#037 How to Motivate & Support Gifted Kids with Dr Joanne Foster

#037 How to Motivate & Support Gifted Kids with Dr Joanne Foster

Today I’m speaking with Dr Joanne Foster, gifted education specialist and multi-award-winning author, about how to motivate our gifted kids.

In this episode we talk about motivation, effort, how to motivate and support the best possible learning experiences for our gifted kids and more.

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

“The lesson here is that if you can help children find something that makes it their own, that they can take responsibility for and feel independent about and connect with other people with it as well… if someone really feels that the activity or the task is meaningful and that it suits their ability level and they can make it more interesting for themselves, they will be motivated.” – Dr Joanne Foster

“The word potential is really tough. Nobody knows anybody else’s potential really. I mean, we don’t have tea leaves. We don’t have crystal balls. We  have to move forward without trying to put anybody into a box around what their potential may or may not be because it develops over time with the right opportunities to learn and with the kinds of encouragement and support that kids need in order to thrive.” – Dr Joanne Foster




Joanne Foster, Ed.D. is a child development and gifted education specialist, and multi award-winning author.

She writes guest blogs and book chapters, and her articles are featured in many publications including The Creativity Post and First Time Parent Magazine. Dr. Foster taught for several years at the University of Toronto, and continues to work as an educational consultant advising parents, teachers, school boards, and advocacy groups. She offers presentations, webinars, and workshops on learning, creativity, motivation, and children’s well-being.

Her books include:

  • Recently released – a fully revised third edition of Being Smart About Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change co-authored with Dona Matthews
  • ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids,
  • Beyond Intelligence – Secrets for raising happily productive kids,
  • Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (IBPA Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and
  • Not Now, Maye Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination.



[00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: So today’s guest is Dr. Joanne foster. She’s a parent teacher, gifted education expert, educational consultant, and multiple award-winning author of lots of books, including the recently released being smart about gifted learning, empowering parents and kids through challenge and change who she co-authored with Donna Matthews and.

[00:00:26] Joanne focuses on supporting and encouraging children’s wellbeing, including their intelligence, creativity, productivity, and self-confidence. So it’s an absolute delight to have you with us today. Joanne, thank you so much all the way from Florida.

[00:00:41] Dr. Joanne Foster: Well, today I’m in Florida. Yes. Typically I’m in Toronto, which is my hometown, but we traveled down here for a little break and it’s actually quite pleasant to have the warmth and the Palm trees.

[00:00:52] So I’m appreciate.

[00:00:53] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. A big change from the snow back at home.

[00:00:57] Dr. Joanne Foster: You said it exactly. So you’ve

[00:01:00] Sophia Elliott: had quite the distinguished career in giftedness with just decades of experience. And I’m wondering, how did you get started in this particular.

[00:01:12] Dr. Joanne Foster: Interesting question. I was a teacher for several years and one day my principal called me in and said that we are going to start a gifted program in our.

[00:01:25] The area and we’d like you to look after it. And I said, well, okay, that sounds interesting, but I don’t have any training in gifted education. And he said, well, you’re creative. You’ll figure it out. So I went home that night and I thought about it and I thought, okay, it’s an opportunity. It’s different. I like creativity.

[00:01:42] I like challenge. I’ll do it. So I started reading up as much as I possibly could. This was back in the 1980s. And I took this class and I loved. Children were excited to be there. They were dynamic in terms of their connections with each other. They came from different schools and they came to me every afternoon.

[00:02:03] And in the morning I taught my normal math and English and the end of junior high school. And then I continued on in the field. I became a consultant. I learned everything I could. I got a master’s degree in special education and adaptive instruction with a focus on gifted. And I went on to get a doctoral degree in human development and applied psychology again, with a focus on gifted and I just kept had it.

[00:02:27] I went to every conference I could go to, I read everything I could. I researched. I wrote and over the years, Learned more, I’m a lifelong learner and I share whatever knowledge I possibly can in order to be able to help other people navigate this rather tricky landscape.

[00:02:46] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, definitely tricky. And wow.

[00:02:48] That’s, that’s quite the journey. So, started off as a teacher and like many teachers even. Not having the background and then just finding your way through a whole lot of research. And

[00:03:01] Dr. Joanne Foster: that I also taught at the university of Toronto in the teacher education program. So I taught gifted education and educational psychology.

[00:03:10] And that was a real eye-opener for me too, because in a lot of ways, teachers are not necessarily true. Um, to deal in the area of gifted education. So, so for me that was, that was an, an, another important aspect of what I, I did over the,

[00:03:24] Sophia Elliott: yeah, absolutely. And we find that here in Australia as well, teachers are starting out their careers without that adequate training.

[00:03:34] And you know, initially. The support and knowledge. So that’s certainly a difficult place to start from in terms of then having to potentially have gifted kids or be able to identify, you know, that a child is gifted. So that kind of interests me. You’re obviously, like you said, a lifelong learner and very motivated yourself.

[00:03:56] And I actually was talking to a parent recently and they were asking the question of how do we motivate. I a child or particularly a gifted child who just is not motivated to learn, which I thought it was a really interesting question given that, when you think of giftedness, you think of that rage to learn that kind of intrinsic motivation.

[00:04:21] But I guess, there are times where even gifted kids kind of lose that, that motivation and drive. So you, how can we help motivate our L our gifted kids to learn?

[00:04:36] Dr. Joanne Foster: I’ll give you two tips to start with. The first is value attribution. If somebody feels that a particular task or activity is authentically relevant, that it matters, it has a value to it, then they’re more likely to be motivated by it.

[00:04:54] And the second has to do with having an optimal match, making sure that the learning and the learner are well-matched in terms of what the child can do. And what’s being asked of them. So the expectations the actual preparation, the step-by-step that’s required over the long haul. These need to be appropriately matched so that the child feels comfortable around what it is they’re expected to do.

[00:05:21] I’m going to tell you a little story. Okay. Because it may be a little bit straight this a little bit. And I write about this in one of my books and not now, maybe later and briefly, it’s a story about a little girl named Paul. And she’s in this class. And the teacher has been working on descriptive vocabulary and the assignment that she gives to the class is that you have to describe a day in the life of something, a beach, a rock, an icy pond, a farmer’s field, whatever, and it can either be real or imagined.

[00:05:52] You pick your locale and and you have to write two pages. Description. So Pauline goes home and she thinks about it. And she says to herself again, like, is it boring? Like what, what, what goes on on a rock? What goes on in a field? Like this is stupid. I don’t want to do this. I’m not motivated by it.

[00:06:07] Forget it. I can do more interesting things in that. And a couple of days later, the teacher’s going around the room and she’s asking everybody. Have you picked your spot and everybody’s saying yes, and someone’s saying, oh, I’m going to do a pigs die. And somebody else says, oh, I’m going to do the moon. And someone else says, I’m going to do a golf course.

[00:06:23] And everybody’s all excited. And the teacher gets to Pauline and says, well, what are you going to do? And Pauline of course has just written the whole thing off, not interested, it’s being stupid. And so she quickly comes up with the idea. I’ll, I’ll do the playground across the road from my house. And the teacher says, okay, that’s a great idea.

[00:06:39] Pauline goes home. She talked to her mom and she says, I’m stuck. I have to do this stupid playground. I have to describe it. And, and, and I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to put forth the effort. I’m just not motivated. Right. So in this instance, it was just not aligned with what Pauline was, was wanting to do, but she was stuck.

[00:06:58] She had to come up with something. So she looked outside her window and she hadn’t been in this park for ages and she thought about it and she saw the swing sets and she said, Kids playing and she thought, Hmm, I wonder what goes on there. Look, there’s flowers. And the trees look pretty interesting.

[00:07:12] They’ve grown over the years. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all. And then she decides, well, I’m going to go across the road and actually have a look. And she starts talking to the kids and she sees the gold plaques and she sees what fun they’re happening having. And she talks to the caregivers and the moms and she, she, she looks at what’s happening there.

