It’s February—mid school year. It’s the time schools are notifying parents of standardized test results and final grades. It’s a great time for an in depth conversation about school with your child. In particular, it’s a great time to assess his anxiety level at school.
When I first started teaching K-5 gifted students, a fellow teacher told me that when she taught gifted children she made them STRUGGLE. STRUGGLE is "to proceed with difficulty or great effort." I thought that was an awful strategy. Thirty years ago, I STRUGGLED in law school. A creative thinker with no prior connection with the law, it took me awhile to understand the legal mindset. I used to joke that sending me to law school was like trying to force a sphere into a cube.
A wise middle school teacher told me that as a gifted teacher, I should aim for RIGOR: “the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate.” This should sound familiar to many of you; that’s exactly how most gifted students approach a problem. They understand that they are receiving more challenging work because they need rigor.
Still, “schools and teachers are under a lot of pressure to meet standards and that pressure gets passed on to students.” Time, 2/11/2013, p.44. Parents can help a child manage stress:
Approaches to managing stress include teaching the individual to be aware of bodily responses to stress, identifying faulty beliefs that may exacerbate stress, developing positive coping strategies, and practicing relaxation techniques. …[it may be] helpful to teach positive problem solving strategies or increase certain daily activities such as physical exercise or writing. Perhaps the most important assistance may be in the form of emotional support from a close adult.
(Genshaft & Boyles, 1991, p. 86), as reprinted in Silverman, Counseling the Gifted and Talented, p.103.
Last fall, one of my former students told me that she STRUGGLED—for the very first time--when she found herself taking all advanced placement and honors classes as a freshman in high school. It was the first time she ever had to study. She got herself out of the ditch by taking practice tests, a highly recommended strategy for dealing with anxiety. And she felt empowered because she had figured out her own solution.
I’d like to call what she experienced TRANSITION. I experience it every time I go back to school to take more classes. Eleanor Roosevelt said “Do something each day that scares you.” Being scared is one thing; anxious over a period of time is another.
Chat with your child. Make certain that he’s not anxious. School should be a rigorous, safe, and happy place.