Every Child is Gifted

By James L. Hymes, Jr., University of Maryland

Nearly every child has at least one unique strength or talent. Only a few stand out head and shoulders above the rest In school work But academic brilliance is only one kind of gift. Schools focus on it but we mustn't let that blind us to children's many other gifts. We must nurture every gift of every child. Not to do this is sheer waste.

Peter's gift is Curiosity. Most youngsters merely do their assignments, take routine learning for granted. Not Pete! He itches to know everything about everything. The whole world fascinates him. His school work suffers sometimes, because he doesn't limit his curiosity to the assignment. His mind is always ranging. reaching, this is his special strength.

And there is Bill. H is not gifted in the school's special sense: his grades arc only a little bit above average. But Bill has another way of shining. He Has A Way With People. People like him. They like to talk with him, they like to work with him, they turn to him. It is hard to know what Bill's secret is. He is easy going, is interested in other people. All this adds up to some miracle ingredient and Bill has it overflowing. Bill's mother has a right to feel he is gifted. She has noticed and encouraged his gift since he was five. Talent with people is sorely needed in a world where skill in human relations lag far behind the "brilliant" skills of science and technology.

Elaine is also a dramatic example. No school would ever call her gifted, but fortunately, her mother feels that she is. Elaine just passes in her school work: sometimes she is a little below average. But she works to get her grades. Perseverance is her rare and valuable gift. She will always be one who never gives up. School grades are important but they can trap us into thinking that they are the measure of all gifts. This simply is not so. Youngsters have many talents that aren't caught in school tests and that don't show up in grades.

Let's look at Tom...a "B" student whose grades merely say he's "above average". Yet Tom is talented, for he has the gift of Ambition. He sets his sights high. He uses every ounce of power, nothing goes to waste. This means that all his life he'll do better than many who have more native intellect.

Joel's gift is Organization. He's the one who engineers the games at the homeroom party. He's a top-notch administrator in the making.

I watched a six year old boy the other day. Quite accidentally, a playmate hit him with a baseball bat...a glancing blow, but it hurt The hurt boy walked away, sat down awhile. then he walked again. His eyes were swimming, his face was distorted with pain, but never once did he cry. There.. I believe, was a youngster with the gift of Courage. More than most children of his age, he could "take it". We need people who have high courage, but we have no place on the report card to mark his quality with an "A", so it may go unobserved and undeveloped, and another gift is lost to the world.

There is the gift of Co-ordination....notice Jane's grace as she walks, runs, dances. Dexterity....how delicately Mark works with a tiny screwdriver or fine wires.

Some children are gifted in music, in art, in dramatics. But don't discount the child who isn't he may have another gift just as important Alex can lift more, push harder, and throw farther than the other boys. He can shove and lug and haul, and get things done better. His gift is Physical Strength. Don't ever minimize the importance of that.

Carol has the gift of Fluency. She talks well, she is poised. Ruth, a quiet child, has the gift of Listening. Cy's gift is Wit....he translated it into clever cartoons. Frances' gift is perceptual awareness. She appreciates beauty she is sensitive to harmony, colour and good design. Betsy is gifted with Energy....you can't wear her out. George's talent is Calmness....a soft gentle patience that never fails.

To make a good world, we need the gifts each person has. I know a man who has the gift of Anger. The rest of us may go along with the unfairness or injustice, but he blows his stack. Thank heavens no one has ever squelched his fire. He keeps the rest of us from accepting peace at any price.

Another friend's priceless gift is a Sense of Humor. He is no clown, but time after time I have seen him save a difficult situation. When a meeting becomes tense, when tempers are rising, when anger alone is about to take over, you count on this man. He's ready with the right work to bring on the laugh that breaks the tension and leis reason flow again.

Gifted adults were once gifted children: the lucky ones whose particular talents were detected and valued by parent and teachers. Look at all he does, with his mind, his body. his feeling: with ideas. material and people. Don't pressure him And do be honest....you don't help your child by seeing a talent that doesn't exist

By James L. Hymes, Jr., University of Maryland

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