[00:07:32] And all of a sudden she becomes more interested. And then she starts thinking, listen, there’s birds and there’s dogs and her senses kick in. And she wonders what happens here at night to the flowers, close up. Are there lights, like what goes on here? And she decides I’m going to get her a tape recorder and I’m going to go in and I’m going to actually take what goes on here.

[00:07:54] As she became more invested in the activity, she became more motivated and ultimately she did an amazing project. She did a cover page. She did a video, she did a soundtrack. She was excited because she had found a way to make it her own. And I think. The lesson here is that if you can help children find something that makes it their own, that they can take responsibility for and, and, and feel independent about and connect with other people with it as well.

[00:08:22] Cause she, she spoke to people that the car, then that makes a huge difference. If, if someone really feels that the activity or the task is meaningful and that it suits their ability level and they can make it more interesting for themselves, that will be motivated. Long answer to a short question,

[00:08:39] Sophia Elliott: but yeah, no, and a brilliant answer.

[00:08:41] It really comes to the heart of, I gifted kids sense of, uh, I guess it’s almost like. You know, there’s that inherent sense of justice, which I think links itself to that sense of it’s got to be, have meaning for me. Yeah. You know, I’ve got to be able to relate that back to something I feel is important.

[00:09:04] Which, we talk a lot about in terms of, that strength based approach. So that leads me on to a few other questions. As a parent of gifted kids, especially in those early days of coming to terms with, oh my goodness, my child is gifted. What does that mean? That, potential gets talked about a lot.

[00:09:29] Should we be pushing our gifted kids harder and further?

[00:09:33] Dr. Joanne Foster: Okay. So, so first of all, the word potential is really tough. Nope. Nobody knows anybody. Else’s potential really. I mean, we don’t have tea leaves. We don’t have crystal balls. We, we, we have to we, we have to move forward without. Trying to put anybody into a box around what their potential may or may not be because it develops over time with the right opportunities to learn and with the kinds of encouragement and support that, uh, that kids need in order to thrive.

[00:10:02] And, and in terms of pushing kids, I, I think that we really need to be careful around that because what we really want to do is support them. We want to support their efforts. Their journeys and, uh, and celebrate the small steps as well as, as well as the big ones. Success is really a matter of small.

[00:10:20] Increments at a time, small bursts of effort. And sometimes there’s bigger bursts too, but not always. So when we push kids, we, we really have to be patient and we have to enable them to find that value in. They’re doing to ask the questions they need to ask to have the choices that they need to have to have the time, the extra time sometimes in order to be able to consolidate the learning that they want to do.

[00:10:46] So supporting it’s opposed to, to pushing I think is important and to show faith in their abilities to have competence in them, because that will translate into them having confidence in themselves. I think. One of the things that that’s, that’s really important. And this is a word that’s probably not on the tip of your tongue, but it’s on the tip of mine today because I just posted an article that the creativity post and the title of the article has tenacity.

[00:11:12] And, you know, it’s just an eight letter word and it’s a real. Easy little word, but it’s such an important word. I, and I encourage people just to go to creativity, post.com and take a look on the feature. It was just posted this afternoon and I talk about how we have to encourage children to.

[00:11:33] Push themselves instead of us as parents. And I’m a parent too, and a grandparent, instead of pushing them, encourage them to find ways to make the learning meaningful for themselves to, to have resilience to Allow themselves to have creative expression, to, to make mistakes by taking sensible risks and know that it’s okay.

[00:11:54] They can get help along the way if they need it. Anyway, I think tenacity is, is a big helper. It’s a helper for parents in terms of supporting their kids, helping them find new ways of, of, of being a Maverick of. Taking the reins and also helping children find how they themselves can be tenacious and work forwards.

[00:12:16] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. It’s uh, I like that tenacity tenacity is a great word, like you say. And I think it’s sort of, because I think it sort of pulls out that idea of determination and grit. Uh, and something that gifted kids, perhaps skills that they do need to learn because things often come so easily to them. And, and you can overlay that with, the sometimes.

[00:12:46] The stress or a high expectation of this idea of potential, which gets talked about a lot with giftedness. And I completely agree with you in terms of, I don’t like the word potential. And I know sometimes, and I know in the UK that they kind of don’t use gifted. They say high learning potential. And while I don’t like the label gifted either what I worry about the term potential is that sense of.

[00:13:14] And expectation I have to live up to that is imagined. And if I don’t live up to that, therefore I’m failing and I’m, you know, I’m not successful. And I just think that is a disaster waiting to happen. Like you say, we can not, we can not look into tealeaves and see what is that potential? What is this mysterious, mythical thing that you’re supposed to live up to?

[00:13:37] So I think that’s a really. Crucial lesson for parents of gifted kids. So thank you for that. Let’s though. What advice do you have for parents? Like we’ve, we’ve talked about effort already and, uh, when things come so easily, it can be hard to actually build up that muscle of grit, uh, that you were sort of talking about.

[00:14:05] So. How do we, as parents help our gifted kids have that sort of intrinsic motivation to make that effort when things get hard. And I guess it comes back to the motivation that we were talking about

[00:14:20] Dr. Joanne Foster: earlier. Right. And it’s a very good question. I think first of all, parents have to make sure that the rules and the expectations are fitting and.

[00:14:30] And flexible. So those are three really important fitting. In other words, going back to that match between the learner and the learners capacities and the kinds of opportunities that are being offered in terms of their learning, um, fairness that the the timelines, the. Availability of materials and the availability of supports.

[00:14:51] Those are there for their child, if, and when they need them. And also being flexible, uh, having that opportunity to, to negotiate a little bit around timelines, or if there’s a lot of creativity that all of a sudden comes to the fore in the same way that Pauline and all of a sudden wanted to try different things at night with the recording and so on and taking maybe extra time to do that.

[00:15:13] So fit fairness and flexibility. Another thing is to pay very close attention to your child’s skill levels. They may not have the same skill level in all different subject areas. So, you know, be aware of that. You might have a child who has what we call asynchronous development, which means that, you know, they may be terrific in math, but maybe not so good in some other areas.

[00:15:32] So, so keeping an eye out in terms of the domain of learning and making sure that whatever is being asked of them, Well suited to their capacities in that level. Also interest whether or not the child is interested in, in what it is that that will, of course motivate them as well. And, and their emotional strengths what’s going on in their lives.

[00:15:53] So, you know, with COVID and with all the uncertainty and vulnerability. And so forth that’s happening right now that that’s right at the forefront of what’s going on in schools and families. And, and the kinds of coping mechanisms that children have are very relevant and how parents are modeling the kinds of coping mechanisms they themselves use and what’s happening within the family constellation that dynamically, th th the nucleus, the safe Haven of home and whether or not that’s being supportive of.

[00:16:24] So those are important factors.

[00:16:27] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And I was, you mentioned the creativity. What was it called? The, the creativity post

[00:16:35] Dr. Joanne Foster: I have over I’m over 70 articles in there. I write for them. I put it in. Call them in every month, I’ve written about praise and reassurance and creativity and gifted learners and like all kinds of things.

[00:16:48] So again, I encourage people to go there and all of this successful on my website, I have a resource page and and you can just sort of click on and, and get my articles from the creativity post from there.

[00:16:59] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ll put the link to that, to those pages in the show notes. So everyone can have a look.

[00:17:06] I was actually having a look through the articles this morning and there are lots of amazing articles there. One caught my eye on lazy. Which I felt was topical because we were going to talk about effort and, and that’s a really great article, which I will, uh, put in the show notes too. And because it just kind of comes back to what you were saying about everyone’s current.

