Austin Creek Educational Systems Professional Quality Educational Presentations and Consultation
  • Jun

    “Give him a fire in his heart a light in his eyes and the wild wind for a brother …” John Denver

    John Denver’s lyrics reflect my definition of a gifted learner. Fire, light, and wind are also expressed in definitions developed by leaders in this field, by observant practitioners of gifted education, and by intuitive parents of gifted children.

    Fire, light, and wind as expressed by Renzulli and Reis are paralleled in their three rings of the giftedness: the intersection of task commitment, above average ability, and creative thinking. Renzulli and Reis believe that unless and until all three elements are present in the learner, gifted abilities fall short of realizing potential promise. Along with strong intellect, the learner must also possess a curiosity that sparks creative thinking and accommodates their intensity of thought and action. This intensity leads toward a learner-defined end and is evidenced through task commitment to that end.

    Dr. George Betts’ Autonomous Learner Model defines Renzulli’s, and by connection, Dabrowski’s, intensity as passions. His work relies on research with both children and adults. This research verifies that gifted individuals of all ages share the common trait of intensity or passionate interest in a topic or idea. These passions are translated into hunger for new ideas, engagement of intellect to learn more and creative thought to explore an idea to its depths, fire, light, and wind. Dr. Betts’ concept of giftedness as explored in his Autonomous Learner Model is evidenced as a gifted person’s passions and interests result in autonomy of thought and action.

    Teachers, administrators, and counselors for gifted children observe the fire, light, and wind and share those experiences through anecdotes, journals, and portfolios.
    They tell of children with the fire in their hearts who hook onto an idea or a topic and explore it to its full extent, often to the exclusion of all other work and play. Their commitment to a task is all encompassing, even to the exclusion of tasks deemed necessary and vital by their teachers and/or parents. The realization is that, if the fire is present, it must be given time to spark, flame, and come to its natural conclusion at a pace determined by the gifted learner.
    The light in their eyes can be content related, socially expressed, or hidden from view. According to Dr.Betts’, there are those with the light who choose to hide their intellect in favor of social acceptance. These children express abilities only when socially acceptable or in the privacy of their home. However, there are also gifted children who let their light shine in educational settings. For example, when students are allowed to accelerate in specific subject areas, given opportunity with a mentor, or develop an independent study, their light glows and grows in intensity.
    The companion wild wind in children is expressed through journals and portfolios and by explorations of their passions. Creativity, the wild wind, must be nurtured and developed. Time allows children to create. Educators who are willing to let go some of the structure in the regular classroom find their rewards in the children who follow the wind. Students’ creativity with content, process, and product not only provide a constant source of joy and amazement but also allow for the development of a creative, productive adult.
    Parents often recall and relate stories of their children’s fire, light, and wind. They tell of children who react in a very age appropriate way in many situations, but who react differently from their age mates in others. For example, they may play well with other children, but prefer to discuss topics of personal interest with older children or adults. They may create novel objects or games from ordinary household items just for fun or for personal entertainment, yet may have difficulty with motor skills necessary to complete the project they envision. They may carry on conversations, which include advanced level vocabularies in their areas of interest, or may argue quite naturally, and effectively, with their siblings and peers. Parent’s intuition and perceptions tells them that their children need a different kind of education.
    Whether evidenced by researcher, practitioner, or parent, gifted children’s educational opportunity must be just that, an opportunity. This opportunity must recognize and validate the unique characteristics and abilities of gifted thinkers and learners. This opportunity must be allowed to grow in intensity, depth, and complexity of thought and action. As educators we can recognize the light, stoke the fire, and appreciate the wild wind for the fresh breeze it blows into our lives.