Turn Negatives into Positives

We have all had it happen to us – when we think we have planned a great experience for the students to take part in, and something goes awry, leaving us wondering … where to next?

Firstly, don’t let it discourage you! Conjure up all the creativity you can, and turn the negative into a positive learning opportunity – a teachable moment! We can all learn from mistakes. In fact, with gifted students, we need to often model for them how to pull yourself back up again, shake off the problems, and start afresh.

Sometimes, the gifted student who has only ever experienced success in learning can become paralysed when they are suddenly confronted with something that challenges them, and they don’t know how to cope with it!

Modeling our own mistakes, and and how we can recover from them, can help assist the perfectionist child to understand there is another way forward. It shouldn’t devalue their striving for excellence, but neither should their perfectionism devalue their chance to be satisfied with less than 100%.

Many gifted children can be slow to start, or slow to finish, because they spend so long aiming for perfection. Frustration is common, and is occasionally followed by a tantrum, when what they have envisaged in their minds becomes difficult to achieve in practice. Papers can be screwed up and binned, constructions busted, and tears may flow when they are frustrated by even the smallest of errors.

Speak quietly to the learner – becoming upset yourself at the sudden destruction of what you perceive to be still valuable work is not going to assist them to overcome this difficulty. Be real, however, and discuss, if you can retrieve the trashed article, what aspects had upset them. Help them find some good points that they could perhaps build on for next time.

I have sometimes had the delight of seeing the uncrumpled work being rescued and/or started again, with a second try being much more acceptable in their eyes. We teach our learners to draft written work – maybe we can help them learn skills to make draft artworks or models. These can be self-critiqued and adjustments made before the final product is completed.

If nothing else works – try a “save the forest” angle. Being responsible for one’s actions is a skill we all need to know – gifted or otherwise.

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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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