Monday, July 21, 2014

The Problem With Gifted Girls -- And What About The Slow Learners?

By Regina Pickett Garson, Magic Stream

The not so recent “The Trouble with Bright Girls” By Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. (Psychology Today) -- originally published in her Science of Success column -- is a good article and appears to be making the rounds again. The gist of Halvorson's study is that very bright female students take it for granted that whatever learning task is before them is going to be easy, and it frequently is for the bright ones.

However, where the problem emerges is, as they get older, when they go into situations where not everything is perhaps so easy, instead of rolling up their sleeves, they tend to shut down for lack of confidence. Instead of pulling ahead, when it appears they would be leading the so-called pack, they fall behind their peers.

The reason this does not appear to be such a problem for young male students is that they are frequently so much more difficult just to manage and learn to sit still and get through the lessons, since it doesn't so often come naturally, they probably learn more active self-control skills in the early education process. Furthermore, since the whole thing about learning to sit through school was such a task, the end result is that they learn to actively focus when they face new and challenging material and they don’t tend to give up so easily. Although this scenario is a disadvantage during the early school years, it can be a big advantage in going forward later in life.

Halvorson's article put much in perspective for me. I was not a bright kid and was pretty much what would be considered a slow learner. It is so untrendy to admit such. However, since I was also mostly considered on the gifted side when it came to music, it was an odd mix. I almost flunked the first grade because that thing called reading was completely eluding my comprehension. Then I was pretty much fluent reading music before I was fluent at reading words, as in the English language, so I am certain that influenced some things in my life, although I don’t know exactly what or how, but also could have been that at times folks do seem to think maybe I look at things different, and it could be that I do since my learning path really was different from the accepted/expected US norm.

However, where I think the whole thing turned into an advantage for me is just what they say in the article, since learning was such a struggle in my early years, I never took any single part of it for granted and my sleeves were rolled up tight when it came time to get my head around something new, always have been. Moreover, once I got it, I got it; but sometimes to this day, it can still take a minute. My advantage though is that when there is a need, I know I am going to have to take that minute to get my head around whatever the material, and I tend to do that. Nevertheless, even in my adult life, I also have the realization that slow understanding can also lead to a much deeper understanding, and that has been to my advantage many times over.

After my own struggles, it puts the struggles of others in perspective as well. Male or female, being a so-called "bright" student is not always a blessing. In addition, over the years, somewhat perplexed given my own struggles, I have been aware of my brighter peers faltering when the material got rough. I've also seen really bright guys just hang it up, a been there done that thing, nothing else to be done. That bothers me as well; I don't think this is just a female gender issue, although it seems to play out different for males and females.

I'd love to hear your comments on this one. What are your thoughts or experiences, as either a slow or a gifted learner?

Copyright 2014 Regina Pickett Garson
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