The challenge of working with high-achievers

As a tutor, I have come across many children who find school work easy. Despite having natural ability and being ahead of their peers, children who are perceived as highly intelligent often seem to have character traits that bind them together. I talk about “perception of intelligence” because it is the perception of being intelligent which can truly damage a child, not the fact that the child may have extraordinary mental abilities.

 

These are the four points that have stood out to me with the children I have worked with (there are actually much more):

 

  • Seeking perfection

Children are often told that they are intelligent by those around them. This adds to the internal pressure that they feel (as clever children often feel) that they need to be perfect. They thus identify themselves as “the clever one” in their peer-groups.

 

  • Inexperience in failure

Naturally, many of these children past most of their early years being able to accomplish most of the academic tasks set by their teachers. This means that they may lack the experience of real failure, which is important for well-rounded developmental.

 

  • Lack of mental resistance to failure

As a consequence of not failing in their young days and the need to seek perfection, some children take failure in their later years particularly hard.

 

  • Difficulty relating to others in their peer group

If others perceive a child to be intelligent, and the child, in turn, believes this idea, this can lead to isolation in social situations.

 

As an educator, my role is not merely to facilitate learning, but to understand the issues affecting a child.  At every point, I have to always be aware of the words I am using when working with children. If anyone has comments about the points I have mentioned or has experience dealing with these issues, please feel free to comment.  

 

Jonathan Strange

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