My husband and I just returned from taking four teenage boys to Chicago to look at universities. We’ve been taking students along on Fall Break for almost ten years now, and I love the vision the students have after spending a week in a place with so many choices. While many have gone on to choose Chicago colleges, most just see that there are choices beyond their home state.
Giving students this opportunity means accepting the risks that inherently come with choices. Many parents today would be happiest if they could eliminate all risks around their children. They do not seem to understand how incredibly unhappy that makes their kids. It is the children of those parents who run and never look back when they finally experience “choosing.”
Making choices is always risky. No one is guaranteed a risk-free life. Every time we eat out, we risk sickness from food preparation or an infected cook. Strapping ourselves into a steel vehicle and traveling at high velocities is a risk every time. We accept these risks, though, because we’re too tired to cook or walk the miles to Wal-Mart.
Gifted kids want the freedom to choose more than the average kid. They feel smarter and more mature (even when they are not!), and they are anxious to prove how wise they are. I have found over the years that sometimes the best teachable moment comes in the humble minutes right after a wrong choice. That’s a time when the gifted kid is vulnerable and just wants to make sure he never feels this way again. A forgiving reprimand about better choices can make a big impact.
We as teachers and parents cannot be afraid of the pain of choices. We must let our children understand why a choice is good or bad. Sometimes this requires that we let our kid do risky things… like travel out of state with his principal and his PE teacher to look at colleges in a big city. There are so many things we do daily that public schools would deem too risky. The “risk” of which they speak is the risk of a lawsuit. Who knows? We might get sued in the long run, but for now, the risks we’re asking our kids and their parents to choose to take have been nothing but beneficial. After all, isn’t that the point of private school: choice?