When Aristotle asked: “What is a friend?" and went on to answer himself: “A single soul dwelling in two bodies", he was referring to the special relationship that exists between people who connect on several levels – intellect, interests and values, usually. Psychologist in Colorado, Linda Silverman (who assessed and worked specifically with gifted youth), wrote: “When gifted children are asked what they most desire, the answer is often 'a friend'. The children's experience of school is completely colored by the presence or absence of a friend."
A new academic year begins. For some, this means starting at a new educational institution with lots of new students. For others, new classes based on abilities and interests mean that there will be a change of students in class. Change requires adaptation but one can best do this from a firm base. Miraca Gross, Emeritus Professor of Gifted Education at UNSW, when writing about the formation of identity that occurs during adolescence, wrote about “the ever-present longing for congenial companionship."
Laurence Coleman, at the University of Tennessee, wrote about the power of specialised educational environments. It seems that when 'like minds' are clustered together, there are significant benefits for individuals whose identity formation and social connectedness are positively impacted. Mary Ann Swiatek, from the University of New York, referred to numerous authors who wrote about the impact of 'differentness'. Feeling that one belongs is an important step in Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
When individuals have an opportunity to mingle with others who share intellectual abilities, interests and values, there is a strong likelihood that they will connect with other 'like minds' and establish friendships. Some of these relationships might be situational, whereas others could be long-term friendships, extending well beyond the completion of studies. Establishing friendships at school, during the important stage of adolescent identity formation can be a critical aspect of understanding that there are others who share a positive sense of intellectual difference as well as other students who share similar interests and values.
© Michele Juratowitch