[00:17:32] Uh, you know, uh, our current sense of wellbeing given what a crazy year it’s been with. COVID a lot of people have been in lockdown homeschooling or in and out of lockdown, or just a general sense of uncertainty as we get to what is the end of the academic year? Here in Australia, although I know it’s slightly different in the, in the U S and in the Northern hemisphere like our kids are naked as our way.

[00:18:02] And so when it comes to our expectation and what we’re expecting, the effort for our kids to put into school at the moment, or even stuff at home, We have lowered that benchmark. It’s like as long as you’re getting through the day, as long as you’re getting to school, that is kind of, the benchmark is so low because they’re, you know, the resilience is really down.

[00:18:28] I was talking to one of the teachers only a couple of days ago and, and, and she was saying how one of my kids was struggled with something gets scone because you know that we’re doing this. Scavenger hunt and it wasn’t in numerical order. And that was enough to kind of doing that child.

[00:18:49] The fact of that is out of order. Like my resilience is so low, I’m just going to put my hoodie up and shut down for a bit. And thankfully the parents of this particular, the teachers at this particular school, understand the children very well and could see that, okay, resilience is low over there. We’ll let them just kind of do what they need to and, you know, and then they rejoined and had a great day, but it was just kind of acknowledging that even our kids, uh, you know, they need that rest and

[00:19:24] Dr. Joanne Foster: yes, it’s, you know, everybody’s frazzled and we do have to.

[00:19:29] Make sure that there’s time for life balance for rest and reading and play, which is hugely important. We have to keep in mind children’s past experiences. What sort of put them over the edge before what’s what, what are the strengths that they can call upon to make the day better? What, what kind of positive attitude can they bring forward and, and, and use as, as a way to propel them?

[00:19:51] What sort of work habits do they need additional help on? Are they disorganized these days? Do they need more help with time management you know, priorities, goal, setting those, those kinds of, you know, skill sets that, that, you know, may have somehow gotten sidelined or, or rocked in some way they may need help and really important.

[00:20:11] And we sometimes forget that it’s pleasing. You know, we’re so busy going about our business and doing, and expecting kids to do this, that, and the other that sometimes, but they just needed the time to pause step back, step aside and, and, and to say, you know, please, and thank you. And, and, you know, can we talk and chat about things really important?

[00:20:33] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. We’re really feeling that at the moment. And I don’t know if this year’s. I don’t know, it feels like they’re more naked than usual. And I think the last couple of years are taking their toll on everyone. Generally speaking,

[00:20:50] Dr. Joanne Foster: what is knackered and how do you spell it? I want to use it in my writing.

[00:20:56] I love

[00:20:57] Sophia Elliott: it. I have to say it’s one of my favorite words. I probably use it a lot, so it’s K I never heard it. K N a C K E R E D naked. And I guess it just means. Uh, tired, but, but physically kind of exhausted as well as tired. So really really just you know, at the end of your rope yeah. So

[00:21:22] Dr. Joanne Foster: not being able to manage.

[00:21:24] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, that’s right. You just tired, physically anxiety. You can’t manage. It’s just like game over. Totally.

[00:21:36] Dr. Joanne Foster: When I, when I use it in my writing, I’m going to cite you. Is that okay? It’s

[00:21:41] Sophia Elliott: totally fine. I love that. I love that.

[00:21:44] Dr. Joanne Foster: That’s why I asked how to spell it. I don’t want to get it

[00:21:46] Sophia Elliott: wrong. I know. I know. That’s great.

[00:21:50] Dr. Joanne Foster: But sometimes too, when you’re feeling knackered, the best thing is to be creative. Yeah. Should figure out a new way to do something too.

[00:21:59] Yeah. Take a little bit of time just to let things percolate.

[00:22:03] Sophia Elliott: Definitely

[00:22:04] Dr. Joanne Foster: also busy rushing around and trying to accomplish things that, oh my goodness.

[00:22:11] Sophia Elliott: It’s only 24 hours in a day. It’s yeah, exactly. I think we, we do demand too much of ourselves and our kids sometimes. And it’s a, it’s a good opportunity to reevaluate, I think, as you get to the end of the year and sort of see what’s essential and, and how can we lower those expectations and, and yeah.

[00:22:30] Provide some space for a bit of creativity or rest I wanted to ask you today as well, in, in the book that you’ve recently republished it’s called being smart about gifted learning, empowering parents and kids through challenging change. You talked about something called the optimal match.

[00:22:47] So I, I wanted to take the opportunity to have a little conversation about that because I think that’s a really interesting Approach and for gifted kids. So tell us what, what is that.

[00:22:58] Dr. Joanne Foster: So it’s really about being flexibly, responsive to what children need and want to learn and finding opportunities to address those needs and wants, and basically providing a range of options for kids.

[00:23:12] So, I know it sounds like a lot of work because what do you mean a range of options? Let’s let me just give them one and they’ll be happy and it doesn’t work like that. But there were so many possibilities for learning and children can also help co-create their learning. But if you stop to think about the kinds of opportunities that are out there, especially with technology I mean, for example, that there’s a little girl I know who wanted to learn more about hieroglyphics and.

[00:23:38] Went online and contacted someone in Egypt who was a professor at a university who was kind enough to provide her with information on hieroglyphics. Another little girl wanted to learn about Russian literature teacher and her parents didn’t know anybody who knew anything about Russian literature, but they found somebody at another school who knew somebody who did so reaching out, finding mentors, finding cross grade resources independent studies, finding, finding things that need to be.

[00:24:07] Fixed volunteering in the community. Acceleration and enrichment in certain areas. If, if that’s a possibility entrepreneurial opportunities, leadership opportunities in, in, in being smart about gifted learning, Donna Matthews, and I spend two chapters on different kinds of learning opportunities that might be considered by parents, by teachers, by grandparents, by.

[00:24:31] By anybody who wants to help a child develop, and I’ll go back to the word potential. But again, that, that open-ended sense that you can do anything. You can be anything. And, and, and again, it’s interesting because going back to tenacity the example I gave in that particular article that was posted today was that I can take a picture of a sunset by stepping out.

[00:24:54] But I can also take a picture of a sunset by going someplace different and stretching my horizons. And maybe I can’t find a beach or a mountain or a desert to do it in. But what else can I do? What, what is it that I can do to push my own limits, to, to stretch my horizons and to be creative in new ways and to make a better match for me so that if somebody says, take a picture of a sunset, it’s not boring and frustrating for me, but it’s, it’s it’s an expression of my soul, my spirit, my mind, my desires, my aspirations.

[00:25:27] If, if, if I want to. Play a heart. If I want to learn to skateboard, if I want to take up a sport that I’ve never tried before, what do I have to do? What are my steps? What do I have to explore? And how can my parents help me sort of get there? So, so an optimal match is, is a matter of finding what it is that you really are keen to learn to do, and then finding ways to do it.

[00:25:54] Sophia Elliott: So have you got any advice then for parents on, different ways that they can help their child find those matches

[00:26:03] Dr. Joanne Foster: the discussion, first of all, around what it is they want to do and make sure that it’s realistic. I mean, someone who wants to ride a horse may not be able to have a horse. I mean, just Stickley.

[00:26:13] So you have to make sure that what they want to do is, is, is realistic and that there might be alternatives or there might be negotiation or compromise that needs to be done. Keep in mind, your own family dynamic and, and finances and, and, and what kinds of things you can realistically put in place. Because technology is there.

[00:26:32] We have opportunities to explore different options. So, uh, that makes it a little bit better. And, and, and again, the, co-creation the idea that children have to think about what really matters to them and to build upon what it is they can already do. So, For example, let’s say somebody wants to build a flying machine.

[00:26:51] Well, that’s a great idea. Let’s build a flying machine, but it’s not going to happen. And let’s, you know, a little bit about, aerodynamics, you go online, you find books, you, you learn what makes, makes things fly. You build from what it is that you already know. Uh, and those are the beginning steps to, to, to work with help a child child find their beginning steps before they try to sort of hit the ground running.

