Dear Abby

Girl Is Encouraged to Be Smart Without Becoming a Show Off

DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Smart Seventh-Grader" (Sept. 26) was supportive, but did not address the heart of her problem. Many years ago I was that little girl. No one had explained to me there is a difference between knowing the answer to the teacher's questions and knowing how to THINK.

Her teachers and friends already know she knows all the answers. She has nothing to prove, so you should have told her to set herself an intellectual goal of asking questions in class that will spark the imaginations of other students and deepen the discussion.

When she can't do that, she can sit quietly and let the teacher interact with others who don't already know all the material. If she does, her teachers will bless her today, and she will bless you for the rest of her life.

No one likes to be around a know-it-all, and the sooner she learns that lesson the happier she'll be. -- BARBARA, A LIBRARIAN IN NEW YORK

DEAR BARBARA: While I hate to see any child hide his or her light under a barrel, you are right about the importance of children developing social and coping skills. I received a blitz of e-mail from teachers and parents who echoed your sentiments. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: As a teacher of 30 years, allow me to provide another response to "Smart Seventh-Grader." It's entirely possible that the student who accused her of being a "know-it-all" is one who would like to answer.

Does she raise her hand to answer every question the teacher asks? Some kids are intimidated by it, so she should limit herself so others also have a chance to answer. They need a chance to shine, too.

When kids stop raising their hands because one person always does, it's hard for the teacher to ignore the one kid. But teachers want others to learn, too. The ability to listen to others and share opportunities for learning will make her a better person. -- SOUTH CAROLINA TEACHER

DEAR ABBY: I am an adult now, but I was once that child. Grades came easily to me, and sometimes other kids made fun of me for being so smart. I purposely missed answers on tests at times to avoid getting a perfect score and being teased. I wanted to fit in. I learned early that intelligence was not something to be prized.

When I was older and began dating, I remember my mom telling me boys didn't like girls who were smarter or who beat them at sports or games. So I began hiding the gifts and talents God had blessed me with. I married young to a man who was intimidated by my intelligence, so I hid it away piece by piece until even I began to doubt my capabilities.

Then one day something happened that changed everything. I was granted another gift -- a daughter who was blessed with a beautifully intelligent mind and reminded me of myself as a child. I saw her watch my every step and try to be like me. It was then that I realized I had to own and embrace my intelligence or she would hide hers and allow others to steal it away piece by piece.

Abby, it was life-changing. It has caused difficulties in my marriage because I suddenly changed the rules of the game, and I no longer allow myself to be less so that someone else can be more -- but that change needed to happen.

May I share with "Smart Seventh-Grader" some of what I have shared with my daughter? NEVER hide your God-given talents to make someone else feel better. When people tease you about being smart, they're showing their own insecurity. Don't be afraid to answer questions, but don't "show off." Life is a balance. Embrace your intelligence and view it as the gift it is. If you let it shine, it will take you far. -- OLDER AND WISER IN INDIANA

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