Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Giftedness Awareness Blog Tour - The Problem with Big


We all grow up in different eras from our parents and grandparents, that is we did until the Internet was widely used.  When I was growing up, Iowa was my home.  It was the center of my experience, the source of most of my culture.  TV, of course, brought in the outside world, but it wasn't something to interact with.  It was somewhat like a book, in that it could influence you, but the influence was pretty much one way.  You had little effect on the outside world.  

And live culture, for the most part was local.  Most of the arts performances you saw were produced by local performers.  Occasionally a performer from outside came to the state fair, but, for the most part, cultural activities were locally produced, with homegrown talent.  If you performed in a dance recital, it was for a local audience, not the world.  If you sang in a choir, it was for your school or your community group.   
But this has changed a lot now that the Internet is so ubiquitous.  In the course of a few short minutes, I can interact with people from all around the world.  I can Skype with someone in Australia; I can chat with someone in India; I can look at and comment on Facebook pictures posted by a former student, who is visiting southern Chile.  

In general, I think this is great and it feeds my brain good things just about all day.  The Internet is addicting brain food.  

But... (and you knew there was going to be a "But...", didn't you?), there is one thing about the Internet that has recently come to my consciousness that I am still thinking about and trying to fit into my thoughts.  It is BIG.  In the "real" world, as opposed to just my local piece of it, there are lots of people who are really GOOD at lots of things.  

I have recently started performing and writing music.  This is perhaps a strange thing to do, for a 60+ year old person, who has only participated in group performances, such as choruses and who had never written music before, but, for some odd reason, I wanted to do it.  The problem is, in a previous era, you could engage in the arts and you didn't have to be especially good.  You mainly compared yourself to other local performers.  Chances are, those other local performers were also pretty good, but they weren't the world's best.  You might see the world's best on TV, or even once in a while in real life, but mainly the comparisons were with local people.  

So, now, I am wondering how this impacts kids who are growing up now.  How can they dare to write a poem, when there are thousands or even millions of poems available just by Googling "poem"?  How ostentatious it is to write a song, when there are millions of songs on YouTube, available just by clicking?  How does it impact someone who could be a gifted musician, when even when s/he is starting out, s/he has to compare the work s/he does to someone who is an expert already?

I lived in Alaska for a few years and was aware that there is a different mindset in those people who are somewhat isolated from the bigger world.  They participate more.  That is where I dared to participate in Cabaret; where I first dared to write my own song.  

How do we turn off our world-expert consciousness when we are trying something that we aren't yet good at?  How do we encourage the fledgling gifted creators?

1 comment:

  1. I agree! Getting kids to attempt new things is increasingly challenging for those that are hard on themselves. For some, the fact that they see other kids doing things makes it seem less daunting to try. Others will never even give it a go, just as you said, for fear that they won't be good enough.

    I guess the way to begin is to start with lots of self demonstration. I continuously attempt new things in front of my fourth graders and my own teenagers at home. They see me fail more often than not on my first attempts, but have lots of fun along the way.

    I also remind them that most of the talent we see online is the result of hundreds, if not thousands of hours of practice. True mastery is said to occur after 10,000 hours of practicing a skill. Think about how many times you've tied your shoes or brushed your teeth over the years! Why would learning any other skill be different? Yet many kids, especially the talented ones, expect to be good at things right away. When we support the effort and not the product, we encourage the attempts. It doesn't make the world any smaller, but it does make their efforts seem more worthwhile.