[00:27:17] Sophia Elliott: I love that because we talk a lot about, you know, strength based learning and supporting our kids in terms of focusing on their strengths and interests. So this feels like a really nice framework. Uh, To lean on in order to, to support them in that way, if you’ve kind of mapped out, um, you know, mapped that out further with a bit of guidance for us and, and different kinds of ways that we can support our kids, you know, in their interests because.

[00:27:51] It can be a bit overwhelming for parents to kind of go, Mmm. Okay. Where do I go from here? So it’s really nice sometimes to have, a bit of a roadmap of, oh, okay. Here’s a whole bunch of options and ideas and strategies and tools. What’s going to work for us as a family. What’s going to be the right fit for my child, as well as like you say, the family logistics as well.

[00:28:13] So. Right. Being

[00:28:15] Dr. Joanne Foster: open to possibilities, but making sure they’re practical, that’s, that’s really important. And also connecting with the teacher in ways that are meaningful and, and advocating for more professional development for teachers as well, so that they can actually learn to differentiate for children.

[00:28:33] More specifically and more broadly and more stupidly. I think those are really important because we want to make sure that the teachers have the kinds of supports and tools and know how to be able to support children’s learning in the best way possible. So parents can advocate, they can be open to possibilities and can.

[00:28:51] Look for activities that are, multi-dimensional and that, that are exciting. We, we all like to do things. Exciting and fun and bring us joy. And, and, you know, kids are no different, you know, you, you, you stick a pile of the busy work in front of them or you, you give them stuff, that’s boring, they’re just gonna tune out.

[00:29:15] So, you know, we have to, we have to, we can be better than that.

[00:29:20] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s something that always Say is, you know, as well. It’s like, we can, we can do better. And so. Yeah, we’ve talked about how do we motivate kids who might be suffering with a bit of lack of motivation. And we’ve talked about effort and we’ve come around to this idea of the optimal match and that there are different ways and tools and strategies that we can use to inspire them and tap into that sort of sense of curiosity of the world and bring that learning back to life.

[00:29:52] If they’re sort of struggling and. Uh, I think that’s a really nice wrap-around and you know, at the same time, acknowledging sometimes we do need a bit of downtime cause we are knackered. Or in this household scanner, isn’t an another word that we use my husband’s Scottish. Start that one again, scan it.

[00:30:12] It’s a Scottish word and it’s similar to knackered, but I think it’s even more. Exhausted. So scan it. Can you spell that? I’m not sure that I can I’ll I’ll look it up. Send me an email.

[00:30:32] Yeah, I love it. It’s very descriptive. It just kind of, for me, it just, this image of a real exhaustion and just, yeah, nothing left in the tank. Uh, so what is a great

[00:30:44] Dr. Joanne Foster: love them? That’s why I write.

[00:30:46] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And, and Joanne, you are a prolific writer. There’s so many articles. I will absolutely share those links that we’ve talked about today.

[00:30:58] Because there’s a lot of great, uh, tips and strategies and tools for parents in all of those articles. And so I guess just as we wrap up any kind of. Thoughts for parents on, on just those topics of, you know, we’ve talked about effort and motivation and I guess rest.

[00:31:17] Dr. Joanne Foster: Yeah. I think the first is that you have to create an environment of safety and trust for your child, that they know that at home, they can they they’ve got someone to go to and You know, they’re always peddling so quickly.

[00:31:31] And to sometimes to, to acknowledge that they don’t have to dazzle all the time. And th that it’s okay. And at home it’s, it’s, it’s secure and it’s safe. And this is really important, like now, especially during these times of challenge and change that the whole world is going through. Stay attuned to your child’s interests and abilities.

[00:31:52] And and, and, and try to make that match between what it is they want to learn and need to learn and what it is that’s being provided for them. You know, bridging any gaps and paying attention to. Is that, they’re, they’re wondering about, you know, you mentioned curiosity that sense of wonder that, that knowledge acquisition, and also the skills that they might need in order to be able to next level to go to go in and to advance themselves further.

[00:32:17] And I think what, what fits your child in, in the context of your family, which we mentioned, and I think setting good examples. If parents are in, in a good position to be able to see. Examples around how to cope, how to uh, balance responsibilities, time management, time for play in reading and reflection and, uh, and all those other things that, that are part of.

[00:32:42] Of the real world. I mean, academics and school is not everything. And and there’s a whole lot more that goes on. So, so being being aware of that setting, good examples and, and showing too that, you know, you are a lifelong learner, you are creative, you are doing things that, that, that matter, because it’s kind of like when you go on an airplane and They tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before you put one on your child.

[00:33:06] It’s the same thing as parents. We, we need to. Look after ourselves self care and, and making sure that we can breathe, that we’re not so knackered that we’re out. And, and I think that’s a really important thing. So I guess the first one was safety and trust and environment of safety and trust.

[00:33:23] The second is being attuned to your child and the third is to, to be available and intersect good examples around what it is that, that really matter in life.

[00:33:33] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, I absolutely hear you on all of those factors. And especially on, putting the oxygen mask on yourself first and because. Yeah, we all get sort of worn down with challenging parenting and it can be really hard and we’re not at our best as parents, if we’re not, if you know, if our cup is empty and it’s hard to find time to remedy that, but definitely something that needs to be a priority.

[00:34:01] I think something I’m working on anyway

[00:34:03] Dr. Joanne Foster: we all are working on it these

[00:34:08] Sophia Elliott: days. Yeah, it is. It’s really tricky. It is really true. Uh, figuring out what it is that rejuvenates you has been a topic this whole year has been something, a question I’ve been asking myself. Because I think, you know, especially as a parent, uh, and a mum that I think the dads as well, you lose yourself for, for a long while as a parent.

[00:34:29] And then you need to kind of figure out, right. You know, what do I love? What rejuvenates me and. And if I’ve got that spark, well, they’re not going to parent better because I’m going to be grounded and rested and in coming from a better place. And, and that leads to our children feeling safer and supported and all of those things.

[00:34:50] So, yeah. Yeah. Really great note to end on, Joanne, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been really lovely to have this chat with you and to dig a little bit deeper into some of those You know, some of those challenges around motivation and effort and finding those optimal matches for our kids.

[00:35:10] And I’ll definitely put links into your books as well. Yeah. Because a great opportunity for parents to find a roadmap there and lots of tools and strategies and ideas to put these things into practice. I thank you so much.

[00:35:25] Dr. Joanne Foster: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you and I’ve learned two new words to

[00:35:30] Sophia Elliott: know it’s a good day.

[00:35:31] I’ll

[00:35:35] Dr. Joanne Foster: absolutely. Thank, you know, this has been a treat and I just want to take a minute to thank you for all that you do for the gifted community, the information that you share, the opportunities you provide for people to be able to express themselves and convey information. Basically to connect and strengthen one another.

[00:35:54] So that’s a really important job that you do and you do it so well. So thank you.

[00:35:59] Sophia Elliott: Oh, no worries. It’s an absolute privilege. Thank you very much teas.

#036 Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with Dr Matt Zakreski

#036 Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with Dr Matt Zakreski

Do you think you’re a fraud and one of these days someone is going to discover it?!

Then you need this episode as Dr Matt Zakreski takes us through what is imposter syndrome, how does it make us feel and how can we move through it!

Go to www.ourgiftedkids.com/podcast to download Dr Matt Zakreski’s slides on Imposter Syndrome!

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

“Doing the thing is the biggest antidote to imposter syndrome, right? Because imposter syndrome is anxiety and anxiety just wants us to stand still. Anxiety wants us to do nothing.

That loud voice in my head is screaming, you’re an imposter, you’re an imposter, you’re an imposter, but you know what?

I put some paint on a canvas today. I ran today. I practice my oboe today. I surfed today. I filled out my own application for uni today. I did those things today.

