Pencils, Backpacks, and Perspective: What We Can Learn From Kid Geniuses

It seems every day there are more and more genius kids popping up in the news. From toddler Elise Tan Roberts who became the youngest member of MENSA with an IQ of 156, to Akrit Jaswal who read Shakespeare at five and performed surgery at seven, and even to six year old Tanishq Mathew Abraham, who has taken five math classes at Stanford and started high school. Now these examples of whiz kids aren’t meant to make anyone feel inadequate. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I want to focus on the motivation and encouragement these kids receive and how their examples can inspire better teaching.

None of these talented kids would be where they are today, succeeding beyond all expectations, without immense support from their families and teachers. If their talents had not been recognized and pushed, they might have remained underestimated and bored in typical school environments. Luckily, every day, they are encouraged and recognized for both their smarts and their hard work. How can we apply what seems impossible for the average child to typical education?

You might have noticed that I have used the words “encouragement” and “support” several times. This was not an accident. While applicable and efficient teaching methods may vary for individual students, there are a few common practices which can guide students toward success in any situation. These of course are encouragement and support. No matter what their capability any student can thrive given proper attention and help. Rather than rewarding students for 100′s on tests, I say reward them for effort, for improvement, for hard work. This will foster their own intrinsic motivation and be a gentle push rather than suffocating pressure.

Personally, I benefited greatly from small classrooms and teachers who were genuinely invested in my education and success. Obviously, small classes and lots of individual attention aren’t possible in every school, but that doesn’t mean the same results can’t be pursued. Get inventive! Get innovative! You may be surprised by the results.

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