Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Better late than never!

Many times when anyone is referenced to as an early or late bloomer it is usually in the context of physical development or when first noticing the opposite sex! Not to often is it conceptualized that someone can be an early or late bloomer cognitively. This doesn’t mean that a late bloomer’s brain isn’t fully developed by a certain age but more so of how a person views a goal and how quantify that goal being achieved.

Who are the early bloomers in school? The ones who when the teacher asks the class to create or write something, that student seems to put pen to paper or brush to canvas rather quickly. They have a vision and know how to turn that vision into a nice project or eloquent writing sample in a relatively quick period of time (or at least within the timeline of the assignment).

I would think many teachers run into students who have ideas but are not sure how to make them work right away. It takes many trial and errors before a direction is determined. This can take longer than the assignment period, which can make completing work by a deadline difficult (might even water down creation to fit the time allotted).

When people succeed early in either their childhood or early adult life the prodigy or genius label is used. When really what needs to be considered is how creativity flourishes inside all of us.

A University of Chicago economist named David Galenson decided that creativity can be split into two groupings: conceptual and experimental.

This would help explain to early bloomer student model. They can conceptualize what they want, which helps them figure out how they want to perfect it. A late bloomer is most likely an experimental type. They will start out in one direction and finish in a completely different place. Their goals are not always focused and there are many stop and starting over periods. Not only does this take much more time but it also gives the appearance of failure. Galenson notes in his book “Old Masters and Young Geniuses” about late bloomers: “The imprecision of their goals means that they rarely feel they have succeeded and their career pursuits are often dominated by the pursuit by one single objective… They consider the production a process of searching, in which they aim to discover the image in the course of making it; they typically believe that learning is a more important goal than the finished product.”

Being a late bloomer doesn’t mean being a late starter. Many people who are better later in their careers most likely have been at their craft for quite a while. There are many people who fit this category but one immediate actor comes to my mind. That actor is George Clloney. (Clooney did make it big on TV at age thirty three with his role on ER but it wasn’t until seven years later when he was 40 that he got his major breakthrough roles on the big screen. In 2000 and 2001 he had back to back to back hits with The Perfect Storm, O Brother, Where Art Thou? And Oceans Eleven. He  became an A-list actor who commands more money now than when he was younger. )

Some historical examples of early bloomers:
-Mozart wrote his masterpiece Piano Concerto No. 9 at twenty-one,
-Herman Melville wrote Citizen Kane at 25, Moby Dick at 31,
-Picasso painted Evocation: The Burial of Casagemas at 20.

Some historical examples of late bloomers:
-Alfred Hitchcock directed Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Trouble with Harry, Vertigo, North by Northwest and Psycho between ages fifty four and sixty-one.
-Mark Twain published Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at forty-nine
-Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe at fifty-eight.

Why this resonates with me is because I know that I am a late bloomer. Although I do not begin to imagine I am on the same level as any of the great achievers I have referenced in the piece, I do feel though that as time has passed I can agree with the objective of “searching” for an undetermined answer rather than “finding” a finished product.

For kids, school is the most important and all encompassing aspect of their lives. They operate on a carefully researched, evidence-based schedule which seems to be at times a one size fits all model. Development doesn’t happen on a socially engineered timetable.

I tell my wife many times when I am either reading something or learning about something new, that I don’t have expectations to grasp the concept immediately. Rather I prefer to read it, take it in and  “let it swirl around a bit” (my own words). I know that testing is rigorous, and on a timetable. My hope is that for the late bloomers, the ones who are searching for understanding, that teachers can encourage and support those minds.

For the early bloomers who “get it”, my hope is that their teachers can help keep their shinning star from burning out too early; that they will know that while graduating from college is a noble goal, its not the finished product.


Gladwell, Malcolm, “What the dog Saw: and other adventures” pgs. 295-305. 2009

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