Friday, January 9, 2009

Talents--a luxury?

It’s taken me awhile to get my thoughts together on this. And this may or may not be an answer.

I think I disagree with the statement: “In their heart-of-hearts, the majority of people know what their talents are.”

I’m not saying that I have a special perspective on this because I’ve been an inner-city teacher, but I’d like to put forth some thoughts about talents. Having seen, up close, the school lives (and some home lives) of the underprivileged children I taught, it almost seems to me that attention to and the nurturing of talents is something only the well-off/educated can attend to. A single welfare mother with five children and one on the way doesn’t even have the word ‘talent’ in her vocabulary, for herself, or her children. She doesn’t have the time, energy (physical or emotional) to observe whether or not her children have talents, and she certainly doesn’t have the time (and money—yes, money) to nurture those talents.

Case in point, the aforementioned Jacob.
Case in point, Dakota—that even in the horror show of my last year as a teacher, I saw as an incredibly gifted child—a singer, a potential actress, artistic, but an incredibly troubled and angry child, a horror in my classroom. The music teacher at School #69, Laura Bartelomeo, put together a wonderful Motown musical medley for the 5/6 choir. Dakota had a solo. She told me several times during the morning that her uncle was coming to see her…then…around 11 o’clock, she began asking me if she could call and see if he was coming. I let her call twice, and then after that, I said no. I let her call one more time, with 15 minutes until show time… No one came. No one saw her sing Diana Ross’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”…I still get tears in my eyes jut thinking about it.

Of course, we read all the time about artists/performers who came from very deprived backgrounds, but how does that happen? It happens when a teacher, a mentor, a philanthropist of some sort notices him or her and gives him or her the attention needed to create.

So maybe talents are like dreams…we have them as children, schools and teachers encourage us to identify what makes us special…but when the pressures of the adult world, the day-to-day struggle to survive, we slowly devolve into an existence where the world acts up on us (and we react and struggle to just survive) instead of us acting on the world like the creative among us do….

1 comment:

  1. Knowing what your talents are and being able to grow them are 2 different things.

    I also caution against defining talents only in a handson avenue- like art or singing or acting. Talents aren't always something that you can see, hear, taste, etc.

    Some kids are talented at learning and absorbing... the kid who always has her nose in a book, for example. Some kids are excellent listeners... the kid who sits back and observes and hears more than what is just being said.

    I still believe that the majority of people, when they stop and really examine themselves, can name at least one thing that they feel they are really good at doing.

    It doesn't take classes or big opportunity to dig into a talent, to unearth it. It often finds its way out on its own. Could those opportunities and money and time and energy make a difference? Sure. A kid who is really good at math and has great opportunities could end up being an engineer who creates and builds machinery. A kid who is really good at math and doesn't have the same great opportunities could end up being a factory worker who knows just the right ways to get a machine to run effectively on the factory floor. Big opportunities... owning a restaurant, head chef. Little opportunities... busboy (who maybe then discovers a passion for food and works his way to becoming the guy who chops onions and peels potatoes and then the guy in charge of salads and then...)