Behavior is a message. When a child is being disrespectful, disruptive, rude, or otherwise not the typical kid you know, they’re telling you something. In this environment, in which we have been crisis schooling, remote, hybrid, physically distanced, masked, barriered, pool noodle-spaced, and disconnected, behavior is a big Vegas style sign with neon flashing lights.
Gifted kids, particularly the young ones, who have all the feels and not the vocabulary to express it, need to be seen by us all now more than ever.
Seen doesn’t mean called out publicly in class or in a zoom room for chatting inappropriately.
Seen doesn’t mean reprimanded in front of the class (and probably classmate’s parents and siblings) for not turning in work or for doing an assignment incorrectly.
Seen doesn’t mean calling out scores or missing work and asking where assignments are or what’s the plan for improvement.
Negativity bias is real…and every one of us have done both of these things at one time or another…especially when we’re tired, stressed out, worried, and have an eighth of an nerve left.
Seen doesn’t mean praised publicly either. So many kids absolutely HATE being called out for just doing what they’re supposed to…because that’s not why they do it.
To SEE a child is a very different thing. It’s more than simply being noticed for your work, work ethic, grades, or talents. It’s more than happy notes home. It’s more than praising good behavior, kind words to others, improved effort, or hard work.
To see a child is to look beyond the surface, deep below the water of all their behaviors, from acting out in class to twisting their hair to chewing their shirt (or mask…because that’s a thing now.). To see a child is to dive deep and see that the raised hand is meaningful: “I want to show you what I know and share what I want to know.” To see a child is be willing to be vulnerable ourselves and go beyond the jellyfish to find what’s hiding below.
What seems like a spoiled brat temper tantrum is often just not that at all with our gifted kids.
It’s frustration because I haven’t seen my best friend smile in 300+ days.
It’s sadness because I can’t hug my teacher, my friends, my grandparents.
It’s loneliness because my family brings me to school and takes me home and we never go anywhere anymore.
It’s anger because I do what I’m told in class and wait patiently and the only one who ever gets your attention is the kid who says dumb things in the chat.
It’s fear because I see that you gave us an assignment, but have absolutely no idea what to do with it or how to get it to you so you can see what I know…and I’m afraid to ask you to clarify it because you’ll get frustrated because you explained it 45 times, wrote out directions, made a video, shared it with my parents, and yet I still don’t get it.
It’s a request. See me.
When a child asks you to not use a particular term of endearment because it makes them feel “insignificant”….that’s powerful. That’s a child feeling safe enough with you to make a request.
See that I am barely holding it together. See that my brow is furrowed and I’m looking at you from underneath it. See that I’m clenching my hands so I don’t smack the child sitting six feet away who will. not. stop. making. noise. See that I have something valuable to contribute and ask me to share. See that I am having a hard time with friends–they all know each other already and I’m STILL the new kid and it’s February. See that I am a social butterfly who wants nothing more to make everyone I encounter happy by making them butterflies and snowflakes while you teach–I can listen and create at the same time, I promise. I miss my friends–please see that I’m just trying to connect. See that I haven’t learned how to handle conflict with peers and teach me how…I really do just want to be friends. See that I know things the books all say I shouldn’t yet…because when you’re X years old, kids typically only know this, that, and the other thing.
See my hurt. See my effort. See my love of learning–it’s there, I promise. See that I’m trying. See that all I want is for you to see me so I can know you and you can know me….the real me, not the one who gets angry and kicks chairs or sobs uncontrollably under my table covered in my coat. Believe my parents when they tell you they are at a loss too…I didn’t come with a manual.
See them. Please.