university educated members; this was in response to the Ministry, which was trying to ensure that all new hires were college or university educated. J.S., the president, was afraid his most senior members would be forcibly retired or forced to go back to school, which they did not want to do. Most were grade-12 grads without any formal education, and were working class (sorry), so they disdained higher education as being for “those middle class types” [like me]). That was the provincial union, The Federal government union, that also covered homes for people with mentally handicaps, was worse; they were trying to force the government of the day to pass legislation that would allow the Union to vote on behalf of its members. Union members would give up their right to vote. The shop-steward for each union local would travel to each voting area and cast votes on behalf of the union members of that union living in the area. Fortunately, the federal and provincial governments of the day told that union to go pound sand.

    The environment was among the worst I have ever encountered, but not THE worst.

    Next up was a job where I was in a new career, as a computer and network tech supporter.

    I’d mentioned this earlier, so apologize for repeating myself. My first job in tech was with a company in which the marketing guy shoved his partner, the technical partner, out of the supervisory role of tech support and took it over, ostensibly on the grounds that since he, the marketing guy, had put up 80% of the capital, he should be in charge of the technicians; and was he wrong. Because he wasn’t trained, he made that classical mistake I talked of earlier. He assumed that because he was the boss, therefore he must be the smartest person in the business (in fact he was, though smart, the least smart of the four of us. His status as boss, he believed, gave him carte blanche to treat us as he saw fit, and so he alternated between trying to make us behave like waiters (his previous business was a restaurant), or to become marketing specialists. Marketing specialists, are about 180 degrees the opposite of technical types. So for him, the whole of the tech support procedure was all about showing the clients how AMAZING! how WOW! how IMPRESSIVE! the process was, of fixing computers and networks. Whereas for us, the key thing was the results, not the process. It doesn’t matter how, for a tech, you fix a computer or network, it’s THAT you fix the computer or network.
    He used his power over us as a boss to make our lives miserable; told us that he hated our guts, screamed at us regularly, called all three of us (including his partner) incompetent, because even though we’d fix the client’s computer or network, we weren’t fixing it in a way that was AMAZING! WOW! and IMPRESSIVE!.
    He replaced all three of us (including his partner) with marketers who had some computer courses under their belts. The business failed five months after I quit. Canada Revenue Agency sued him for $70,000 because he treated us (actually micro-managed us) as employees, even though he designated us as independent contractors; we in fact had no real independence. He controlled EVERYTHING we did. He owed $45,000 in taxes, social security, and employment insurance benefits. The other $35,000 was just plain penalty for lying to CRA (always a no-no).
    I had two partners in three different businesses who felt intensely challenged because as the technical specialist in these technical support companies, they resented my being the star of the show (why is this a **surprise** that techies would be the stars in a techie company?).
    One of the partners in three of these companies was someone whom I later discovered was a serial business killer. Example: He forced one company, a restaurant chain, into bankruptcy by ordering 12 MILLION Greek salads (obviously non-returnable) instead of the usual 12,000 for a week’s supply.
    After he ruined three of four businesses I had, I told him I needed a job. I meant a job in computer retail sales. He got me into a job at a gas station, where just coincidentally he was assistant manager. I was supposed to be there no more than six months. He tricked me into being there four years by lying, saying my wife wanted me in the job, when in fact she did not; he had intercepted a phone call form my wife and told me the complete opposite of what she had said to him.
    In that time he did everything he could to abuse me (oh, yes, and all the other staff save one, the boss’s pet). I managed to manoeuvre him into a mass insubordination rebellion on the part of all the staff (I rebelled, they copied me, he was that hated), that forced him off being a staff manager, and cost him future gas stations that my boss had hoped for in a company re-structuring. Instead, I was offered assistant manager of two of the smallest of four gas stations. Though I had a business management certificate, he refused to listen to me, telling me that everything I said was intended to justify slacking off and being a “lazy a**hole”, just like all the other staff. For him, the mere fact of his being assistant manager meant his knowledge (he had grade 12) was superior to my knowledge (which included that aforementioned a business management certificate from one of the best business programs in Canada).
    Coincidentally, the boss of the tech support company and the gas station manager both attended the same private Catholic school, and both as a result, adopted an air of supremacy and arrogance that could be cut with a knife.

    Status, always status, and always accompanied by the Green-Eyed Monster.