It doesn’t untangle, it doesn’t make imposter syndrome go away, but every time you take a concrete action, its grip on you gets a little bit less.

And that’s a very cool thing.” – Dr Matt Zakreski


Dr Matt Zakreski Bio

Psychologist, Gifted Expert, International Speaker

Matthew Zakreski, PsyD is a high energy, creative clinician who utilizes an eclectic approach to meet the specific needs of his clients.  He specializes in working with children and adolescents, as well as their families, in providing therapy and conducting psychological evaluations.  Dr. Matt is proud to serve as a consultant to schools, a professor at the university level, and a researcher and author on his specialty, Giftedness. 

Dr. Matt thrives in supporting young people in understanding, developing, and celebrating their unique brains and ways of operating in their world. He is best known for his work with Gifted individuals and in being an advocate for implementing high-level supports and understanding of Gifted needs.  He is a board member of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education and active in multiple Gifted organizations around the country.

Check out this episode!

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    Full of great information, Dr Matt's slides will help you dive deeper! Thanks Dr Matt!

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    [00:00:00] Sophia Elliott: .Welcome to the podcast, Dr. Matt, thank you for joining us. Uh, excellent. We’re always happy to have you and look forward to these chats and your insights for us into the gifted world. And today I’m actually super excited to be talking about imposter syndrome because. Don that sucks,

    [00:00:24] Dr Matt Zakreski: right?

    [00:00:29] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. Yeah. It really is. And so I think at some 0.1 of my questions will be to kids. Get it too. Cause I certainly know adults do,

    [00:00:41] but let’s start off. First of all, with what is imposter syndrome?

    [00:00:45] Dr Matt Zakreski: Okay. So imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where a person consistently doubts their accomplishments and has this fear of being exposed as a fraud that you’ve got to have both things for it to be true imposter syndrome.

    [00:01:01] Right. Cause we all have self-doubt sometimes like, am I doing a good job answering the questions on this podcast? Right. That’s a, self-doubt that’s happening right now. Right. But if you’re, if you have that, plus you’re worried that the imaginary. Um, imposter police is going to kick open the door to your house and drag you out of there.

    [00:01:19] Like we finally got you, you know, that’s true imposter syndrome, this idea of being able to not internalize and own the successes you have, because you are found some reason that they don’t matter.

    [00:01:32] Sophia Elliott: And so it sounds like there’s a real sense of kind of fear anxiety associated to potentially being found out as a, as a fraud.

    [00:01:41] Yeah. And so why is it particularly relevant in the gifted context?

    [00:01:48] Dr Matt Zakreski: So the research on imposter syndrome has consistently identified that people who are, are made to feel or feel different, right? So those three things, they are different. They are made to feel different or they feel. Are much more likely to feel like imposters.

    [00:02:10] And so if you are, the only, you know, say that you are an American who moves abroad and you’re the only American in your class of Australians, of Australian students, you are much more likely to feel like an imposter. Because you are made to feel different and that may be explicit. Look at the American, or it might be implicit where they people just stop and say to you, like, like, oh, this word that I said means this, right.

    [00:02:39] You’re constantly reminded that you’re different. And the phenomenon the research on it started in the late seventies, early eighties on wall street, which is the finance financial capital of the us, where they had a few women who were working in these big deal firms. These women were successful and well-liked, but they were miserable and they were anxious and they would pack their, their offices up every Friday, convinced they were about to be fired because they were a half dozen women and several hundred men.

    [00:03:10] And they were so aware of that difference that they felt like imposter. So for gifted kids who are so aware of their difference, I am not like other six-year-olds cause I can do multivariate calculus. Right. And the other six year olds are playing Pokemon. That feeling can manifest as imposter syndrome.

    [00:03:30] Like I don’t belong here. There’s a reason that I’m not like everybody else. So they’re going to find me out and they’re going to kick me out of the school. 

    [00:03:39] Sophia Elliott: am I right in saying that there’s. I, uh, what’s the word I’m looking for tendency or prevalence amongst highly intelligent people in terms of impulse to syndrome?

    [00:03:56] Uh, is that correct? For

    [00:03:58] Dr Matt Zakreski: sure. And there’s actually even sort of two answers, two levels of answer to that question, right? The first part is the more intelligent you are. The more aware you are of both what, you know, but more importantly, what you don’t know. Right. So when I sat down to write my dissertation on giftedness, my original draft was 250 pages.

    [00:04:19] And my advisor looked at and said, this is a book. I don’t, this isn’t, this isn’t a dissertation. Dissertations are 70 pages. This is stop, stop this. But I was like, I have to know everything. Right. I had, I had 20 different citations on overexcitabilities and overexcitabilities had nothing to do with what I wrote.

    [00:04:41] I know, and I need to know, so I have to learn, but every time I learn, I like to learn another thing and, and I can sense the people out there in podcast land nodding, right? Like, oh, Hey Harold, go to the store and buy a bottle of wine. Okay. And let’s see, what kinds of winds are there?

    [00:05:00] What kinds of vineyards are there? What kind of the gray or the grapes come from? Where do, how, how much does the wine costs? I mean like, are there good grips? Are there bad grapes? And like you find like Harold and the more, the more cognitively complex you are, the more you are able to engage in and appreciate the complexity of things.

    [00:05:19] That can grind you to a halt and can also lead to imposter syndrome because it’s this, and someone asks you like, what do you do? Right.

    [00:05:30] That’s a simple answer. The complex answer that that makes you more likely to feel like an imposter is the, I do 93 things. I have this training or lack of training. I, this was my journey. And, and it’s the sort of thing that it sets you up to feel, to be made, to feel different. Right. And that’s a, it’s a major.

    [00:05:56] Systemic factor in, uh, in creating imposter syndrome. The other aspect of really smart people and imposter syndrome is a subset phenomenon called the theory of relativity syndrome. Um, so the idea here is that Albert Einstein right there, relativity, um, he spent the last half of his career at Princeton university here in the United States.

    [00:06:22] And while he was at. To academic papers, one clarifying a small point on the equals MC squared and the other apologizing for not being able to write the grand unified theory, which was supposed to be his third great thing he did because Einstein said he’s like, when you changed the world twice, all other work seems like it doesn’t matter.

    [00:06:46] And that’s just such a powerful moment because our kids. Are capable of great work. They are capable of paradigm shifting work, work that blows minds we’re work. That changes the game, but nobody does work like that all the time. That’s not possible. Right. And if every time you recorded a podcast, it had to be the best podcast ever of all time, you burn yourself out, not possible,

    [00:07:16] Sophia Elliott: stuck procrastinating,

    [00:07:18] Dr Matt Zakreski: you would overprepare, which is one aspect of imposter syndrome, or you’d put it off.

    [00:07:26] And that’s the other aspect, right? It’s the, it’s this like, whatever I can do to keep myself from actually doing the thing. Because if I wasn’t to do the thing, I might find that it’s not as good as I want it to be. Right. So there’s a part of the reason I had. So I only wrote two papers. It’s not like you stared at the wall for 10 years.

    [00:07:42] He just got stuck. And, so I tell the kids I work with good can be the enemy of great, that’s a true thing. Right. But great can be the enemy of done. And sometimes we need to just get things.

    [00:07:58] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, I like that a lot. Mm. Yeah. And so I feel like that really ties into those 10 CS around perfectionism, which is obviously very strong within the kind of gifted context as well.

    [00:08:18] Uh, so. I’d have to digest that for a second. That’s the first time I’ve heard that one about Albert Einstein. So that’s cool. And I totally get that. And I think where I have come across a similar idea is I think sometimes an expectation amongst parents of gifted children that the gifted child, because they’re gifted, therefore they always have to be a.

