Prof. Bonnie Cramond

Teachers of the Gifted Change the World

By Bonnie Cramond, The University of Georgia

One iconic image of a modern gifted person is Steve Jobs. Credited with radically changing the trajectory of several industries--computers, telephones, music, animation, tablet computing, and digital publishing—Steve Jobs remains a figure of fascination more than four years after his death.

As with all gifts, Steve’s can be traced to both nature and nurture. Clearly, intelligence, creativity, and drive run in his genes. His biological sister, Mona Simpson, who was reared apart from Steve, has written six novels and won numerous awards. His biological paternal grandfather was a self-made millionaire, and his birth mother and father were graduate students when they met. Since he was given up for adoption at birth, any talents that he got from his birth family may be assumed to be inherited.

His talent was also nurtured. Jobs’ adoptive parents brought him up in the San Francisco area, a place full of vibrant thinkers and tinkerers. His adoptive father, Paul Jobs, rebuilt cars as a hobby and introduced Steve to his wide range of tools, the joy of building, and a rudimentary knowledge of electronics. It was the Jobs’ family garage where Steve Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak created the first Apple computer. Loved and indulged, Jobs started out as a less than ideal student.

Steve’s creativity was often expressed in bad behavior in school. In elementary school one year, he created and distributed fliers announcing Bring Your Pet to School Day. The next day, when students showed up with all manner of pets, the teachers and school administration were taken by surprise. Steve had just decided to do that on his own. He also changed the bike locks on the kids’ bikes at school and set off a small explosive under his teacher’s desk. By third grade, Steve was well on his way to being a major behavior problem. However, in fourth grade, he was put into a gifted program, and his teacher recognized his intelligence and creativity. She began by bribing him with large lollipops to do math, then she gave him small electronics kits to build things. He credited her with really teaching him that he could build things. Wanting to please her, his behavior improved as his academic challenges grew and his creativity was engaged in more positive pursuits.

Too often, people think that genetics and environment are enough. The cream will rise to the top. However, stories like those of Steve Jobs illustrate how important it is for someone to recognize the gift and steer it in a positive way. Who knows, but for Steve Jobs’ teacher of the gifted in fourth grade, he may have been a brilliant criminal rather than the brilliant visionary he became.

So, encouraged by the very words from Apple’s highly successful “Here’s To the Crazy Ones” ad, I have added a line at the end.

 Here’s to the crazy ones.

 The misfits.
The rebels.
The troublemakers. 

The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them,
disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They invent.
They imagine.
They heal.
They explore.
They create.
They inspire.
They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song that has never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.
And the teachers who nurture them, inspire them,
and give them confidence to go forward
are changing the world, too.