Nurturing Talent is Different than Cultivating Top Grades

This past week Canadians celebrated and recognized their top musicians at the annual Juno awards ceremony. The talents of the artists and performers, from Justin Bieber to ‘The Weeknd’ to Alessia Cara was extraordinary, as it is every year.
Last month we celebrated film achievements with the Academy Awards, in February it was the US Grammy awards (more music) and also a time to celebrate top (professional) hockey talent at the NHL All-Star game.

Stanley Cup      JunoAward     Yodeler

To win the Stanley Cup, a Juno award, or get top Yodeling honours, you’ll need perseverance and talent. Top grades in school? Not so much. And that’s okay.

And so it goes, all year and every year, in arts and sports, and also in almost any professional category you can think of including technology, design, cooking, fashion, jewelry, wine-making, instrument crafting, stand-up comedy, even yodeling, if you’re good, your skill may be recognized and deemed award-worthy by experts.
Clearly our society values talent and giftedness, and this works out pretty well for award-winners and nominees, and we often realize other spin-off benefits, too.

Watching demonstrations of special talent as an audience member, I celebrate alongside the award-winners and I also listen to the personal stories told about how talents were honed.
What I hear most often are stories of personal perseverance and also mentorship in which skills and guidance – borne of experience – were passed along, integrated and re-shaped.
That’s how talents are grown and nurtured.
That, of course, is very different than what happens in conventional schooling where talents are too-often overlooked or trumped by the needs, or will, or schooling to dominate a personal agenda.
“That’s nice that you want to practice your guitar (singing, dunking, cooking) but the xx test is next Tuesday and you need to focus on xx right now.”
At that moment, and in a thousand others just like it, personal desires are usually set aside and frustration is kindled.
And talent does not grow.
Achieving top grades may be valuable and may be worthy of cultivating, but let’s be honest enough to see and say that cultivating top grades is very different than nurturing talent.

If we want to truly nurture talent then the way to do that is through Personalized Learning that prioritizes Personalized Outcomes. This would focus on nurturing personal strengths and emphasize and enable personalized experiences that support the development of talent. And this would NOT be subsumed by a smothering, standardized process.
Schools have been confused about this for a long time, and our society is poorer for it.

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