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!