When they are smashed together, know, it, and all become the three most venomous words with which to bite a gifted and twice-exceptional child. There is nothing like the sting of being called a know-it-all and there is nothing one can do to salve the shame which goes along with being told you know too much when you feel as though there is still so much to learn.
From the moment all of us are born, our parents and society want us to know, know, know. Our cradle toys expand our minds, our relatives coo big words towards our gurgles, and somewhere between flash cards and expansive educational programs, we send the message to our children that the more they know, the more they can recall, the more that they are filled with knowledge…. The more they will fit into this world.
Call it survival of the fittest, call it the growth of our souls, call it whatever you want; but please, please don’t call it know-it-all. Because the truth of the matter is that the more you know, the less you feel as though you fit in.
The cute and precocious signs of giftedness in our toddlers quickly become something to hush around others, chastise in classrooms, and diminish inside of ourselves. Truth be told, if gifted adults and children shared everything we knew every single time we knew it then we would barely be able to function in our day-to-day lives. Sure, there are careers and times in one’s life when knowing the right answer first is admirable and necessary; but from a social perspective, when taking it outside of the conference hall and away from our colleagues, it is another issue altogether.
There are too many times we feel embarrassed, insecure, or ashamed to admit that we know exactly what someone means, possibly more than they do about the topic, and have long ago stopped listening.
This is not some arrogant proclamation; on the contrary, at any given moment during the day gifted children and adults feel as though they are but a small part of the indelible mix of the world’s collaborative knowledge. It is as if we are swimming swimming swimming through it, trying desperately to fill the millions of gaps we feel inside. There is never an end to the search for more and there is never a time we say, “I know it all.”
The gaps are where light comes in. We need light to grow and when you call a gifted child a know-it-all, you shade them with words that don’t match how they feel inside. They still see light, but become ashamed of what already exists, worrying that they are selfish or conceited because they want to know more.
I have to tell a story here. When I was about nine years old I decided I was more interested in dogs than my current knowledge expressed and I took to the shelves. I found the gigantic blue American Kennel Club guide to dog breeds and I read the entire thing. Many times. For a very long time, I lived and breathed all things DOG. There was not and probably is still not a dog breed so obscure walking around that I couldn’t identify him or her upon site. It really is a useless bit of knowledge which will only serve me well if AKC trivia becomes popular someday; but until such time, it’s just an annoying little bit of me which I sometimes wish didn’t exist.
So, what’s the trouble with knowing approximately 150 breeds of dogs?
Well, nothing really. It is fun looking at mutts and purebreds and knowing where they came from and what they were bred to do and think. If I’m at a park and see a family walking a Labrador Retriever, it doesn’t bother them at all that I immediately know they have a Black Lab. Who doesn’t know a Black Lab? But what about that gentleman who lives near me and walks his Bouvier des Flandres around the lake at the same time I walk; well, I can say with certainty that he doesn’t want the world to know he has a Bouvier. He wants me to oooh and aaah and ask what breed of dog it is and then say, “Oh! I’ve never heard of that!” as he regales me with the history of his Bouviers.
Imagine if we stopped to chat and I said, “Wow, a Bouvier here in town! You don’t see that every day! Did you know their name literally translates to cow herder of Flanders? They are quiet and sweet dogs but were used as guard dogs for a short while. They even pull carts in all weather, thanks to that heavy build and thick coat. Yes, it’s not every day you see a Flemish dog go by!”
That would be crazy, admittedly; and I admit, I have never said that to him. Every time we pass one another, I just smile and say good morning. Or not.* (*see past posts about introverts, curly-haired-crazy-eyed-me, and social anxiety and such)
So before this blog goes completely to the dogs, let me tell you why I used the dog story to make my point.
I have enough impulse control to not share everything I know. But why would I be ashamed of knowing his dog’s breed is a Bouvier? Why can’t I simply say, “Good morning! What a lovely Bouvier you have?” The answer came to me yesterday as I passed my Flemish-dog-loving neighbor: I was never taught to be JOYOUS in my knowledge.
This series is all about the JOY of gifted and twice-exceptional children. There is tremendous joy inside of them which seeks to be shared at every moment of every day. If my child read about Bouviers and saw a Bouvier walk by, she would want to exclaim from the rooftops every little detail she knew and then ask him every question she could think of to know more. It would not be because she is conceited, arrogant, or a know-it-all, it is because she finds great JOY in knowing.
And that is exactly what we taught our children when they were born. We taught them that there is JOY in knowing. We taught them that there is JOY in searching to know more.
After all, the days of a child being seen not heard, shushed and told to keep it in, and called names for knowledge… those days are gone. And where they are not gone, we must find a way to end them quickly.
Here is my idea… Instead of seeing an excess of knowledge as a know-it-all, what if we called it know-it-well? Go ahead, call me a know-it-well. It won’t hurt my feelings and it’s quite accurate.
It’s funny how changing one word takes the phrase from a negative to a positive. The receiver went from being a derogatory know-it-all to someone who knows something well. Who doesn’t want to know something well? Isn’t that key to survival? Isn’t that why we learned from the moment we were born to do something a particular way? Yes, a know-it-well does not necessarily know it better, know it first, know it most… a know-it-well; well, we just know it.
I proclaim with pride that I am a know-it-well! I do know well what my children need to be happy. The cute and precocious parts of my children are what I want to develop as much as I can and as often I they will let me. I will make sure they feel JOY in what they know and if their teachers don’t understand, then I will advocate for that JOY! As for that drive to fill the millions of gaps… that is what I adore about my children; and if I’m completely candid with you, that drive is what I love about myself.
This is what I know well. This and dog breeds.