Oscar’s Gift Reading Guide: Day 12
“‘The other boys nicknamed me “oddball.” I was an oddball because I read more than they did. I learned more. And I dreamed bigger. I was glad to be an oddball.’” ~ Oscar’s Gift: Planting Words with Oscar Micheaux
The lines, below, from Patrick McGilligan’s biography of Oscar Micheaux were what made me know that if I were to write about Micheaux, I needed to write for and about children:
‘About the only thing for which I was given credit was in learning readily,’ Micheaux recollected, ‘but was continually critiqued for talking too much and being too inquisitive.’ (p.11)
“His peers nicknamed him ‘Oddball,’ and older people regarded him more suspiciously as ‘worldly, a free thinker, and a dangerous associate for young Christian folks.’” (p.13)
Everything I read about the early life of the novelist and filmmaker reminded me of what I have learned about gifted children. They are not just smart. They are also usually intense, inquisitive, excitable, sensitive, perfectionistic—and often all at the same time! What author Stephanie Tolan wrote in 1990 about highly gifted children rings just as true today (from ERIC EC Digest #E477):
“To understand highly gifted children it is essential to realize that, although they are children with the same basic needs as other children, they are very different. Adults cannot ignore or gloss over their differences without doing serious damage to these children, for the differences will not go away or be outgrown. They affect almost every aspect of these children’s intellectual and emotional lives.
A microscope analogy is one useful way of understanding extreme intelligence. If we say that all people look at the world through a lens, with some lenses cloudy or distorted, some clear, and some magnified, we might say that gifted individuals view the world through a microscope lens and the highly gifted view it through an electron microscope. They see ordinary things in very different ways and often see what others simply cannot see. Although there are advantages to this heightened perception, there are disadvantages as well.
Since many children eventually become aware of being different, it is important to prepare yourself for your child’s reactions. When your child’s giftedness has been identified, you might open a discussion using the microscope analogy. If you are concerned that such a discussion will promote arrogance, be sure to let children know that unusual gifts, like hair and eye color, are not earned. It is neither admirable nor contemptible to be highly gifted. It is what one does with one’s abilities that is important.”
Knowing they are not alone in their oddball-ness is crucial for the social and emotional health of gifted people of all ages, which is why I gave Tomas the mentor that every highly gifted child needs and deserves.
Photo credit: Dominic Morel
Click HERE for the full Oscar’s Gift Reading Guide.