    [00:08:51] You know, excelling kind of exponentially. There, there always have to be in that upward trajectory when the truth is, we all need to cruise sometimes and plateau and it’s, and that’s important for consolidation and integrating what we’ve just had a leap on. And yeah, the idea of Yeah, we can’t be great all of the time we do need that sort of timeout just to consolidate and be normal humans and and, and do the life thing for a bit.

    [00:09:21] Yeah, that’s really interesting. Okay. So what, uh, the possible effects of imposter syndrome on someone, what might someone be experiencing in the way that it impacts their life?

    [00:09:38] Dr Matt Zakreski: This is it it’s best summed up by saying stressed out. It’s a awful thing, right? For sure. Because you’re aware of what you need to do it. You are paralyzed by two competing forces. The I’m not ready yet. I need to do more. Oh, my God, these feelings is about, I want to run the opposite direction from it. So you’re both over-preparing and avoidant.

    [00:10:03] So it’s like, Hey, that’s both terrible. And while you, if, and then if the stars align, you’re actually able to do the. You’re sort of sitting there thinking, well, this isn’t good enough. Like what if this paper’s already written? What if somebody has already done this dance move? What if what, if there’s a better soccer player out there than me that I just don’t know about yet.

    [00:10:23] And part of untangling imposter syndrome is acknowledging that those things may be true and we have to do it anyway. And then the chances that they’re not true, you get to do it anyway. Right. I’m not going to say that my dissertation on giftedness changed the world because it didn’t right.

    [00:10:46] It’s an above average dissertation. It’s pretty good. Right. And that’s okay. Right. It’s, it’s a hell of a lot better than the 250 page monstrosity. I dropped on my advisor’s desk. Just like if you and I decided to rehearse this podcast forever until it was perfect. Hey, it would lose something, right. It would lose that sort of like organic you and I just bang ideas back and forth together.

    [00:11:13] But also you and I would be like, just burn the rest of our days. And it’s eight 30 here on the east coast of the United States. And I got to go to bed at some point. So. So it’s bit, you know, it’s this really stressful thing where you sort of hit on all sides from like, I’m not good enough. I’m not ready yet.

    [00:11:30] I can’t do this while I’m doing it. It’s stressful. And you can imagine how that’s going to manifest in a person of light, just sort of this rigid, like I like frozen in fear sort of situation.

    [00:11:42] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And that completely resonates with me. Definitely. And I know from parents, I talked to that.

    [00:11:53] Well, I’m getting that sense that when parents talk a lot about perfectionism, maybe, actually, what is in the mix, there is also a lot of imposter syndrome going on with their kids. And, and I’m sure that people are listening especially Uh, I don’t listen to this, like ourselves thinking.

    [00:12:12] Yeah. Imposter syndrome. That’s definitely something that I’ve experienced. And I know even when I first started doing the podcast and the whole gifted thing, it was very much like, well, who am I to do this? Do you know? But thankfully I learned earlier in my career in politics that actually.

    [00:12:33] Well, the world gets run by the people who turn up and who am I? I’m the person who turned up. Do you know, like, and it doesn’t mean that, most days I’m still kind of like, oh, what am I doing? I’m just I’m painting it done. I’m just going for done rather than perfect. As you will know, from out Elliot.

    [00:12:53] The questions that I did not send in advance. But it’s just kind of like, no, I just got to get it done rather than procrastinate, which is a big thing for me. So, I just can put my hands certainly on my heart and say that, uh, yeah, that’s a. Something that I struggle with with on a regular basis.

    [00:13:09] But I get the sense that it’s not gender specific. We did talk about sort of women on wall street initially, but men, women or wherever your identifying in terms of gender cultural age, like I’m getting the sense that it’s open slider. Anyone can experience.

    [00:13:30] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yeah, there was actually a beautiful piece written by a an Aboriginal researcher at the university of Perth in west Australia.

    [00:13:40] About their, their experiences of imposter syndrome as a researcher, as an academic. Right. And like you, I belong here. Am I some token hire? No, I was trained at Oxford. I have like the, I had the degrees. I I’m good at this, but also like, do I belong here? And it was, I mean, and that’s, in that particular situation where the differences are very overtly.

    [00:14:05] Right. You might find a deeper, more intransigent sense of, of imposter syndrome. And then you also might get some of the, stereotype, threat bias stuff that, that loads in from the outside, right. Mostly imposter syndrome is an internal thing. You know, but it’s. And one of the things you spoke to before, which I think is really important to, to think about, as you try to untangle your own relationship with imposter syndrome, we tend to look up when we compare ourselves to others.

    [00:14:36] Right? So it’s like how many podcasts are out there? Well, and where are my numbers on podcasts? Vis-a-vis whoever else’s podcast. Right. And. Or if you’re a scientist, you tend to look at the most successful scientists. If you’re a mathematician who won the fields map poll, and in doing so, we lose looking at people who are peers, people who are at our level.

    [00:14:59] And we don’t look at the people who have done less than, than us, including those of us who have done. How many moms have, how many moms are out there? How many moms of gifted kids are out there? How many of them actually started a podcast let to let alone an international one? Right? You, I mean, you, you know what I mean?

    [00:15:16] Look, you get P you get big deal people from here in the states and me.

    [00:15:21] So, but that’s, you know, I mean, that’s the thing, right? Doing the thing is the biggest. Antidote to imposter syndrome, right? Because imposter syndrome is anxiety and anxiety. This wants us to stand still. Anxiety wants us to do nothing committed action is this, Hey, you know what? That loud voice in my head is screaming.

    [00:15:45] And you’re in a posture, you’re in a posture and a posture, but you know what? I put some paint on a canvas today. I ran today. I practice my elbow today. I used surfed today. I filled out my own. Application for uni today. I did those things today. It doesn’t untangle, it doesn’t make imposter syndrome go away, but every time you take a concrete action, its grip on you gets a little bit less.

    [00:16:12] And that’s a very cool thing.

    [00:16:14] Sophia Elliott: That is a very cool thing. So for anyone out there listening, thinking, right, I really need to get a handle on. The best thing they can do is just take baby steps. Just take some kind of action, despite the kind of voices, trying to keep us safe, because I think, in as much as those voices No, maybe anxiety ridden and maybe preventing us moving forward in a, in a way they’re also trying to keep us safe and small and in that one spot, and it’s almost like.

    [00:16:49] Whether it’s a good place or not. It’s what, you know, and it’s therefore safe place. And so breaking out of that can be scary, definitely. But by taking those baby steps, we can start to move forward and out of that, and I’m guessing it’s like anything, it’s a muscle, we’ve just got to keep doing it, keep practicing it and keep moving forward.

    [00:17:10] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yeah. And making sure that you’re moving forward in ways that actually move you forward. Right. Because. If you are, for instance, if you’re trying to write it, you actually actually have to write, not edit the stuff you’ve already written and I’m calling a lot of people out, including myself, right? Like he’s like, well, I mean, I can’t write, I have to make sure that things like, and this is the thing it’s almost like you should save and hide everything you write and just start from a fresh page.

    [00:17:44] Right. Right. And it’s the same way. If you are trying to do art, it’s the same thing. If you are trying to practice your musical instrument or play field hockey or whatever it is you’re going to do, because it’s so easy to hide in the repetitive actions that feel safe, that we feel like we have gained mastery over, but that’s, and so then you can lie to yourself and say, well, I’m doing.

    [00:18:13] I read 30, 32 articles today. There are 32 more than I needed, but I read them more. I know things. Right. And, and it’s, it’s the sort of thing that I would, I tell the kids I work with. I would rather you vomit out 10 pages of absolute garbage about the thing you read. And then we’ll edit it and we’ll fix it together.

    [00:18:40] Then you deciding that you need to read the complete works of Herman Melville before you even put pen to paper. And the kids will think about how do I manage my anxiety around that? It’s like you grit your teeth and you climb the two minute mountain because when we start something new, when we try to do a committed action, our anxiety is highest for 90 seconds.

