Beethoven’s teachers said of him, “…[he] was so headstrong and self-sufficient that he had to learn much through harsh experience which he had refused to accept when it was presented to him as a subject of study.” Since many bright students fit this profile, what can we do to help them?
Most advocates for the gifted realize that trouble often surfaces before achievement, but if the connection between stubbornness and brilliance were better known, we might be able to prevent early problems.
The most creative children are driven, as Beethoven clearly was, to learn in their own way. Regardless of conflicts with parents and teachers, they persist in their own course because they must. Hard-wired for independent learning, these children are often unable to process outside advice and so struggle alone with their early drives.
They need our guidance, but delivering it is tricky. A proven course is to stand aside, observe, commiserate when necessary, and in rare receptive moments, teach.
How to follow this procedure in a classroom, or even one-on-one, is as big a mystery as the psychology of gifted learners. However, if we understand the source of stubbornness in an able child, we’ll at least be heading in the right direction.