I was recently asked by a Twitter pal @Incipi if I had a recommended book list for gifted issues. I don’t yet but that could be another good summer professional project. Meanwhile, visit SENG’s website or Hoagie’s Gifted for for some great recommendations.
Right now, I’m reading Social-Emotional Curriculum with Gifted & Talented Students by VanTassel-Baska, Cross & Olenchak. I was sitting next to my daughter on the plane back from Washington DC when I came across some questions in the book (pg. 177) that I thought I would ask her. She was in a gifted program from 1st grade through 12th grade (now 23 yrs old and beginning her career).
1)Why am I in the gifted program?
2)What do I hope the program can do for me?
3)What do I hope to achieve in the program?
4)What would I have to do to attain my goals?
5)What are some possible problems I may face in the program?
6)What perceptions do people have of me as a student who is gifted?
I have asked my 2nd grade gifted students the first question this past school year. Their answer was the same as Amber’s: “because I took a test.” This answer indicates that the educators and parents haven’t addressed the child’s learning differences in the classroom and it is also the beginning of the elitism issue that gifted programs struggle with.
Because of the answer to the first question, the next three questions in the list had no substance or value so we skipped to questions 5 & 6 (which is quite sad). Because adults have ‘picked’ a student to take a test we’ve set up this idea that that one particular student is special somehow. When one is special there are no problems with being in the gifted program, right? This was not the answer I heard from Amber nor the answer I’ve heard from my students or other adults. Issues with bullying, ostracizing, additional work, mislead expectations, identity, etc, all begin to crop up. Let’s not forget the benefits of being in a gifted program: challenging & stimulating work, interesting discussions, academic opportunities, friendships with other like minded individuals, etc. How many parents and educators have you run into who understand that being identified gifted is not ‘all a bed of roses’? Many just know that being in a gifted program is the ultimate thing to do without really researching the program to see how it meets the needs of the child. This is why I truly respect those parents who ask questions about our program!
Ask any child who has been in a gifted program or has been identified as gifted and they will tell you just what other people think of them! Phrases like ‘you’re weird’, ‘smarty pants’, ‘you’re gifted, how come you don’t know that?’, ‘that’s easy for you, your gifted’ – they have heard them all. It takes a very mature child to accept those phrases and still be able to focus on the good experiences that being in a gifted program has to offer to them.
Bear with me a moment: An article recently swirling around in the #gtchat, #gifted on twitter has drawn attention: “The Pitfalls in Identifying a Gifted Child”. I took the time to read through the 40+ comments and drew this conclusion.
If we identify gifted children then we MUST support them.
Many of the issues and problems in the comments are a result of adults missing the purpose of a gifted program! The point is not one of elitism or status, it is one of meeting the needs of a child. Say, your child is reading & understanding the newspaper at seven years of age. Teaching them the sound of letters in the classroom is pointless and will result in behavior issues and social-emotional issues, period. Do you think this has not reality? Read
Raisin’ Brains. Additionally, I watched a 6 year old debate with a college professor who was discussing Pascal’s Triangle during a workshop at a gifted conference. Asking him to use manipulatives to understand how to add would be a waste of his time and your time! Most children are not this ‘gifted’ and need less differentiation at home and at school. These are extreme cases to make my point.
Teachers and educators: support these children (and their parents) wherever they are academically, understand the purpose of a gifted program, explain the program to all your students if this is necessary. You would do no less for every student in your classroom regardless of their ability!