    I thought I had finished with status as a weapon against giftedness when I finished high school, but I was wrong.
    In 2011, and finishing by the end of 2014, I had to deal with the brother of a now-former friend of mine, who got offended that I, a mere gas station attendant, had thought about joining MENSA, the high-IQ organization. He was offended, apparently on behalf, of (a) MENSA (b) The “Natural Order of Things” — which had him as the greatest genius who ever has, does, or will live, and (c) my not knowing my proper social status as a mere gas station attendant. According to Bill, I was acting “uppity” and “above my station in life”. (Him: “How DARE a mere gas station attendant join MENSA!”) But because all of this was just arrant nonsense, if not outright B*llsh*t, he used his borderline mentally handicapped sister, my now-ex-friend, to harass me over the issue of my being an apparent “genius” (at least in terms of IQ), because I refused to acknowledge that (a) it’s impossible for a mere gas station attendant to be sufficiently high enough on the status tree to join MENSA (b) I couldn’t be a genius because I am not famous (c) HE was the sole, exclusive genius in his ‘orbit’ of friends, family and acquaintances (d) I was “hogging” and “hoarding” all the genius for myself, and wouldn’t let him have any (e) I had stolen the title of “King of Computers” from Cheryl’s and Bill’s brother Mark, in a very underhanded method: instead of being mean, violent, and intimidating as was Mark’s means of becoming “King of Computers”, I had done so by the very Unethical, Cruel and Evil methodology of being A BETTER TECHNICIAN than Mark (Gasp! Horrors! Not status-via-violence, but status via-merit? IMPOSSIBLE!!!!!).
    Given that I had a medical problem (lymphoedma) that could cause me to gain massive amounts of lymph fluid when under stress, the three years of harassment ended up ripping open the scars that had healed over from my grades 4-9 bullying victimization experiences (I had never dealt with the trauma, because like everyone else at the time, i thought bullying was “normal”), so I ended up clinically depressed, anxious, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and gaining so much water-weight that I went into the hospital for nine weeks, physically and mentally exhausted, and weighing close to FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS.
    Was that enough? No.as I mentioned above, and I apologize again for repeating myself, I was involved in two computer organizations, president of one of them. In the other NGO, I ran afoul of three of the six staff staff members, each apparently for their own reasons: The first, J.S., resented that my organization, V**LUG was the city’s premier, go-to organization for the media for comments about Linux and Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS in USA, FLOSS in the rest of the world;the “L” stands for ‘Libre’, which means ‘free’ in French). She wanted her NGO to be the city’s premier, go-to organization for the media for comments about Linux and Free and Open-Source Software. So by disgracing me, she figured she could disgrace V**LUG. The second staff, G.B., was the illicit paramour of J.S., and shared her desire for their NGO’s ascendancy. He resented that I was disabled and a very good tech on their NGO’s “Open Help Night”, in which people could bring in their Linux computers or laptops, and we would fix them.
    In G.B.’s mind, a physically disabled person was also a mentally handicapped person, and therefore, by reason of that status, incompetent. The third, M.D., was resentful that I fixed a client’s computer problem, one that he had been struggling with for over 90 minutes that night. So he and G.B. cooked up a scheme whereby they claimed that the client I had helped had come back complaining about the work I had done (it couldn’t be true; I always check my work before releasing the computer back to the client), claiming it was shoddy work and the computer wouldn’t boot up, A complete lie, but they had the power and the status, and I didn’t.
    They banned me from Open Help Night, after I protested G.B.’s compromise that I come to Open Help Night, and sit and wait for him to assign me some work that my mentally/physically handicapped brain could handle. My further protest at my mistreatment entitled me to a phone-call from a member of the NGO’s board of directors, in which he claimed (1) the NGO didn’t exist (2) the NGO had no staff, (3) the NGO had no board of directors (4) the staff of this non-existent NGO that had no staff was not responsible to its non-existent Board of Directors. He was so afraid I would sue, he spent 95% of the phone call denying the existence of the NGO or its parts, and 5% of the time recommended that I stay away “a couple of months” until the (non-existent) Board of Directors of the (non-existent) NGO could resolve this problem that he denied even existed (how could it, no staff, no organization, no board of directors). A year and a half later, after precisely zero response to my entreaties, they finally allowed me back to Open Help Night. However, M.D., who by this time had ascended to Volunteer Coordinator (extremely high status indeed, in that organization)., intercepted me and prevented me from attending Open Help Night, then or ever, on the grounds that “I don’t need to look at your resume or skills sheet to know you’re grossly incompetent”.
    The resultant screaming fight got me banned for six months. A year later, I appealed; the Board of Directors agreed I had been badly mistreated, allowed me full rights to return, on condition that the staff agreed. Well, the staff, led by M.D., decided that the suitable punishment for being discriminated against was to ban me for life. The trauma, unexpected as it was, put me back in hospital for four weeks.
    Think that’s enough? Oh no, I had ANOTHER run-in with another status-hound. As president of V**LUG, I was able to help a fellow, S.B., to start up a Special Interest Group called BSD Users Group. But because I had had the temerity to suggest that I be vice-president, this arrogant (I discovered part way through our miserable friendship), narcissistic SOB threatened me with physical violence should I try to make an appearance in “HIS” Special Interest Group. He didn’t want to share the limelight. He also looked down upon me because I was a mere “Linux” user and not a demi-God, like he was, as a BSD High Priest.

