The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The importance of a good teacher

About a week ago, I took Fintan, three, to school on foot, rather than going by bus. Although this was an accident, at first - he had missed the bus, by a minute or two - it turned out to be a pleasant ten or fifteen minute walk with him.

As I walked, I realized that in the midst of a typical busy day, there isn't so much time for talking as one might wish.

I looked down at Fintan beside me, with his curly hair, so unusual in Singapore, a land of straight, jet black heads of hair and asked him:

"Fintan, what do you like most about school?"

I wasn't sure that he liked school at all, but by asking the question in a positive way, I thought I would direct his attention to the positive aspects of it.

"Chinese", he said, without delay.

Now that surprised me. My wife is Malay, not Chinese and no-one in his acquaintance actually speaks Chinese around him. It seemed to me the least likely of choices given such an unpromising linguistic background - though I have noticed him dropping the occasional Chinese word into conversation as far back as two years ago, even to me, when I don't actually speak it.

"Why do you like Chinese?" I prompted, curious at this odd choice of a difficult language as his favourite subject.

"Because my teacher likes Chinese.", he replied with a smile, as if remembering her enthusiasm.

How interesting: the enthusiasm of his teacher, had become his enthusiasm, too, even when the subject matter was difficult, given his background. I understood, in that moment, just how important the attitude of a teacher is, for a student.

I was happy for him.

"Do you want to speak Chinese when you grow up?" I pursued.

"Yes.", he nodded his curly head, his smile bigger than before.


I had had no idea that he liked Chinese so much. Walking him to school was so much better than putting him on a bus: it is called bonding, I suppose.

(If you would like to read more of Fintan, three, Ainan, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, or Tiarnan, twelve months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:09 PM 


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