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 +

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The importance of personality

I have been pondering the relationship between the observer and the observed with regards to a gifted student. Does what the teacher sees depend on which teacher is looking? I have reason to believe that it does.

In recent times, I have come to observe Ainan in different teaching situations. With some teachers, he opens up and is more fully himself than with others. In fact, with some teachers he is open, energetic, enthused, interested and alert: a delightful student. With other teachers, however, something in him goes on guard and he closes down. He becomes almost inert in their presence, unwilling to engage or contribute, with a tendency to be unresponsive. The child is the same. What is different is the situation he finds himself in. I think this phenomena will not be restricted to Ainan but may apply to many children: the environment in which they find themselves - in particular the match of their personality with that of the teacher will affect, greatly, the effectiveness of the teaching experience. With some teachers, the child - gifted or otherwise - will come alive. With other teachers, the child will close down and disengage and fail to co-operate fully with the learning experience.

What is it that makes Ainan respond as he does? Well, I think that he responds to warmth of character. In the presence of a warm character, he relaxes and opens up and becomes a very engaging and engaged student. In the presence of a cooler character, however, or even a cold one, he withdraws and disengages and doesn't wish to connect with either the teacher or the subject matter that the teacher wishes to relate.

Sometimes, therefore, if a child is not performing as they should in a particular class, you may need to look beyond the child and at the relationship with the teacher: what kind of person are they? How do they behave in the class? Is that kind of person likely to be accepted or rejected by your child?

This question is particularly important when it comes to deciding on the giftedness of a child. More than one teacher's views should be sought. Different teachers will have elicited different behaviour and seen different things. Some teachers may overlook a child's gifts because they have inadvertently switched the child off: other teachers will glow with remembrance of the wonderful child they have had the privilege to teach. The child is the same: it is the teacher who is different.

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:08 PM 


Blogger Jason Jones said...

This is very true. My son will size a person's nature up and react accordingly. Meeting a warm nature he will show things that amaze. With a cold nature you'd be lucky to get a hello.

When I have attempted to explain this to educators and even psychologists that come into contact with my son they somehow have acquired the opinion that if the child is gifted then it is always showing. That the child is always outgoing. They don't take into account that my son has a personality of his own.

As teachers they should know this, but it appears they have the old Locke attitude that children are empty vessels to be filled and manipulated. With this attitude it's no surprise why the US education system is in the state it is.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Jason for your confirmatory comment. So, my supposition that other children would react in a similar way, bears weight...

If your son doesn't like the psychologist/educator - I don't think he is going to show much of himself. This can create the situation in which the "professionals" who take a wrong approach to him, actually create the response which they observe and use as proof of their supposition: that he is not what you have come to understand him to be. It really doesn't help that they often think too highly of themselves and their ways - and don't realize that they are probably as often wrong as the next guy.

I wish you luck in navigating the US education system and finding a suitable set of stimulations for your son's growth. It would be a pity if you cannot find a way through.

It is good to hear from you again after so long.

Best wishes Jason to you and your son.

3:50 PM  

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