The question came up during a twitter conversation I had with @shareski lately. Which started me thinking about this entry because it is also a question I get frequently in casual conversations with other educators, family and friends. What motivates someone to ask that question?
One theory I have is that my friends, family and co-workers are all looking for validation for their innovative or successful thinking from an ‘expert’ on giftedness. Perhaps they are also looking for some explanation of what it means for an individual to be gifted. We’ve all seen the prodigy children who can function many years ahead of their peers. These gifted individuals are very easy to pick out in a crowd: the nine year old who plays in the local symphony, the 5 year old who understands Pascal’s Triangle, etc. Prodigy children make up only 1% of the population, highly and moderately gifted children make up about 10% of the population. How do we know they are ‘gifted?
Identifying young gifted children (which is part of my job as an elementary gifted specialist) is difficult and there is no perfect or fool proof way to do this. This explains why every school district, every private school, every state has its own definition and requirements to be identified as gifted. This comes as a surprise to many parents and educators.
Let me diverge for a second: Word of caution: if you are a parent of an already identified gifted child who considering a move, be sure to research how this will affect your child’s educational services. If you are a new parent, please please, do your research first before announcing to your child that he/she is gifted. Know that gifted child requires different learning situations. Many parents are under the assumption that gifted means special treatment or elite position. It doesn’t. Many old-timers (parents and educators) in the field of gifted education will tell you it is not an easy road to choose for your child.
Back to the question, “Does this make me gifted.” I can’t make a snap judgment on that so don’t ask me. I would need to apply some of the same testing materials, collect a portfolio of your work, chat with those around you for examples of leadership, empathy, creative thinking, logical problem solving, critical thinking (the list goes on). Then, compile and discuss the results with others in the field. You and I both don’t have time to do that.
Did you do something you were quite proud of? Do you feel you are unique in some way in some field? Do others look to you for ideas? Did this come from original thinking (nature) or from years of training and understanding in the field (nurturing)? Further, can you be gifted at a specific moment or about a specific thing and not in another? (The answer is “yes” and if you need some real life examples of this let me know.) You just demonstrated some characteristics of giftedness.
It really doesn’t matter if you are identified as gifted by someone else or not. It doesn’t matter if you are an inventor that creates something that changes the world or you just did something quite clever. What does matter is that you get the education that fits your need. Why put a 4th grader who is fully capable doing 7th grade math in the same classroom as those learning 4th grade math? A program that builds itself around age-level peers and academic-level peers equally is ideal for our gifted learners.
To wrap this entry up, when you are grown, make it a point to use your skills and abilities to better the world around you. Thanks @shareski for the diversion and distraction and the spark to write this.