    [00:19:02] When we started thinking there’s 90 seconds of very intense anxiety. And like, and if you can survive that 90 seconds, you’re going to be okay, but you got to climb the two minute mountain. That’s what it is. It’s this like you’re sitting down and you pull out your manuscript and you’re, you’re writing some words and then you started to feel anxious and you go, well, maybe I’ll just, maybe I’ll just go back and I’ll make sure that everything.

    [00:19:26] And then you just say, okay, this is my two. And then mountain. I have to keep writing for two minutes and then that feeling is going to go away and just turn all the way. And then like you look up and two minutes have passed and you’re like, okay, I survived that I can keep going. You know, that’s right.

    [00:19:46] That’s such a.

    [00:19:49] And making yourself aware of that process, the physiological response to anxiety going down there, usable aware of that is actually another part of curing this because you know, like I’ve given, I don’t know about a hundred talks on giftedness and it’s my favorite part of my job. And every single time I do, I have.

    [00:20:14] I’m going to log on and there’s going to be nobody there. And just to sign on the zoom that says, we figured out that you’re a fraud, get outta here. Then they finally got me. I’ve been, you know, I’ve done so well. And that hasn’t happened yet and knock wood that it’s ever going to happen. I don’t think it’s going to Every time.

    [00:20:30] I start talking every time I get into the flow about halfway through, I sort of take a moment. I reflect like, okay, I’m doing a pretty good job at this. Right. I’m in the moment I’m doing the thing. And in those moments where I reflect my imposter syndrome is silent because it’s not real.

    [00:20:52] Sophia Elliott: I think there’s a quote for today.

    [00:20:54] That’s not real. It’s not real, so it’s not real. And we just couldn’t do the thing for two minutes to like, fail the feels grit for two minutes, get over the hump. Yeah. Probably grit 10 minutes. And then, and then that’s, that’s the hog bit. I like that. Yeah, absolutely.

    [00:21:22] I’m not sure where to go next to this.

    [00:21:28] Dr Matt Zakreski: Um, so, so I was, I was talking about this once and, and I was at uh, supporting the emotional needs of the gifted mini conference out in Seattle, Washington in the us and Mike Postma. Our major Domo of, of saying, had asked me, can you do something around pastors? Um, yeah, I can do that. Sure. I suffer from it.

    [00:21:48] I, I’m not just an expert. I’m also a member, right. So I put a, a top together and I was ready to go. And of course the room is filled because a lot of people want to learn about imposter syndrome. It’s. Of all the talks I give. It’s the one that they get the biggest emotional response, because everyone is sitting there thinking I’m the only one who feels this way.

    [00:22:10] I know we’re all dealing with this, right. I mean, come on. And so I always tell me, like, if this describes you, raise your hand and everyone like awkwardly looks around the room is everyone’s hands are raised. We’re going through this and Susan Daniels, right? Who is a giant in our field. And one of the kindest and sweetest humans I’ve ever had the good pleasure of meeting it’s sitting in the front row, right.

    [00:22:33] Eight feet from me. And it was at one point she looks at me and she goes, oh my God, that’s so many. Oh, wow. Why those a gear Susan Daniel, right? That’s another thing you don’t have a pasta distributor, Susan Daniels. And, and then doing some proving my point, right? That you know, that the giants of our fields, our heroes are legends feel that way.

    [00:23:03] You know what I mean? Gordon Ramsey, the, the chef has spoken at length about imposter syndrome because he grew up very poor growing up, not eating five star Michelin meals, Ray, growing up, eating, beans on toast. And, he’s like I spent the first 10 years of my career waiting for someone to say, you’re just a, you’re just a kid from Glasgow who doesn’t belong in a French kitchen.

    [00:23:25] And, and it’s this idea, like not only does it sort of co-occur with intelligence, but it also cokers. Success and achievement, the higher we climb, the higher we have to fall. And our anxiety is very aware of that, right? So it’s like, Hey, Hey, you fooled everybody. You know, like there you are, you think you’re the CEO of this company, but you’re actually a fraud.

    [00:23:52] And and it’s not helping us. It’s not telling us the truth, but it’s loud and it’s constant and it’s in our head. Right. So that is a. Part of this process, part of the reason we’re having this podcast and that you’re listening to it is that the next time these feelings show up, you can name this as imposter syndrome and say like, Hey, this is just my imposter syndrome talking.

    [00:24:17] You know, if I fail out in the world, the world will do a very good job of letting. Right. If you write a book and you submit it to a publisher and they go, this is the worst thing I’ve ever read. You know, you tried to write Harry Potter and you called it Perry hotter. And that’s just not even fair. Come on, get out of here with this as trust me, the world will fail.

    [00:24:39] You fail you on its terms. Don’t do the work for him. Yeah. Yeah. Ask the person out on a date, try out for the soccer team, apply to uni, apply them, graduate school, write the book, the host. Right? Get

    [00:24:56] Sophia Elliott: it done.

    [00:24:57] Dr Matt Zakreski: It had done

    [00:24:59] Sophia Elliott: good. Good is done. Absolutely right. It’s done. Yeah. Uh, I love that. And what a great note to kind of wrap up on.

    [00:25:08] So imposter syndrome. Like everyone’s failing it. Everyone’s failure. It’s okay. We can talk about this stuff. And I think the more we do kind of talk about it and share it, and that sense of we can all be a bit vulnerable. We’re all just human doing the life thing. Some days we do that better than others, but we still gotta get through it.

    [00:25:35] And And yeah, I think, I think that’s the thing for me, we’re all just kind of, you know, humans having the, having the human kind of experiment as they say, and, and doing the best that we can. So. I like that. We’ve left everyone with a few tools, a few strategies there get over the first two minutes.

    [00:25:59] Just bear that grit, grit, and, and do it, take those baby steps, exercise that muscle around overcoming the imposter syndrome and say it out loud. I, I do that a lot with my kids as well. Normally it’s you know, mommy’s tired and needs help, but I, now I can say mommy’s feeling fosters gives me a hug, if

    [00:26:22] Dr Matt Zakreski: something right.

    [00:26:23] And that’s, that’s exactly it. Th there was a great quote about this that you have, who has imposter syndrome.

    [00:26:32] Sophia Elliott: Everyone,

    [00:26:34] Dr Matt Zakreski: all the smart, successful people that you think have their shit together.

    [00:26:37] Sophia Elliott: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I, you know, and I actually, I think you nailed it there. Because I think that may have been a comment that I said earlier about, I know you did a great reference down there, but it’s.

    [00:26:53] You know, I’ve always felt like people look at me like I’ve kind of got my shit together, which is nice to think that people think though of me, but I’m just going, I’m doing this day by day. A lot of it I’m making up as I go along and, uh, just in good grace doing the best that I can and, and being brave.

    [00:27:15] In terms of saying what I don’t know and going after those things. Yeah, I think that’s probably one thing I am good at, but but let’s face it. No one has that shit together. Know we were all just on this spectrum of, of getting through life and, and that’s okay. I think that’s what makes it interesting.

    [00:27:38] Dr Matt Zakreski: It does. I mean, life without challenge would be boring and, you know, and, and this is an internal challenge that we get to wrestle with. And hopefully now that you’ve listened to this podcast, you understand yourself a little bit better and you can give yourself a little bit more great. And say, I don’t have to know everything.

    [00:27:59] My contributions have value because I showed up today, you know, because I had an interest in this and I raised my hand or went to a conference or put some words on a paper or some, some paint on a canvas because doing the doers, get things done and. Khan and those contributions have value. They have meaning and they are, they are proof.

    [00:28:27] You are not an imposter regardless of what your brain tells you. I, because I’m saying this to you out loud universe, I’m loudly shouting to you that you belong here. The things you were doing are great. And the doubt you feel. Doesn’t undo any of the wonderful things you are doing or have already done

    [00:28:56] Sophia Elliott: wonderful words to end the podcast on.

