School Sweet School – Embracing Dreamers, Thinkers and Doers


have always been a dreamer. My report card comments in elementary school confirmed it, repeatedly: “Cindy is a daydreamer!” According to Albert Einstein, I was actually entering the laboratory of my mind. Truth be told, I do my best thinking in that laboratory – many of us do – including some of the greatest thinkers. I have long wondered why educators don’t look to the learning profiles of great thinkers, such as Einstein and Thomas Edison, to inform them about how to teach our children.

If I had Albert or Thomas in my class, I would direct them toward their own curiosity, brainstorming together lists of topics of interest. I’d teach them how to do an I-Search Project providing them with the tools to become “lifelong learners.”

After 20 years of teaching, I read the chapter “Unevenly Gifted, Even Learning Disabled” in Dr. Ellen Winner’s book, Gifted Children: Myths and Realities. It opened my eyes to a whole new possibility in the intelligence and behavior of my students. It generated such a profound shift in my awareness as an educator that it rocked my world and has influenced every day of my teaching career since, even influencing my decision to start Rose Scott School for creative thinkers and kinesthetic learners in 2008, where I teach to this day.

Who knew you could be gifted, have ADHD and a learning disability all at once? The only discovery I have made that has been greater than this was the revelation during my graduate research that I fit into that category – and always had. Does that make me a square peg, a misfit?

art-215-sweet2Many of our brightest minds and some of the most influential people in history were “unevenly intelligent.” Some people’s brains are naturally wired for music or art and not so much for writing or advanced mathematics. Others may excel at science and yet struggle when it comes to people skills. Does the name Albert Einstein come to mind?

So, are we square pegs and misfits, or brilliant mavericks, dreamers, thinkers and doers? Why don’t we “fit in” on the playgrounds or in the typical American classroom? Could it be simply a matter of perception? Maybe the time has come to look upon these individuals with new eyes?

The educational system is always talking about increasing student performance. Maybe therein lies the problem. How did “performance” become our goal, and who is qualified to set the standards for performance? It doesn’t work to use the same measure of performance for a Pablo Picasso as a Wolfgang Mozart, a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates. Einstein told us, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

In the June 2013 issue of The Economist magazine, the Schumpeter Business Column published an article entitled “In Praise of Misfits.” Imagine calling Einstein, Edison or the Wright brothers “misfits”! Apparently, that is the caliber of the “Dreamers, Thinkers and Doers” referred to in the piece, including: Steve Jobs of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, and Paul Orfaela of Kinko’s. These “brilliant mavericks,” as the piece aptly refers to them, have all been diagnosed with or recognize in themselves the characteristics of Asperger’s, ADHD, dyslexia and/or giftedness. Einstein, Edison and the Wright brothers belonged to that club.

Today, these unique intellectuals are gobbled up by software and hedge fund firms. The Schumpeter article goes on to say, “Hollywood bends over backwards to accommodate the whims of creatives. And policymakers look to rule-breaking entrepreneurs to create jobs. Unlike the school playground, the marketplace is kind to misfits.”

In order for a child to connect with a learning community, he needs to feel that when he walks through the door he is exactly who he was meant to be, that he is “enough” in every sense of the word. It must be a place designed with dreamers, thinkers and doers in mind, where nobody is going to try to stuff these students into a round hole and blame them if they don’t fit! This validation of their self-worth creates an emotionally safe environment, opening the door for connectedness and a strong sense of community at school.

Whether a child is gifted or has a learning disability, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism, the multiple-intelligence format of teaching allows more children access to the curriculum via their strongest intelligences. There are no square pegs or misfits in a multiple intelligences classroom.

Happiness and a strong feeling of community, built through compassion and mutual respect for the individual strengths and personalities of each child, are essential in order to have a successful learning environment that kids want to return to day after day, building a positive foundation for future success and happiness.

Rose Scott School is the private, nonprofit alternative K-12 school I founded in Chico, California, in 2008. At Rose Scott, the happiness of our students is a primary goal. We want our students to want to come to school every day and to graduate from the twelfth grade with self-esteem not only intact, but enhanced! 

   Rose Scott’s focus is on cooperation, not competition. When children are made to feel different or “less than” their peers because of grades or behavior, they are less likely to make strong connections with other students or their teachers, and their sense of self is diminished, robbing them of their true potential. Conversely, a cooperative, connected community is fertile soil for learning.

“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.”  –Pablo Picasso

Today is a new and unique day, Pablo. Thanks for reminding us! It’s time to see with new eyes, greeting these brilliant mavericks, dreamers, thinkers and doers with our arms open wide. They have the capacity for anything. Let’s surround them with adults who believe that, and in doing so, ensure that these young people will believe it, too.

One morning, I gave one of my students, Joshua, a ride to school when his mother was sick. As the 9-year-old with high-functioning autism jumped out of my car and began running towards the door of Rose Scott School, he shouted, “School sweet school!” This child, who society would rush to label as a misfit, is in the truest sense of the term, a brilliant maverick: a dreamer, thinker and doer. Lucky for Joshua, he is surrounded by adults who know he is a marvel. 

Cindy Carlson, MA. Ed.
About Cindy Carlson, MA. Ed.

Cindy Carlson, MA. Ed., created Rose Scott at the suggestion of her son. Like his mom, he has ADHD and giftedness, which are closely related to Asperger's and high-functioning autism. This has allowed Cindy to truly understand all of her students. To contact Cindy or find out more about Rose Scott School call (530) 354-3101 or visit


  1. Susan Pugliese says:

    So glad you as a teacher saw this need and did something about it. My son was practically ruined in the regular school system. He is now in college and doing extremely well academically, but I keep a close watch on him because of all the negative experiences he indured, and it wasn’t necessarily from the other students, but from his teachers! He was a gifted, visual spatial, hyperactive child. He shut down for eight years. It was awful! S.M.P.

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