"High-potentials", these children who suffer in classrooms

As we recalled with Patrice Adam in the book All talented : The Conversation

“The management of“ talented young people ”, intellectually precocious children according to French terminology, must be a central concern as it has a medium or long-term impact on organizations. Unfortunately, if many countries have implemented the recommendations formulated in 1994 by the Council of Europe to avoid "wasting talents and consequently human resources for lack of anticipation in the detection of intellectual and other potentialities", many of these potential young people - who constitute between 3 and 10% of the European school population - are in a situation of failure and dropping out of school. "

From precocious to zebra

Even if the term can induce in the child, who, aware of this "advantage" but who would not use it, a form of pressure, the term of high intellectual potential (HPI) is more suitable for those generally qualified as early or gifted. In addition, this name clearly shows that it is a question of a “potential” which will not necessarily be realized.

Être HPI, it is above all having a different way of thinking and a different structure of thought and this is the reason why the child then the adult HPI (because one remains so all his life and even beyond since it would seem that the phenomenon is transmitted) may encounter serious adaptation difficulties both during their schooling and in society in general. However, it is important not to indulge in simplification because all HPI not responding to the same personality traits.

The betts works identify profiles based on their behaviors, attitudes, needs, perceptions of others and help to provide them. We thus find the "successful", "creative", "underground", "at-risk", "multi-exceptional" and "autonomous learner" each with its own specificities.

Another very interesting approach is that of the clinical psychologist Jeanne Siaud-Facchin. The practitioner was able, through a relevant metaphor, to personify these individuals with a thought pattern "outside the norm" somewhat attenuating all the fantasies and prejudices attached to this particular population. Thus she prefers the name of "zebra" to them, because she considers that "it is one of the few wild animals that man has not been able to domesticate" and that its coat alternating shadows and light embodies entirely his character: that, paradoxical, bringing together splendor of life and destructive and even suicidal feelings.

Indeed, the question of suicide remains thorny. Numerous studies show that these young HPI are more exposed to major syndromes including suicidal tendencies. The cause ? The feeling of isolation often caused by a misunderstanding of their teachers, their family but especially their age peers with whom they try to share reflections that highlight the inconsistencies, the injustices of a world that is presented to them and which does not correspond to their ideality. When speaking out on these "adult" topics, they do not always receive a sympathetic and sympathetic ear and are unfairly judged as extravagant, offbeat, even pretentious. In return, it will be astonishment and surprise at the best of times. Otherwise, it will be mockery or even brutal hostility.

This is why the incomprehension that they regularly undergo generates a frustration which, accompanied by a loss of meaning makes their construction difficult and can quickly cause them to fall into a form of existential depression which James t webb describes perfectly well .. But for Cecile Bost, these existential concerns also push them to invest intensely in academic, political, social or religious activities. Moreover, because they are different, they are interested in the biographies of characters who have chosen to follow “extraordinary” paths, different... in which they can identify

Prevent children with high potential from being bored at school.

Different and complex

Indeed, it is the word different who defines them best and it is no coincidence that Dr. Revol, a child psychiatrist specializing in HPI, regularly recalls that

“Precocious children are not quite children like the others, but like the others, they are children.

It is therefore reductive to consider the intelligence quotient (IQ) as the only criterion for evaluating HPI. Indeed, if we agree, admitting that HPIs have an IQ greater than 130 (i.e. 30 points above the average, which represents 2,2% of the population (in France and Switzerland), the question is much more complex and requires a much more global approach, because it is indeed a tree-structure thought coupled with an emotional hypersensitivity that we can observe. This is the reason why these specificities can represent an asset in a situation of control and prove to be a handicap with serious consequences for those who allow themselves to be overtaken.

Curiosity and intuition

Young HPIs know a lot and they are very often impressive for their age. The questions they ask themselves between 12 and 15 years old, with more elaborate language than their classmates, could be those asked by an adult going through the crisis of middle age and this does not go without digging a little deeper the gap with their friends or even with those around them. This almost sickly curiosity makes them people thirsty for knowledge in perpetual questioning and if they do not always love school, as an institution with its constraints, they have a particular appetite for learning everything that can be done. learned. But what characterizes them the most is undoubtedly their superior dispositions in the art of connecting seemingly scattered and paradoxical elements which allows them to approach questions in a general and global manner ... very inconvenient in a class at school or within a company team.

However, these strengths have their counterpart. Indeed, by antagonistic reaction they quickly get bored and tend to be very selective in their investment. If they like, they will be more involved than measure in the task, even if it means passing for perfectionists, but they tire of those they consider repetitive because they do not represent any added value in their eyes.

And their whole life will be so rhythmic. However, the permanent use of intuition with a reinforced feeling of "lucky star" which guides them (cf. article on Napoleon and intuition) and which they use briskly from an early age and their predisposition to bypass the need to learn how to learn can cause, in some cases, a serious deficit in terms of learning method which can be detrimental for attend school where they can to be in check or later in the world of work.

