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Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Harry Potter and The Gifted Kid

While creating a workshop for gifted middle school students, I hit on the idea of piggybacking on the popularity of Harry Potter and using those character relationships to talk about social skills. It's a difficult subject to address with gifted kids because they are often intensely loyal; talking about real people in their lives as non-gifted can feel like a betrayal. Reframing it as "Harry and the Dursleys" allows more play and creativity around negotiating sticky situations.

Some gifted kids have more intellectual and emotional sensitivities than all of the adults around them. They may be able to do amazing things that their families view with awe and fear, refusing them the chance to refine their raw talents into something manageable. In the story, Harry Potter finds a community of people who understand him and are willing to do anything to protect him and train his talent. But for most kids there is no opportunity to go away to a school where their gifts are unconditionally celebrated and nurtured.

The workshop will give gifted kids living "normal" lives some tools and validate their perspectives and experiences. They are at the same age as our hero, Harry, was when he first figured out what was going on!

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What a great idea! (How I longed to go to a special school for gifted kids when I was little.)
Attending specialized classes for the gifted has been a godsend for my boys. It's as you say, the opportunity to be with others like themselves. It's difficult to learn when the environment is uncomfortable and in a gifted classroom setting my kids are comfortable and relaxed. They have the opportunity to experience differing ranges of abilities within that setting rather than always being top dog in the class...and yes, they still interact with "normal" kids as well.

As a weird side note, the bus they take to school transports the gifted and mentally challenged kids of the neighbourhood only and the bus driver makes the gifted kids sit at the back of the bus and the challenged kids at the front. Talk about your two ends of the spectrum. My oldest sons most humiliating and humourous day on the bus happened when the bus driver insisted he sit up front with the mentally challenged students. (It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry.)
To me, this seems as though it could be very counterproductive. Alienation from family seems to be a very common situation among gifted children - and adults. To compare those family members, who may have reasonable complaints and frustrations, to "the worst sort of muggles" seems as though it might just deepen animosity.
I've not heard that alienation from family is common among the gifted. I'd be interested to see and hear more about that.
I agree with Anonymous in the apocalyptic view. Everyone who is popular, in those books, is a jerk and depend on ridiculing others to feel adequate.
The DURSLEYS are whose attention Harry is vying. Dudly treats Harry badly and is freely given the attention of his parents. Draco Malfoy is popular. The only way for Harry to gain general acceptance is best him. Which in my view, this sets him up for failure. The author have to set Malfoy higher then Harry in order to knock Draco off the pedestal.
I don't know about alienation from family as a statistical phenomenon in the general population, but among the people who I know from the gifted program at my high school, none are particularly close with their families, either immediate or extended. Often, they have close connections with a sibling or two, but very rarely with their parents.
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