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New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education's Blog

What's the Story? 

Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


Hanging by a Thread

Visions of hope



Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all,


And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.


I’ve heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.


- Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) 



As I lay on the step of the deck, staring blurry-eyed up at the clear blue sky and the rustling leaves of the old tree, I realised with delight that there were tiny, shiny threads rippling in the wind; strands of sunshine holding tight to the littlest branches way up high. As the tears snuck quietly from the corner of my eyes - while for the second time in two days I waited with sadness in my heart for my child to find his inner calm so that we could resume our school day - I realised what an eloquent metaphor those threads were for life as a parent/whanau member of a multi-exceptional child.

Hope hangs on a thread at times - or so it seems.

For those among you who know the delights of your children’s curiosity, excitement, laughter and joy, yet watch your children struggle to settle at school, find their fit among peers, experience consistent stretch in their learning, be understood, feel safe and calm, come home after school without having a meltdown ... [insert any other challenge that your child and you share], ... this is for you.

Don’t lose sight of even the smallest glimmers of hope. For even if you feel like you are hanging on precariously everyday, it is still there...Hanging On Precariously Everyday...perhaps a little tricky to see, but there nonetheless. As Vivien Greene says, “it’s not about waiting for the storm to pass. it’s about learning how to dance in the rain”. (Perhaps excluding the likes of Cylcone Gita, which are in a category all of their own - in which case - find a sure shelter to bunker down with till the worst passes!)

As it is, I didn’t have a true appreciation until recently of just how many families feel this depth of despair and daily struggle. I was fortunate to be among a group of dedicated educators working with, and for, students with diverse needs and together we had the opportunity to watch the following video which demonstrates the impact responsive support can have for a child with unique needs. Tears flowed - and not just mine! Lots of people were impacted. Lots of people were filled with hope! So, I invite you now to grab a cuppa - and a box of tissues - and click play.



I hope that your heart is now brimming with hope too; with the realisation that no matter how hard your journey has been to date, there truly are wonderful, understanding, empathetic professionals out there who really want to make a difference for kids who need extra support - and who step up and make the change. Who else was just a liiiittle bit tempted to move to the ‘Naki after watching that? ;)

This wasn’t the only inspirational presentation we were afforded. Journalist Kirsty Johnston also shared a project she lead which culminated in a video series for the New Zealand Herald, entitled “Under the Bridge”. This involved following three students in their final year of school, in an endeavour to learn more about why their school, Papakura High, has been struggling to get sufficient enrolment numbers, and separately, to use media as a tool to help boost the profile of the school in a bid to provide a feedback loop to students to help lift self-concept and self-esteem among those attending the school. As Kirsty said, the kids read everything online and when the media publishes negative articles about their area it influences their identity formation - in a negative way. The reverse is also true - the very same reason why we try to catch our kids being good and explicitly acknowledge the wonderful things we are seeing. Anyway, have a watch and see what you think. My personal opinion is that we are getting to see gifted leaders in action, making change in and for their community. It’s a truly beautiful thing!


Under the Bridge video series:

Part One - Ghost School

Part Two - Battling the Odds

Part Three - A Sense of Hope


Our kids have voices - oral, written, artistic ... and they are powerful! Our job as their parents, whanau, advocates and guides, is to empower our kids to seek out opportunities to make a difference, no matter how small - or big. Service learning is one avenue for this. The New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education MindPlus programme includes caring thinking and service learning projects to help empower our gifted children through the development of skills, attitudes and beliefs that enable them to stand tall and stand strong, making a difference for them and their communities.

There are many other ways we can help our kids to make a difference, from encouraging our teens to participate in school council, stand for the role of Board of Trustees student rep, or get involved alongside their younger peers in the Future Problem Solving programme or in Youth Parliament. I’m sure your kids will have more ideas to add.


Free resources to help empower our kids


More inspiration for you and your kids

Hana Olds, one of NZCGE’s alumni, wrote “If Persistence was a Person” as part of her learning at Gifted Kids (now MindPlus) when she was just 12 years old. Her book tells the story of Professor Swee Tan and proceeds supported Professor Tan’s cancer research. You can hear Hana tell her own story here.

Ngaa Ruuira Puumanawawhiti shares his awesome journey of learning and service for his people, in the documentary “Maori Boy Genius”. He attributes his abilities, qualities, knowledge and opportunities to those who support him now as well as those who have come before him. This exemplifies the notion of Māori group giftedness, whereby collectively the community has supported Ngaa Ruuira, recognising his natural abilities and nurturing them, knowing that he will one day return to lead his people.

Jack Lanting is also a great role-model for leading change. Starting his fundraising efforts at age 8 to save a mistreated elephant called Lily, Jack is now embarking on a 1.8 million dollar fundraising project to develop an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. You can read more about his incredible story and his latest project on the Kwan Jai Elephant Project website and if you too have an animal rights enthusiast who would like to help Jack with his project, be sure to check out the “how to help” tab at the top of the page.


Wow! Are you feeling uplifted now? I hope at least a little bit. Together with our children and young people, we can Harness Our Passionate Energy...and use our hope for change where we can make it.





'What's the Story?' is a new blog section which is being written for the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, with posts being added regularly. The purpose of this space is to share musings and anecdotes relating to giftedness and gifted education to provide a form of information and support for those living with and/or teaching gifted learners. Please do share them along.


We would love to hear from you.  Grab a virtual cuppa and share your story in the comments.

What's the Story? Making the world a better place for gifted kids, one yarn at a time.


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Please note that the views expressed in these blogs are those of the author and not necessarily representative of the views of the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

 Image credit: cobweb-web-spdr-web-spiderweb by djhixon is licenced under CC0. The image has been modified.

Hanging by a Thread

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