Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Innate Talents: Does Everyone Have Them?

I've been thinking a lot lately about talent.  

I'm very lucky that I was born with a talent for writing.  I'm not sure I would have graduated from high school without my gift for writing, to be honest with you.  Thank goodness for essay questions ;-)  

I write a lot of stuff these days, but I'm sort of selective about what I share.  I guess what I'm saying is, God/Higher Power of Your Choice/the unique combination of my mother's and father's genes that made me added a passion for the written word.

My parents in general supported that talent.  They let me read everything I could get my hands on (my dad actually taught me to read before I was three), and they were generally willing to discuss issues that came up in literature.  

I never really got into showing my parents my writing.  Stephen King wrote in his novella The Body:

"The act of writing itself is done in secret, like masturbation--oh, I have a friend who has done things like write stories in the display windows of bookshops and department stores, but this is a man who is nearly crazy with courage, the kind of man you'd like to have with you if you just happened to fall down with a heart attack in a city where no one knew you. For me, it always wants to be sex and always falls short--it's always that adolescent handjob in the bathroom with the door locked."

I guess that sort of explains how I feel about writing.  There is some of my creative writing posted on this blog, but I am hesitant, always hesitant, to share.

Why?  Because I want to be a writer, not just someone that writes.  

But this isn't really about me (although I am desperate enough to have put up "the button" in a desperate attempt to collect nickels and dimes through my writing).

I got talking to a woman at Ari's gymnastics class today about children and their talents, and we agreed that a) both of our kids are very talented gymnasts, and b) there is a direct correlation between parental involvement and a child's success.

My sister was musical, so my parents made sure that she got music lessons.  My brother was athletic, so my parents made sure he had athletic gear.  I was a reader and a writer, so they made sure I had access to books and a typewriter (stop laughing ;-)).

By the same token, Emily has a gift for music.  She plays the saxophone, bassoon, and piano.  This is her just messing around to entertain her sisters.  I think it's pretty amazing.

Because we realized very early on that she had this gift, Em has had music lessons for most of her life.  She uses her gift each and every day.  

But what if she did not have family that supported her passion?  Would she have found music on her own, or would it have dried up from disuse?

We actually had a hard time finding Ari's gift.  We've always known that she was athletic, so we signed her up for soccer, field hockey, and t-ball, but she was never into it.  

What I did notice when I was watching her on the playground was that she was like a....well, like a monkey on the different types of bars.  That kid was born to climb, and her flexibility and confidence were obvious.  When we moved to New Hampshire's biggest city, gymnastics was finally an option for her.

She started gymnastics classes in September, missed two weeks when she had her tonsils out, missed a month and a half when she was in a cast from breaking it while screwing around at the grocery store (only Ari), and this video is from probably a month ago.

As for Gabrielle, this is her first big accomplishment (this was also months ago):

But I do think about what possible talents are living inside of The Gabs.  We already know she has a fantastic sense of humor; she has a belly laugh and a heart-melting smile.

But what if Jeff and I just gave her the bare minimum in terms of nourishment, hygiene, and attention (as if, but just hypothetically)?  Would she still reach her potential?

I see a lot of kids--a lot of adults, too, now that I think about it--that have no idea of the talents that run through their veins, of the untapped opportunities.  They just sort of settle.

And that makes me exorbitantly sad.

Do you think people with a gift are likely to find it on their own without parental guidance, or do you think there are a lot of missed Rembrandts, Mickey Mantles, Beethovens, and so forth? 

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...