We’ve heard the word “dreamers” in the news a lot recently in relation to immigration. This post is about another type of dreamer. In our work with gifted, talented, and creative youth, we find another category of dreamers—young people who have dreams. At SIG, we do our best to nurture those youthful dreams, whether they be short term or long term. Dreamers spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for possibilities they would like to see happen. Rather than thinking these ideas are unlikely to happen, we choose to believe that these young people are visionary, using their intelligence and creativity to imagine and manifest the future they want.
Gifted youth may have very simple, short term dreams, such as being able to accelerate in school according to their pace, not according to that of the majority. Or, they may dream that they can choose an alternate topic for a personal study that is different from what their peers are doing, or be in a class with other students who share their interests and abilities. They may just want to be accepted for who they are. These are examples of dreams that we as adults can help facilitate and turn into reality.
Gifted youth also have dreams that are more expansive than these short-term dreams. They may seek world peace; they may want interstellar travel; they might pursue a cure for cancer or believe they can solve world hunger. Their digital minds likely contain ideas for technological dreams I can’t begin to imagine. They may have millions of additional big or small dreams.
As adult facilitators of the needs of gifted and talented youth, we have a responsibility to do all we can to help them transform their dreams into reality. We are called to do so in multiple ways, daily.
- Create a positive environment that is encouraging and where criticism is constructive, not demoralizing. We all know that negative criticism kills creative ideas. We want to create an environment in which unusual ideas are encouraged and open-ended questions are the norm. We want to encourage the dreams of young people, rather than deflate them.
- Teach students to focus on their dreams so they can be persistent enough to turn them into reality. Learning to set goals will be critical here. Goals will need to be short term and long term, and will likely need to change as students gain knowledge and experience along the way. Successful dreamers stay focused on the end goal.
- Remove external obstacles that keep students from reaching their dreams. Provide flexibility in project assignments, or allow students to advocate for different timelines or alternate courses of study that might be better related to their dream areas. Provide them with the resources they need to learn all they can about topics related to their end goals.
- Support internal motivations to help them experience independence and responsibility, which will be critical in persevering to the end goal. Encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning and express their preferences for what, how, and when they want to work on their ideas. We want them to learn to become their own best judge/navigator through their goals so that they can attain those dreams. Providing practice in this internal drive for direction will be immensely helpful in their dream future.
- Provide examples of other dreamers who have accomplished what they set out to do. Look for examples of people who worked in similar fields or who had a desire to do make a difference in similar ways. Have students analyze their processes to those of famous dreamers and compare similarities and differences. Examples may range from Elon Musk, to Mother Teresa, to the most famous dreamer of all, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Enjoy the process! Gifted, talented, and creative students often express that the process of getting to their product was the most interesting and exciting aspect of the complete problem-solving process. And, as one’s ultimate dream might be decades away, it will be important to sustain interest and energy in that dream for a long time. Finding ways to enjoy the research, problem solving, collaborations, and discoveries along the way will certainly add to the enjoyment. The more you enjoy something, the more eager you are to engage in it.
These are just some of the ways we can work alongside our gifted students to let them know we value their life dreams, and acknowledge their immediate goals in working toward those dreams. In the end, we all benefit from their efforts. Not only is it our responsibility to help gifted youth attain their dreams, but as businessman Les Brown said, “Help others achieve their dreams and you’ll achieve yours.”