Hyperesthesia and creativity

The "exasperation of the senses" (hyperesthesia) which characterizes IHP is partly explained by an above average neuronal speed (approximately 0,05m / s more per additional IQ point from 100). When we know that the average IQ is 100 and that the HPI generally have an IQ of 130, this is an increased speed of 1,5 m / s for the latter. It is considered to be doubled, which would explain the feeling of "saturation" reported by HPIs. This results in an impression of ne "Never have your mind at rest" which would, moreover, be accentuated by an inability to selectively sort information coming from all sides. We thus observe a difficulty in terms of long concentration on the essential or on a single source of information. This leads to the very question of latent inhibition deficit among HPIs, even if some specialists find the link scientifically unfounded.

But now what can appear as a handicap intervenes in a process that generates more than value: the creativity. Indeed, the influx into the brain of information of all kinds, collected by all the alert senses of the HPI which collide with each other creates new information, images, sounds or forms. Thanks to this incessant proliferation, we see the birth of intuitions that can be awesome. Proof of this is that many scientific discoveries have emerged from this way of thinking that is somewhat different from traditional patterns. To see this, you have to read the work ofAlexander and Andrew Fingelkurts (p. 22), two researchers who show the "close link between Spearman's g factor (quantity of mental energy that the subject is likely to invest in his cognitive activities) and the functions of the frontal lobe which are necessary for the realization of the creative process and for scientific reflection ”.

Integrate HPI into the company.

HPIs in the company

Often described as "preventing people from going around in circles", "protesters", "curious", they have an eventful professional life. By developing excessive confidence in their intuition and their infallibility, it is very complicated to live with colleagues HPI and more particularly when one is in a hierarchical situation. Their search for a “mentor” is essential in their relationships with others. But the latter, which must be infallible, will lose all legitimacy in the eyes of HPI as soon as the slightest flaw appears.

Finally, the ambivalent relationship they maintain with work does not always allow them to flourish in a company. Their quest for freedom pushes them to adopt a self-employed status without however being assured of financial success… but they are free and faithful to the values ​​of the company in which they never enter by chance. They believe in the product as well as in the values ​​of the latter because it makes sense.

Benevolence and lack of judgment. As rightly pointed out in a post Mathieu Lassagne of the Coaching & Douance firm, benevolence and absence of judgment will be two great allies for managers who supervise HPIs. Finding a compromise between need for freedom and meaning and the demands of service can really be beneficial for all parties. But the difficulties can catch up with the HPI in their relations with the others which can prove to be very complex. Indeed, essentially in search ofinnovation and sense of result, they tend to dissociate their performances and their stakes from those of others and this for obvious reasons: they think much faster than the other members of the team and are very sensitive to weak signals.

By combining lucidity et intuition (previously described) to this superior capacity to capture “ground swells”, we obtain an explosive cocktail which will very often lead to ideas and projects with high added value for the organization they serve. But their major concern will lie in the difficulty of to convince the others on the basis of this same intuition. Indeed, with their thought in tree structure, elements or situations may appear to them logical et easy to approach when it is not always the same for the others.

An opportunity to rethink education

To Jérôme Bondu from IAE Paris, “Being a high potential can be tiring for oneself and for the others” because the permanent search for an answer is exhausting and requires the implementation of strategies capable of reducing the pressure induced by the strong demands of this abundant spirit. His hypersensitivity can also lead him not to take the distance necessary to put positive and negative elements into perspective, which prevents him from giving meaning, from writing his story or his life path, which is essential for his good. -to be ".

Here is a definition which shows us that it is from an early age that everything is played out and this should push us to (re) think our partitioned and individualizing educational system, developed in the XNUMXth century, in the context of industrial development while today, we are evolving in the era of digital, information, big data and sharing.

Give meaning and massively bring knowledge remain the pillars of a pedagogy adapted to HPI, just like the use of inductive methods (Problem Based Learning or case method). In the tracking aid document of the student with high potential who serves as a support within the French National Education, these two elements are clearly reminded to the teachers. In the same vein, the Departments of Public Instruction (DIP) of French-speaking Switzerland (canton of Geneva, Jura and Vaud) in partnership with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a of the best schools in the world and European rankings have set up the course experience Euler, which is spread over 6 years (from the 9e Harmos at maturity). Aimed at HPIs, as a complement to the traditional school curriculum, the courses are provided by doctoral students, postdocs and researchers in mathematics from EPFL.

Ditto in certain schools of the Swiss Confederation, where Wednesdays are devoted to "nourishing" the HPI in fundamental subjects and more particularly in the fields of general culture, arts and method.

By observing the programs and rhythms that the pupils follow in an establishment that we know particularly well, Germaine de Staël, directed by Mrs Eve-Marie Koehler, we understand much better than these " little Zebras " must also be able to benefit, in addition to innovative cognitive processes, from specific support with rules and a framework which must be coherent, logical and meaningful. Ex-ducerer _ (in the sense of driving, guiding "out of"), rather than training (or formatting) is undoubtedly a cornerstone to bring the _HPI (and others) to flourish and avoid the pitfall of academic failure. However, this requires accepting to break with the th education paradigm and to promote divergent thinking, a concept dear to Sir Ken Robinson.

Of course, another alternative remains; it is home education but it remains difficult to implement.

Richard Delaye, Dean of Research and Innovation (IGS Group), Propedia

La original version of this article was posted on The Conversation.

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