Saturday, February 26, 2011

Reflections on Dr. Silverman's Talk

On February 16, Seabury was proud to host Dr. Linda Silverman, director of the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development and its subsidiary, the Gifted Development Center, in Denver, CO, for a presentation to parents and educators of gifted children. Speaking on the topic, “If Our Child is So Smart, Why Aren’t Our Lives Easier?” Dr. Silverman addressed the characteristics of gifted children and their gifted parents, talked about how we can support the learning, growth and development of our gifted children, and talked about the joys and challenges of parenting our intense, sensitive, inquisitive, creative kids. It was a wonderful night for those who love and support gifted children.

Since that night, I have found myself reflecting on one small side note at the end of Dr. Silverman’s presentation regarding introversion and extroversion in the gifted population. Research, including Dr. Silverman’s own research, has shown that about 60% of typical gifted children tend to be introverts, a higher percentage of introverts than is found in the general population. Research has also shown that the more profoundly gifted a person is, the greater the likelihood that the person will tend toward introversion. As she explained this to participants, Dr. Silverman pointed to me and asked, “Sandi, would you say that more of your Seabury students are typically introverts than extroverts?” I agreed – yes, the 60/40 percentages she talked about seemed about right for Seabury students.

In and of itself, that is an interesting tidbit to think about, and something for parents and teachers working with gifted children to consider when setting expectations and building programs. But it struck me this week, as I have given tours of Seabury to visitors and prospective families, that the majority of our students don’t look like introverts to visitors. And I think that says something important about our school.

Introverts, by nature, have a strong interior life. They tend to keep much of who they are and what they think to themselves until they feel comfortable enough to begin to reveal their true selves. Extroverts, by contrast, tend to be more outwardly focused and are usually comfortable opening up to people they meet right away. When you meet extroverts, you often get to see the best of who they are immediately. When you meet introverts, at first you only see the small fraction of themselves that they are comfortable sharing right away. It is only as you begin to build a relationship with introverts that they begin to open up and you get to see the best of who they are.

In thinking about Seabury, it struck me that many of our kids who tend toward introversion, those who were extremely shy in other school settings or who are quiet when they are with people they don’t know, feel safe enough and comfortable enough to let down their guard and be themselves at Seabury. Some of the students who have become our leaders, especially in our upper grade classrooms, are introverts who were extremely shy when they were younger. Being in a safe environment among intellectual peers who understand and appreciate them, and among teachers who support and encourage them, gives our students the confidence to take risks and step outside their comfort zone, something that is vital to learning and growth. Our students who tend toward introversion will always be introverts, appreciating time alone for reflection and re-energizing. But when introverts feel safe enough to reveal their true selves, they are willing to explore, discover, take risks, and develop confidence.

Perhaps this resonated with me because I tend toward introversion, and so does my son. I have watched my son blossom and grow in his years at Seabury, going from being a preschool student afraid to talk to his teacher to someone who is a leader in his classroom, on his baseball team, and in many areas of his life. I am grateful that he has had the chance to grow up at Seabury, and to develop the self-confidence that he will need as he moves on to high school and college. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of a school community that supports and encourages all of our children to discover their gifts and develop their talents. And I am grateful to Dr. Silverman for helping me see the value of what we do at Seabury in a new light.

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