    The trauma of having to deal with status, and the idiocy of people who assume that because they are teachers, student bullies, bosses, assistant managers, staff in NGOs, or just plain nasty mean egotistical and status-obsessed people; because they are paid more, are bosses, are older, have a certain job-title, or are just plain psychopathological in some manner must therefore (a) maintain the “Natural Order Of Things” (i.e., them above me) or (b) ensure that their fake, poseur, arrogance which to their minds equals true genius, and/or (c) are intensely jealous and envious of gifted people and so believe they can prove themselves superior by crushing the “tall poppies” around them (like me), means that I have moved from mild dislike of status to an all-out hatred of status, with one exception: Status-by-merit. I respect professional people, as long as they are speaking within their fields; I respect brilliant minds, like Einstein or Mozart, for example, because their elevated — AND EARNED — status.

    But I absolutely hate the obsession some within society have with their own self-importance, and the damage they do to those who might threaten that self-aggrandized status. It has become my personal nightmare, this “thing” i have about status. As I said, I suffer, even now, PTSD, mild depression, and anxiety, as well as a non-stop stream-of-consciousness re-living of all these traumas, most especially the very violent acts of intimidation I experienced in Grade eight, which I endured for the simple reason that I committed the unforgivable sin of being born with an extremely high IQ.

    Status is given far too much weight in our societies (Canada, Europe and America), where merit is supposed to be the over-riding principle, but instead status is substituted when people lack enough ability to be meritorious (deserving via action) of praise and adulation, and instead demand it because of the false factors I listed above and earlier.

    I am still stuck, psychologically, with my anger, my rage and hatred for all the mistreatment I have had to endure over the years. I wrote this in an attempt to at least in part exorcise my demons on the issue.

    Celi, you brought up a very important point, but it’s not just (incompetent or inadequately trained) teachers. It;s whole huge range of people fired up by their own mediocrity and their abiding passionate hatred for anyone who might show the world that these inadequate people are exactly that –inadequate. Besides, even if a teacher feels threatened by a CHILD, that says far more about the grown-up than it does about the child.
    The student is doing what they think is best, and have not yet learned how to navigate the absurdities of status that are relics of an earlier time. In my day, as an elementary or high school student, a student who publicly corrected a teacher could have their knuckles rapped or worse. I know I did, and never understood that; my facts were right, why then, was I being punished for being right? It’s what happens when status and all its social absurdities triumphs over merit.
    Of course, kids should be taught HOW to correct a mistake without being rude. But never should a student, gifted or not, be punished for such behaviour. More so, in business, where merit should reign supreme, you’d think that status would not be as important (insubordination is not the same as correcting someone superior, so long as it’s done respectfully). But too often in my experience, status does reign supreme, especially in organizations that actively discourage merit. Schools, with their Industrial Revolution origins and basis in Victorian England, are particularly prone to that, and woe betide the student who goes against 170 years of bad reasoning.
    I am of the radical opinion that what counts isn’t status, but Facts, Logic Evidence, and Reason, and the accompanying notions or values of clarity, rationality, even-handedness, fairness, and toleration. In some circles, that makes me an extremist and radical, a tall poppy in desperate need of crushing. So be it, but I know I am right and they are wrong.

    • John, so where do I start? You have brought up so many critical and valid points, taking the act of challenging an insecure teacher on down the continuum to what provokes world leaders to overtake weaker countries and start wars. It is all about social status—our need to feel on equal or better footing as compared to others—-the act of being a “status-hound.” Whether in a classroom, on the playground, during Thanksgiving with the family or among countries of the world, you are right, it is about insecurities and a need to ameliorate those insecurities by dominating others and elevating one’s status.