    [00:28:59] Thank you so much. And thank you for your very kind words about the podcast as well. And for being absolutely one of our favorite guests and an excellent international speaker giftedness, can I just say doing a great.

    [00:29:18] Thank you for everyone that was listening. I’m sure you’ve probably got as much out of this conversation as I have today, and it’s given you some strategies and some things to think about, and we look forward to talking to you again, Dr. Matt, and and thank you imposter syndrome, right? We’re all going to go out and kick its butt who

    [00:29:35] Dr Matt Zakreski: gets

    [00:29:35] Sophia Elliott: by, right?

    [00:29:36] Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for being here and we’ll let you go to bed now.

    #035 [GTN Awareness Week] Creating Change, with Lynda McInnes

    #035 [GTN Awareness Week] Creating Change, with Lynda McInnes

    Lynda, Principal of Dara School, maths & science teacher, (previously nurse & midwife!) joins us to talk about the impact of rules and regulations on opening a school for gifted kids (a topic she has just finished researching for her Phd building on her vast experience and masters of gifted ed) and you’ll be surprised about what the biggest challenge was (or maybe not).

    Check out our 5 PODCASTS over 5 DAYS for GTN Awareness Week and all the FREE events on this week!

    Hit play and let’s get started!

    Memorable Quote

    “I think it’s about perseverance. There are so many times I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. Why didn’t I? because there were people around me, and it was about the vision.” – Lynda McInnes



    Lynda began her professional career as a nurse and midwife where she worked for many years as a remote area nurse. During this time, she taught Health at the local school.

    She then followed her passion for science by completing a bachelor’s degree with a major in chemistry and then a bachelor’s degree in education. She taught high school maths and science and realised her own children and many other gifted childrens’ needs were not being met in the regular classroom. She studied a master’s degree in education with a focus on gifted education, worked in Gifted Education as an Assistant Principal, while becoming increasingly aware that there was much more that needed to be implemented for gifted children.

    In late 2013, a group made up people passionate about Gifted Education was formed, and regular meetings focused on establishing a specialist school dedicated to the education of gifted students commenced. The concepts and ideas that emerged formed the philosophical basis of Dara School and four years later the doors finally opened to our first group of gifted students.

    Throughout the establishment phase of starting Dara School, Lynda has been working as a doctoral student at Flinders University, writing an auto-ethnography thesis (which she has just finished), as she believes it is important to tell the story of establishing Australia’s first, full time specialist school for gifted students.

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    #034 [GTN Awareness Week] High Potential & Mental Health with Denise Yates

    #034 [GTN Awareness Week] High Potential & Mental Health with Denise Yates

    Today’s Gifted Talented & Neurodiversity Awareness Week guest has more than 35 years of experience in education and giftedness, is an author, formerly the CEO of Potential Plus UK, currently a trustee of Potential Trust UK and MBE recipient(!). Denise talks to us about high potential, hidden potential, mental health challenges of gifted, and the importance of looking after ourselves.

    Check out our 5 PODCASTS over 5 DAYS for GTN Awareness Week and all the FREE events on this week!

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    Memorable Quote

    “If I had one plea for the parents and carers and the professionals on here, it would be to look after yourself; your own mental health and wellbeing so that you can support other people to be the best that they can be.” – Denise Yates MBE



    Denise Yates has worked in education and training for over thirty five years to enable all individuals to maximise their potential. Over the years, this has included ex-offenders, children with moderate learning difficulties, adults with numeracy and literacy problems and in inner-city areas working with young people at risk of offending.

    For ten years, Denise was Chief Executive of the national charity, Potential Plus UK (formerly The National Association for Gifted Children). In 2017, Denise left to pursue her passion which could be summarised as ‘hidden potential’; children and young people with Dual and Multiple Exceptionality, those with mental health problems and those who have been failed by the system, for whatever reason.

    A Cambridge economist, Denise is currently, amongst other things, a Trustee of The Potential Trust, a charitable trust which supports more able children from low-income backgrounds, a non-executive Director of Nisai Education Trust which is interested in exploring different models of education and a member of the Above and Beyond group which looks to work in partnership with organisations in the UK, in whatever sector, for the benefit of children and young people with gifts and talents (including those with DME).

    Denise is a Fellow of the RSA, a consultant on issues related to inclusion and also a trained Adviser with Citizens Advice and spends time practically helping individuals and families in her community.  In 2020, with Adam Boddison, she wrote The School Handbook for Dual and Multiple Exceptionality and in 2020 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to children and young people. In early 2022 her second book about DME, written for parents and carers, will be published.

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    #033 [GTN Awareness Week] #ActuallyGifted Adult with Heather Cox

    #033 [GTN Awareness Week] #ActuallyGifted Adult with Heather Cox

    Gifted Talented Neurodiversity Awareness Week wouldn’t be the same without talking about #actuallygifted Adults. Heather and our host, Sophia Elliott, talk about being a gifted adult, being identified as a child or as an adult (as gifted & Neuro-diverse) and the highs and lows of those journeys!

    Check out our 5 PODCASTS over 5 DAYS for GTN Awareness Week and all the FREE events on this week!

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    Memorable Quote

    “Because everything had come so easy up until that, in all of my subjects, when things started to get hard, then I started to say, well, I’m not interested in that, and I don’t want to do that anymore. That permeated everything and yeah, I found it very difficult because all of my peers had learned how to persist with things at a younger age because things had been tricky for them. So they had to try work these things out. Whereas I hadn’t had to do that.” – Heather Cox



    Heather Cox

    Heather Cox is a data analytics student (self-confessed data nerd), Rubik’s cube addict, resident volunteer historian of our heritage listed school, with passions and experience in motorsport, IT, furniture design, all kinds of history, critical thinking, programming and recently, microcontrollers. She loves the patterns of linguistics, has studied widely and uses random foreign expressions to get the attention of her kids. Heather has three gifted kids, volunteers as the parent committee convenor at their school and was identified as gifted as a child. She shares her personal journey with giftedness.

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    #032 [GTN Awareness Week] Unpacking Homes Schooling (& Maths) with Barry Gelston

    #032 [GTN Awareness Week] Unpacking Homes Schooling (& Maths) with Barry Gelston

    We dive into home-schooling (& maths!) with GHF’s (Gifted Home schoolers Forum) president (and founder of Mr Gelston’s One Room School House), Barry Gelston, as a part of our 5 PODCASTS over 5 DAYS for Gifted Talented Neurodiversity Awareness Week! Woo!

    Barry teaches gifted & 2e students maths so we didn’t miss the chance to talk about that too!

    Check out our 5 PODCASTS over 5 DAYS for GTN Awareness Week and all the FREE events on this week!

    Hit play and let’s get started!

    Memorable Quote

    “Having these conversations and speaking to all of us is letting other people know that they’re not alone and that they can hear their stories in other people’s conversations and knowing that they can be okay. There is a way to make it through.”- Barry Gelston.



    Barry Gelston, M.Ed. is the Board President of GHF whose mission is to empower every gifted family to make strategic, proactive, and intentional educational choices.

    Currently, Mr. Gelston is a Doctoral student at Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education whose focus is on supporting gifted and 2e families. Barry holds a Masters’ Degree in Education from Cambridge College focused on Middle School Mathematics Education and has also completed graduate level coursework in Research, Measurement, and Quantitative Analysis in Behavioral and Educational Sciences at Southern Connecticut State University.

    Professionally, Mr. Gelston is a private math teacher who works with Gifted & 2e homeschool students who struggle with learning math in traditional settings. His practice supports families from around the world, working online in zoom and using other online assistive technology.

    After spending 10 years working exclusively teaching math to Gifted and 2e learners, Mr. Gelston has focused solely on the needs of this community. In addition to using core math education tools taking a constructivist approach, his focus has been on allowing 2e learners the space to learn.

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