Don’t get me started on dictionary definitions. They are the denotations of language but let us be serious. When is the last time any of us used a dictionary to gain meaning that we did not already understand? We use them to check spelling, to reinforce knowledge that we already possess, and to grease the gears of our minds working as we try to reword something for the benefit of ourselves and others. Why is it, then, that when there are disagreements some folks go to the dictionary for a definition? Makes no sense. Especially when we have retooled so much of the vernacular to where it is but a shadow of its original meaning.
When discussing constructs such as ‘talent,’ I understand that this is a term that provokes an emotional response. Sentimentality swells within. We think of our own experiences, the experiences of our children, the experiences of our neighbors and our friends. We like to label students as talented and we like to call people genuises–we like to have heroes. We like to perpetuate our personal myths. This is not an issue of semantics. It is an issue of honesty.
Who are these diviners? These mystics and magicians? Where is the man or woman who can read minds, see the future, and decide whether a student possesses talent? And when they make that decision, what do they do? They tell the student and the family of the student. Tell them they are special, that they have a gift? What effect does that experience have on that individual? And what are the eventual outcomes? To those who “know it when they see it,” how is your track record?
Something that I often say when addressing future educators is this: We do our students a tremendous disservice when we view them through the lens of our experience. Our past has been romanticized in our minds. We must come to terms with that. We tell our stories so many times that they have become myth and we perpetuate those myths and they become distant from the reality of the original context.
“Success is a peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”-Coach John Wooden (1910-2010)