      It is about social status and woven into that is the societal trend of anti-intellectualism that runs through many cultures, although we overly admire athleticism and celebrities. I love your quote, “Athletes are the people everyone wants. STEM professionals are the people everyone needs.” When will society understand that we need to nurture and value the people we need for our society to thrive, versus worshipping athletes and celebrities who offer relatively little to promote a better life for all?

      Some of my favorite of your statements:

      “I thought I had finished with status as a weapon against giftedness when I finished high school, but I was wrong.”

      “But too often in my experience, status does reign supreme, especially in organizations that actively discourage merit.”

      “I am of the radical opinion that what counts isn’t status, but Facts, Logic Evidence, and Reason, and the accompanying notions or values of clarity, rationality, even-handedness, fairness, and toleration. In some circles, that makes me an extremist and radical, a tall poppy in desperate need of crushing. So be it, but I know I am right and they are wrong.”

      John, thank you again for your insights especially tying in the fight for social status to the negative experiences of bullying, envy and marginalization of gifted people. If we can prepare our gifted children for some of these sad inevitabilities, maybe they can be prepared when they occur and see them for what they are and not be as hurt by the “status-hounds.”

      • Thank you, Celi. You are an unwavering supporter of the gifted in a sea of critics and “status-hounds”, anti-intellectuals, and just plain bastards. I am so glad there are people like you, and I desperately wish there were more like you, and fewer closed-minded, narrow-minded bigots in this world.

  5. Pingback: Envy and Your Gifted Child | Crushing Tall Poppies

  6. Great article. And great description of how gifted kids assume they can speak their minds and adults will always be receptive to listen to them, and will be willing to accept their corrections. It brings me back to a situation one of my son’s had in middle school where the teacher could not accept his tendency to point out inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Fun year… Anyway, so appreciate your writing.

    • Thank you, Gail! We found some teachers were fine with it, some found it unacceptable and some retaliated for it–it all depended on the teacher.

  7. Thank you for putting this into words – we’ve been struggling with this for ever so long! (and it’s so much worse when you can’t explain it) Can you please give some specific actions you’ve taken to deal with this situation? The thing’s we’ve tried haven’t worked, and we’re running out of ideas!

    • Kimberly,

      I can only tell you that what became clear to us is that each situation was different depending on the teacher, her reaction and what my child said, then we decided how to deal with it. We just kept talking to him about it, explaining how being considerate of others can outweigh factual information sometimes. I won’t lie, it’s tedious. How do you tell a child who values fairness and accurate information so deeply that it is a part of him he can’t overcome?

      We supported him when he added information he felt the teacher left out, but guided him on how to say it respectfully. One instance, was in health class. His teacher was going over the 4 food groups and she stated that milk was part of a healthy diet. My son had just seen a few documentaries on what is really in our food and how the food industry’s marketing strategies aren’t always in our best interests. He raised his hand to tell her that milk really isn’t a part of a healthy diet anymore and gave a long explanation why. She said he was wrong and told him it looked like he needed a healthier diet, looking at his slightly chubby body. Of course we supported him here because we felt he was adding to the discussion, offering his opinion, but cautioned him on using words like wrong, incorrect, and also not calling the teacher out.

      We practiced, which seemed almost daily, how to disagree politely and not call out the other person by saying “you are wrong”, but using something like “I have a different opinion” or “I think it is spelled this way.”

      Looking back, if I had to say the one thing that stands out for me, it would be to understand that it was going to be a long, long process and not to expect to cure the behavior, but be happy to just soften the sharp edges of how they correct others.

      Good luck, Kimberly! I can certainly sympathize! 🙂

  8. Pingback: Article: ““Teacher, that’s not quite right!”” By Celi Trépanier

  9. Ah, what is correct and right doesn’t always perfectly intersect with tact. Because of this, many adults in education need increased skills in self-connection and self-responsibility instead of blaming gifted kids. Sometimes “their place in society as children”, when they have precocious access to wisdom, is to teach their elders.

    • Love that statement, Bob: “Sometimes’their place in society as children’, when they have precocious access to wisdom, is to teach their elders.” That saying should be on a poster!

  10. Pingback: The Gifted Lagniappe Series | Crushing Tall Poppies

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