Different thinking. is ‘different’ allowed in most schools? By allowed, I mean supported. Is thinking outside the box accepted, or even better, is it encouraged? Are we so caught up in bubbling A, B, or C, that we fail to see options G, K, Q, and even Z or the option that we didn’t even think of? We’re encouraging kids to think of black and white answers, when our world is filled with a million shades of grey.
Everytime I hear that old Apple ad, “Think Different,” I’m reminded. There are kids in our schools who think differently. Their thoughts push the limits, their ideas seem sometimes so far outside the box, the box no longer exists. They see the world through another lens. The world debates the label ‘gifted’, growing the misperception that these abilities are a prize, that something is owed, that this ability makes everything else easy. Then the world never gets past those perceptions to understand that ‘gifted’ is not about presents or knowing everything. At all. It’s about a different way of seeing, feeling, interpreting the world.
A way that can cloud some areas, yet bring intense, incredible clarity to others. A way that can bring on an intensity that is even hard for others to comprehend at times. A way we often try to perceive by seeing through our lens, instead of looking through the child’s.
We need different. Our schools do and our kids need the chance to live it. Out loud. Different ideas are the road to innovation, creativity, and world changing. A road we should be continually encouraging kids to be on. Even when their paths take roads we’ve never dreamed of. Because when our schools embrace different, we show kids that they have a place. They are valued. A place where they can grow, learn, and achieve new things. A place where we’ll stop debating the very meaning of the word ‘gifted’ and just get at what kids truly need. Because every single kid deserves understanding and support for growth.
There are kids in classrooms all over the world, seeing things through a different lens. Not learning because their needs are misperceived, misunderstood, and misaddressed. I think of them because I was one. I think of how that has made me a better educator. I’ve been on a continual quest to understand kids. To meet them where they are. To help them see where they can go, even if that place is something I can’t even imagine. To see through their lenses. To know that my view is never, ever the only view.
I won’t give up. Because every kid does have a right to grow. Every single day. Because different? There is nothing wrong with it at all. There’s just something wrong with the way we address it.
Different. Not better. Not less. Just different. It’s always worth taking a closer look.