And now to Attitude …

“Yes…some of you might say – their attitudes are the problem. They just don’t try to fit in.” I agree, some gifted students, me included, can sometimes have an attitude that does not easily engender harmony, but we are all human. We are all different, and what do you use to define a good attitude? Compliance? Questioning? Conviviality? Open-mindedness?

I have had to step back in my class many times and ask myself – “Is getting ruffled by this student’s apparent bad attitude going to help the situation, or hinder it?” Some students look at life with such a different lense to myself, that I have to remember, I am the adult here. I am supposed to be the teacher – and I need to find a way to reach this child no matter what their attitude is. My attitude has got to be professional.

Now, don’t think I am condoning bad manners. No – there are ways to be respectful even when you totally disagree. I try to model these for my students – and I have to admit, not always successfully. It’s hard work to remain cool, calm, and collected in some situations!

But, it is far better to let a student do nothing and have some space, for both you and them, than it is to win the current fight and unsettle the rest of the class. Winning should be a collaborative achievement, where everyone benefits, not just a management or control device for the teacher. Better to go back to them, in the library corner if that is where they ended up, and sit down calmly and try to work out what went wrong. It is usually a mis-communication of some sort that wasn’t picked up initially.

Many gifted students will feel far more accepted in the classroom if you learn to talk with them, not at them. I am reminded daily of the differences in all students, gifted included. We need to treat each person individually, and not be tempted to cast them in stereotypes. This should be our main goal in ‘personalising learning’. We are becoming a much more multi-cultural society than ever before, and this means we will have to find a greater proportion of tolerance in our bag of teaching tools.

Ages old, but still so relevant – count to ten before you react! Show you care.

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About Debbie Smith

New Zealand Educator interested in online education, giftedness, and other special needs in education.
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