Friday, April 16, 2010

Friends Forever

What a gift a friend is! Whether you are a preschool student or a middle school student or an adult, finding someone who cares about you, understands you, and who is just plain fun to be around is one of the joys of life. Whether it is a friend you can share favorite activities or hobbies with, or someone you can pour your heart out to, friends support us, ground us, and help us feel valued.

This week, I have been reminded again about the value of the connections Seabury’s children make with each other. On Monday, we returned from Spring Break, and as I walked through classrooms, I found students in one classroom after another who could hardly contain themselves, they were so excited to be reunited with their friends and to share all the experiences they’d had over the break. Teachers of all grade levels told me they had to take time to allow kids to reconnect before there was any hope that work could get done. This kind of connection between kids, and between kids and their teachers, is unique and valuable.

The literature about characteristics of gifted children typically describes gifted children as being more likely to be loners, or to prefer the company of adults or older children. In my experience, both at Seabury and working with gifted children in a public school setting, this is an incomplete description. It is true that gifted children do gravitate toward adults or older children, or keep to themselves UNLESS they have the opportunity to interact with other gifted children. Our kids think differently than other kids their age. Just as we adults choose friends who have common interests and ideas, children connect with children who are similar in terms of interests, maturity, and ideas.

If you are a 6 year old who thinks like a 9 year old, you are likely to have difficulty relating to the other 6 year olds, and may gravitate toward the 9 year olds or the adults who understand your sense of humor or want to think about the kinds of things you want to think about. But you are still 6, with a 6 year old attention span and 6 years of life experience. So there are still going to be gaps in your ability to connect with those who are older than you. If that same 6 year old has the chance to spend time with another 6 year old who also thinks like a 9 or 10 year old, how much more will they have in common? You can share your interest in Captain Underpants as well as your deep knowledge of the solar system. Your friend “gets” you on a variety of levels.

Over and over again, we see students come to Seabury who have been trying to find a place to connect in previous school settings. They have tried to make friends with their age peers, and sometimes have been successful in finding friends who share a common interest in a sport or an activity. But when they come to Seabury, they suddenly find themselves in a place where it isn’t only the adults who get their jokes; where they aren’t the only ones who want to know everything about a given subject. Who don’t think it is odd to lay awake at night worrying about global warming.

Gifted children want and need friends, just as all of us do. Sometimes our children need help making and keeping friends. But at Seabury, gifted children have the opportunity to share experiences with others who are not age peers, but who are true intellectual peers, and the synergies that come from those relationships are amazing to watch. It is one of the most precious gifts we give our children. And it is beautiful to see those relationships blossom and grow.

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