Not long ago in my MindPlus class, we were talking about being gifted and what that means for us. Instead of talking, one student quietly wrote on a post-it ‘I don’t really feel like I fit in at school’ and stuck it on the wall. This innocuous little post-it kick-started a torrent of ‘me too’ comments and we talked at length about this meant. Whilst fitting in is not the same as a sense of belonging, the two can go hand-in-hand. Children talked about not feeling 'right', not fitting with others, being misunderstood, being different, not being able to be themselves, and not meeting others like them as factors that contributed towards their sense of not belonging.
As a teacher, a parent, and a human, I felt devastated for these young people carrying the burden of not fitting in, not feeling part of things, not belonging. I wondered what it was that made them feel so ill at ease? I wondered what steps we could take to enhance belonging in our classrooms?
Some of my ponderings brought me back to the three key words of this blog tour, accepted, included, connected.
Accepted – To belong, our gifted tamariki need to be accepted by all. Their differences, along with the individuality of all children, should be celebrated. Acceptance begins with gifted children, their parents, teachers and peers understanding the concept of giftedness. Specialist input can help us as teachers, as well as our gifted students, come to understand this better.
Included - To belong, our gifted tamariki need to have their intellectual and social needs met, whatever the setting, and in this way, they can feel included. Specifically working to understand and meet the needs of gifted children will help them to feel included, and thus to belong. Again, specialist input can help with identifying and providing for gifted children.
Connected - To belong, our gifted tamariki need to find a place where they feel they fit, to find a peer group of those with like-minds or similar interests. This sense of connection to similar others enhances belonging across settings. Specialist programmes can bring together groups of gifted children, as can well designed school programmes.
If as teachers we worked on accepting, including and connecting our gifted children, will their sense of belonging be enhanced? Will the post-it messages change?
Proud to be part of the Gifted Awareness Week 2016 Blog Tour