Presented by Dr. James R. Delisle
Is It a Cheetah?
By Stephanie S. Tolan
The child, who does well in school, gets good grades, wins awards, and “performs” beyond the norms for his or her age, is considered talented. The child who does not, no matter what his innate intellectual capacities or developmental level, is less and less likely to be identified, less and less likely to be served.
A cheetah metaphor can help us see the problem with achievement-oriented thinking. The cheetah is the fastest animal on earth. When we think of cheetahs we are likely to think first of their speed. It’s flashy. It is impressive. It’s unique. And it makes identification incredibly easy. Since cheetahs are the only animals that can run 70 mph, if you clock an animal running 70 mph, IT’S A CHEETAH!
Certain conditions are necessary if it is to attain its famous 70 mph top speed…it must be healthy, fit, and rested. It must have plenty of room to run. Besides that, it is best motivated to run all out when it is hungry and there are antelope to chase.
If a cheetah is confined to a 10x12 foot cage, though it may pace or fling itself against the bars in restless frustration, it won’t run 70 mph. IS IT STILL A CHEETAH?
If a cheetah has only 20 mph rabbits to chase for food, it won’t run 70 mph while hunting. If it did, it would flash past its prey and go hungry! Though it might well run on its own for exercise, recreation, fulfillment of its internal drive, when given only rabbits to eat, the hunting cheetah will run only fast enough to catch a rabbit. IS IT STILL A CHEETAH?
If a cheetah is fed Zoo Chow it may not run at all. IS IT STILL A CHEETAH?
If a cheetah is sick or if its legs have been broken, it won’t even walk. IS IT STILL A CHEETAH?
And finally, if the cheetah is only six weeks old, it can’t yet run 70 mph. IS IT, THEN, ONLY A “POTENTIAL” CHEETAH?
A school system that defines giftedness (or talent) as behavior, achievement, and performance is as compromised in its ability to recognize its highly gifted students and to give them what they need as a zoo would be to recognize and provide for its cheetahs if it looked only for speed.
From “Is it a Cheetah?© 1996 Stephanie S. Tolan. Used with permission. The complete essay is available on the web at http://www.stephanietolan.com/is_it_a_cheetah.htm.
Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences.
From J.R. Delisle, Once Upon a Mind: The stories and scholars of gifted child education. 2000. Used with permission of Dr. James Delisle.
17 Ways to Show You Care
- Excerpted from the Research Institute of Minneapolis
86 words of encouragement for children.
If there is any single bit of advice to give parents to improve child behavior, it is positive reinforcement. In order to never run short of appropriate words for this purpose, use this list.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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