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education

The Gift

May 16, 2019

Gifts are always tricky. Not only as birthday presents. Giftedness in children is hard to identify and even harder to develop. Filmmaker Marc Smolowitz is currently shooting a documentary he calls The G Word because to him, giftedness is also about “grit and growth.” But the documentary may be more about the letter H. “One thing you’ll see in this movie,” says Smolowitz, “is a lot of hope.”

The cameras focus on students in Indian reservations, communities along the U.S.-Mexican border, small-town America, and inner cities. “Because of circumstance, the way the world disenfranchises people,” says the filmmaker about his search for gifts, “it becomes more a question about how you announce your self-agency, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-efficacy. Those four ‘selfs’ have to be in play for a child to look in a mirror and say, yes, I’m smart, and yes, I can be successful in school, and yes, I am gifted.”

The truth is every child is “gifted,” and it’s up to teachers and parents to discover and nourish those gifts, even if they don’t look like the usual academic achievements. We have no trouble including sports ability as a gift along with math proficiency, singing talent, science competence, and artisan skills. But sometimes a child can have the gift of empathy, kindness, asking annoying questions (like Socrates), or extended periods of focus on one thing. One of my students was gifted at meteorology. He had an ability to predict and describe weather patterns. One could grow all kinds of plants. Another student had a gift for electrical wiring. When we went on a museum field trip, he ignored the paintings and marveled at the wall sockets and circuit breakers. One student could speak fluent Klingon. And one had a gift of speaking backwards. You might ask, what good is that? How is that a gift? It delighted me.

When students feel that things that make them different are actually gifts, they’re more inclined to share their gifts. Giving gifts can be contagious. There’s something sad about returning gifts to the store unopened. There’s something tragic about having a gift and never opening it or using it.

Learn more about The G Word at http://www.thegwordfilm.com/

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