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Could you please just act normal?

By Mark Hess.

It’s parent-teacher conference day. Ava, Lucy, and Emma; three sisters in my gifted and talented groups, sweep into my room ahead of their parents. Eyes aglow, they bring huge smiles. This is their place. At the conference desk, Ava and Emma are eager to share their advanced learning plans and the projects they’ve undertaken. They lean in, antennas up, their eyes sweeping back and forth between their parents and me. Lucy, however, is on the move. She has taken out her multi-tiered cardboard project and has set it up on a table. She dashes across the room and back to retrieve craft sticks and tools. Needing another item, she hip-slides across a table, gallops to the supply area, and then returns to her project, ducking under that same table she has just slid across. She, too, is listening to the conversation and is eager to share; pausing ever-so-quickly to nod or add a comment. While her sisters wear expectant expressions, Lucy always seems to have an expression as if she were on the verge of doing something, of going somewhere, of vaulting into action. Saying so, however, would be an understatement. The fact is that Lucy is always doing something, going somewhere, or vaulting into action.  We all pause for a moment in our conversation to discuss Lucy. “We have to kick her off the furniture at home,” her mom jokes, “because she is all over the place, and I don’t want the furniture ruined.” It is no joke. Lucy’s parents cut out her naps by age 3 because if she napped for even 10 minutes in the car, she would be up until midnight. “She has always had more energy than her sisters. She cannot sit still for very long even when she is engaged in her favorite pastime of reading. She frequently reads lying on her back, feet in the air moving.” Lucy’s sisters Ava and Emma, myself, and most of the kids in my gifted and talented program live in the world of 95’s—95 th percentiles in ability, that is. As Susan Daniels and Elizabeth Meckstroth describe it in Living with Intensity (Daniels and Piechowski, 2009, p. 35), our lives as 95s are rich with intensities and over-excitabilities. Our minds receive, process, and filter frequencies from 240 cable channels in HD while the typical person gets basic cable; maybe 35 stations and frequencies. Lucy, however, is highly gifted. Her ability profile scores read 98s and 99s across the board. She began reading before kindergarten; a grade she skipped.  Patricia Gatto-Walden recently stated, in her session at the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented state conference, that exceptionally and profoundly gifted may receive 5,000 or 10,000 channels and frequencies. Sure, we 95s may be apt to race passionately from one topic to the next and may be prone to rapid, staccato diatribes on different topics. We may feel empathy deeper than others and are ready to save the world. Indeed, we may always be writing poetry about the world in our minds, but in general, we can usually blend in pretty well with our peers. This is not true for 99+s. 95s are bubbling . . . but 99+s radiate. They sizzle. They glow. They burst. It has taken me a long time to properly process the wisdom of Living with Intensity. I have lived a lifetime in the world of 95s; in my own intensities; and because 95 is my reality I’ve never really felt any different from anyone else. The behaviors of the majority of my students seem perfectly normal to me. I do have to chuckle from time to time when someone close points out one of my intensities. What? Isn’t everyone like that? I’ve started to watch my highly gifted kids more closely, though; my twice-exceptional kids as well; and I have begun to see more clearly their deep intensities and recognize their behaviors not as deviant or baffling . . . but as normal, yes, normal for them. So here is Lucy again . . . and you had better look quickly . . . because there she goes, running across my classroom . . . normal. I don’t think I’ve never seen her walk from place to place. Normal.  We have craft saws and hot glue and long dowel sticks in my classroom. Running is simply not safe. “Lucy, what are you doing?” I ask her. “Running?” she says, a question in her voice, and of course, while she is running. It’s normal. “What are you supposed to be doing?” I ask her. Still running, she turns very briefly in my direction. “Walking and being safe?” “Can you do that,” I ask, her eyes gleaming a wonderful intensity. Normal. “Yes?” She asks, still running . . . and I know things are normal in my classroom, happening the way they should be according to the particular intensities of the individual. Normal energy in a body and mind set to 5,000 frequencies, normal over-excitabilities, and normal brilliance.


About the Author Mark Hess's "Common Sense for Uncommon Children and the Adults Who Love and Care for Them" in-service series offers the unique combination of dynamic and engaging presentations and hundreds of pages of dynamic and engaging units teachers can use the very next day. Mark is a full-time gifted resource teacher in Colorado Springs and in his 31st year of doing what he loves best. He is the president of the Pikes Peak Association for Gifted Students and board member for the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented. As Portable Gifted and Talented, Mark has over 1,500 followers on Teachers Pay Teachers and has published over 200 units specifically written for gifted and high ability students.

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