Tag: labeling

Somewhere in our educational history the message came down that teaching the child with a “gifted” label was easy. It’s not. Teachers have to be fully prepared to move quickly through material, be more flexible, understand and carefully use sarcastic humor, respond to boundary pushing, answer constant questions, allow for discussion of moral injustices, manage outbursts and intensities, establish expectations that match the skills and abilities of the learner and be sensitive to physical and emotional issues such as ADHD, underachieving, Bipolar, dyslexia, learning English, and a myriad of others to numerous to mention. Yes, gifted kids are not all high achieving perfect students!

Because of the age-old message that teaching gifted children is easy, administrators and teachers assume that those labeled as “gifted” can excel when other students who are “labeled” low-students are placed in the same classroom (as the phrase goes) “to spread the wealth”. While there should diversity in a class of students, excessive spreads of skill and ability doesn’t make sense for several reasons and is not research based.

Although teachers are masters of differentiation, in the real world they struggle with meeting the needs of every student and the requirements of paperwork, meetings, email and other demands on their time. Students know who struggles with concepts and who gets it the first time. “Gifted” or high achieving students might brag or tease their classmates. They are likely to adopt behavior problems to deal with their boredom if the teacher spends his/her time addressing the needs of the other students. “Gifted” students may feel undue empathy towards their peers and stress over the injustices. Anyone who has looked into brain-based learning knows that any kind of stress on the child takes precedence over the learning functions in the brain. In other words, good, solid learning doesn’t occur when the brain is stressed.

Low students recognize that they don’t know the answer as quickly as their classmate. Their self-esteem plummets. Parents become concerned. They make more phone calls, send more emails, and ask for more conferences which is taxing on the teacher. Additionally, if the parent doesn’t find satisfaction with the way a teacher is dealing with these issues, they move on to administration. We can easily relate the affect of stress on learning with the affect of stress on teaching by asking the question: how does stress affect teaching?

As research reveals more about the best situations that children learn in, educators and administrators need to change perceptions on what creates successful learning in the actual classroom. Part of the job of Gifted researchers and teachers is to explain the results of educational research to administrators, teachers and parents. This includes different ways to look at things and new terminology.

When a message has been hammered in and repeated millions of times over the course of decades, whether or not that message is actually true becomes irrelevant — and the people invested in presenting that message, whether for monetary gain or not, are especially resistant to any evidence that might be contrary. ~K Wartman/Huffington Post

Gifted education has amassed loads of research and more research on the diversity of learners and their performance in the classroom, which we have done a fantastic job of explaining to other gifted advocates. We need to get the message out to those who make the decisions: the administrators and school boards. Our students, whether they are low or high, need to have their academic and social/emotional needs met. We won’t do this by appeasing anybody. We don’t do this to avoid griping by other teachers. We do this by using research based results, creating our action research projects to verify our results in our population and imparting that information to leaders who make decisions. Change needs to be responsive to the needs of our students, not static and age-old.

Education Gifted Education

I came across a very detailed conversation recently in one the Gifted MailLists I follow. I’ve only included a portion of the conversation here. I’ve had experiences teaching both those who strive and achieve regardless of the ‘gifted’ label and those who languish with the label. There are so many variables from cultural motivations to family situations to exposure to technology to teacher attitudes that affects the motivation of the gifted child. The importance of working hard is no small matter in the gifted world! What is your ‘take’ on the issue?


“EW: If praising for intelligence can be a negative thing, what about labeling kids as “gifted”? Could that do more harm than good?

Dweck: Labeling kids as gifted can sometimes do more harm than good. The label “gifted” implies that you have received some magical quality (the gift) that makes you special and more worthy than others. Some students are in danger of getting hung up on this label. They may become so concerned with deserving the label and so worried about losing it that they may lose their love of challenge and learning. They may begin to prefer only things they can do easily and perfectly, thus limiting their intellectual growth.

Psychologists who study creative geniuses point out that the single most important factor in creative achievement is willingness to put in tremendous amounts of effort and to sustain this effort in the face of obstacles. It would be a tragedy if by labeling students as gifted, we limited their creative contributions.

However, we can prevent this by making clear to students that “gifted” simply means that if they work hard and keep on learning and stretching themselves, they will be capable of noteworthy accomplishments. Of course, that is true of many, many people.”

Gifted Education

Is using the word ‘gifted’ the right word for labeling those few individuals that rise to the top? I have been struggling with this question the past few weeks since my visit to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris where they refer to the gifted individual as ‘high potential’ individuals and while doing my own research on homeschooling the gifted. I have also had several discussions with all types of educators and non-educators who have already have an idea of what the term ‘gifted’ means the second you say it.

If you take the time to look up all the different terms to describe the gifted individual you will turn up a whole range of terms: exceptional or high potential, high academic ability, intellectual ability, accelerated learner, high abilities, able learners. I recently read through the different country reports in the WorldGifted newsletter (World Council for Gifted and Talented Children) and found that different countries have different ways of referring to their extra-special students, too. The question has existed for years because I remember active discussions in my graduate classes about labeling a children.

We can’t change the perception that one has when they hear the word ‘gifted’ until we are able to thoroughly and confidently explain how these learners are different. Why Not Gifted has explained their position on the matter (which was the inspiration for this entry). I know that Ohio gifted educators are now struggling with their state government are working out how to describe these students and their needs for funding purposes. Labeling a child is quite a slippery but a necessary thing to do so I offer the following metaphor to help the uninformed relate.

Take a moment to watch the following video from Mythbusters: Mythbusters. Here’s how my metaphor works: You know there are banana peels (different perceptions and emotional responses of what gifted means), you know there should be the objective to educate the students to their full potential (Adam navigating his way through the peels). Gifted educators, some parents and others know the cold hard facts (the floor) that these students have different academic, creative and social/emotional needs which, if not addressed, can negatively impact the child’s perception and confidence in themselves in their future. We’ve slipped several times during the history of defining and educating our cream of the crop but let’s hope that we have increased our understanding along the way.

We, as a responsible, thoughtful and cautious society, might have to hold hands to get across those bananas (come together), we might have to come up with a hover board to get across those bananas (create something new), we might compromise (continue our current path), go around the bananas (ignore the gifted learner all together) or wait for the bananas to decompose (the child grows up and out of the educational world). Whatever we choose, let’s apply the sound scientific principles, logical testing procedures and solid record keeping, just like Jamie and Adam, before we answer this question. We are sure to blow up a few myths along the way. In any case, let’s not forget to have fun!

Gifted Education