It could be said that all children are sensitive. New to this world, they are taking in vast amounts of data that as adults we’ve grown accustomed too. Asking tons of questions and exuding enthusiasm over what we experience as common. This could be one of the reasons people have children. To experience the world through fresh eyes and delight in the sense of wonderment that accompanies the novelty of life.
Yet there are some children that are wired to take in even more data, ask even more questions, and show even more enthusiasm. They have uncharacteristically strong reactions to environmental stimuli. More often than not, these children are gifted or twice-exceptional. A person’s tone or body language, a sad scene in a children’s film, and even the seams on a pair of socks can trigger huge reactions that can cause people to ask, “What’s wrong with that kid?”
Nothing is wrong with that kid, but something is different!
This difference is inherent, and requires a modification in educational environment and pedagogy. It’s up to the adults in these children’s lives to create educational environments that respect a child’s sensitivity so it can evolve into a strength. In fact, I’m of the opinion that sensitivity is innately a strength. It’s a lack of empathetic experiences that turns sensitivity into a dysfunction.
When a sensitive child’s needs are heard, seen and respected, they are likely to become some of the most effective individuals on the planet. Naturally predisposed to deep observation and understanding, these children are also more likely to have innovative insights and thoughtful contributions to our world.
This is not to say that if you do A, B, and C your classroom will magically become peaceful. There are proper diagnoses to consider, and a child’s home life, as well as other variables. The method of operation for this work is two steps forward and one step back. But hey, at least we’re taking steps!
An attempt to meet a child’s needs contributes far more than no attempt.
When working with my sensitive, gifted and twice-exceptional students, I’ve found that taking an authoritative stance works best. I have high standards that I back up with genuine warmth and a commitment to flexibility. I also attend to their needs for partnership and choice.
Before beginning a new unit of study I ask my students “What do you already know about this topic? What would you like to know? How would you like to demonstrate your knowledge?” I’m genuinely curious about the answers my students are willing to give, and I do my best to make sure I follow up on their requests. Sometimes their responses are unexpected. Or their requests aren’t doable. But I know that providing a space for my students to lend their voices goes far in promoting classroom peace.
Do your communication or teaching strategies accommodate your sensitive students? Homeschoolers, I want to hear from you too!