Today, Dr. MaryGrace Stewart shares her vision of giftedness through the Gifted Interview. Thank you, MaryGrace! She is the Founder & Chief Academic Officer of IDEAL4Gifted and has been in the field of gifted and talented for over 35 years. She lives in Massachusetts, USA.
.IF I COULD CHOOSE, WOULD I STILL BE GIFTED?
.WHAT (MY OWN) GIFTEDNESS MEANS TO ME
It means creativity, seeing the world sensitively, empathizing with others, helping the gifted and twice-exceptional in their journeys, and helping to raise the leaders of tomorrow
.IF I HAD TO CHOOSE AN IMAGE OR A KEYWORD THAT SUMS UP WHAT GIFTEDNESS MEANS
I would be very hard-pressed to choose one. I often think of the art of Monet and Wassily Kandinsky and I think of giftedness as a blend of strength, passion, and possibilities.
.HOW LONG HAVE I KNOWN ABOUT IT?
Since the 1970s.
.WHAT PHASES HAVE I GONE THROUGH SINCE MY DISCOVERY?
I didn’t think of myself as being gifted. I saw it in others and wanted to help them develop their talents. It wasn’t until I went to “Confratute” at the University of Connecticut in the 1990s that I realized it was me too. I am also twice-exceptional. The realization of that has given me a strong desire to help educate that population as well. I was also rather poor as a child and realize how opportunity and chance play a large role in the development of gifts and talents. Later, in my work with the state of MA Association for Gifted Education I became very passionate about the plight of gifted students of low SES and of color, especially in MA where there are less than 10 schools with gifted programs out of over 400 districts. My current phase is as a leader of a program for gifted and twice-exceptional students across the US that came out of the cries from parents on the MA Association for Gifted Education’s Facebook page. We are now two years old, have served over 125 students in more than a dozen states.
.HOW DO I EXPLAIN IT TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER HEARD OF IT?
I explain it like physical growth. Just like some children have bigger feet and they need bigger shoes. I explain the asynchrony of it by using the clothing analogy how a person may wear a size Small shirt but a large in pants. I explain that it’s not elitist to just want an education that fits.
.THE REMARK WHICH BLEW ME AWAY MOST WHEN I TALKED ABOUT IT
There are several. One is that gifted education is about fit and pace. Another is that school should be about education, education should be about learning new things. If a student is not learning new things then they are not actually being educated and the school is then fraudulent.
.HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE (TO KNOW IT)
At first I cried. Then I went back to university, took a degree in gifted education, and changed careers.
.WHAT I HAVE ALLOWED MYSELF TO DO EVER SINCE
Follow the path that helps lead gifted and twice-exceptional students to the realization of their potential, rareness, preciousness, and importance to society.
.WHAT IT CREATES TO OTHERS WHEN I TALK ABOUT IT
They usually get very interested and ponder giftedness in new ways. They also often come to realize that they, their children, or someone close to them are gifted.
.WHAT IRRITATES ME WITH GIFTEDNESS
The lack of respect it gets in the education of children in the U.S.A.
.WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO EMPHASIZE ABOUT GIFTEDNESS
That it’s on a continuum, isn’t across the board of all subjects, that it requires significant quantities of cognitive nourishment, and that educating the gifted well is essential to humanity.
.WHAT I PERSONALLY FIND TO BE THE MOST DIFFICULT
Being twice-exceptional. My weaknesses often make extra work for me and my sensitivities cause me to feel many struggles of others like me.
.WHAT I PERSONALLY LOVE
The limitlessness of it.
.MY WELLBEING TOOL OR PRACTICE THAT HELPS ME MOST
Breathing techniques and dear friends and family relationships.
.A (MIS)REPRESENTATION (ABOUT GIFTEDNESS) THAT I WANT TO CALL INTO QUESTION
Gifted children will be fine on their own. They don’t need anything different than most of the population. We would never say that about a talented athlete or musician.
.WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO GIFTED PEOPLE
You are important. Follow your bliss.
.WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT CONCERNED
You need these people. You need them to be educated in ways that will develop their talents for the sake of your health, the planet, and the government.
.WHAT I WOULD RECOMMEND TO SOMEONE WHO IS WONDERING
Go to nagc.org and look up the characteristics of gifted individuals.
.THE MISTAKE NOT TO MAKE FOR A GIFTED PERSON
Don’t belittle or denigrate yourself. Find others like yourself.
.MY PROFESSIONAL ADVICE FOR GIFTED
For gifted children I’d say to parents, do all that you can to help your child develop their abilities.
For gifted youth, I’d say to be true to yourself and find at least one friend with who you can really talk to and interact with.
For adults I’d say, it’s never too late. Get online under keywords like “gifted adult.” There is an enormous amount of help, insight, and options.
.MY PERSONAL ADVICE FOR GIFTED
Follow your bliss.
.A BOOK TO READ ON THE SUBJECT
The Schoolwide Enrichment Model by Drs. Renzulli & Reis
.MY OPINION ABOUT THE IQ WAIS TEST
It is one form of evidence for a few forms of giftedness but it is only one moment in time and does not give the whole picture of a person’s gifts and talents, nor does it include the plethora of strengths and abilities inherent in humans.
.IS IT A WASTE NOT TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE GIFTED?
Perhaps, but as long as one fulfils their potential to the best of their ability, it may not matter that there is a conscious awareness of the phenomenon.
.WHEN I MEET ANOTHER GIFTED PERSON, DO I RECOGNIZE HIM.HER? BY WHAT?
By what? Their conversation, their passion for something, a look of intensity and depth in their eyes.
.WHAT DO GIFTED PEOPLE HAVE IN COMMON?
They are outliers in society. They have extraordinary strengths in one or more areas of human endeavour. They are often more attuned to the world around them. They often lead either intentionally or unintentionally. They are usually creative and have a strong internal drive for an area of their interest.
.THE CRUCIAL STEPS NOT TO BE MISSED IN THE JOURNEY OF A GIFTED PERSON WITH HIS OR HER GIFTEDNESS?
Seeking out things of interest and pursuing them. Learning from life experiences beyond “education.” Self-acceptance and compassion.
THE LAST THING I LEARNED ON THE SUBJECT (THAT I’D LIKE TO SHARE)
Be as good to yourself as you would be to your best friend.
.AN INSPIRATION FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY ABOUT GIFTEDNESS (THAT I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE)
Australia and other nations require gifted education nationally. I believe the USA needs to do the same. I believe education should be about the creative, mental, and emotional growth of each individual and as such should not be bound by age but rather by readiness.
.A WISH FOR THE FUTURE
That Massachusetts would require gifted education in all of its public schools and that the programs would be led by trained educators and that there would be standards as set by NAGC.
.A HUNCH ON THE SUBJECT
Democracy is a wonderful way to govern but it may not be the best way to educate people. We are not all the same. We need more flexibility, individualization, and grouping by readiness in each subject. We need a ceilingless education for all.