Sunday, June 14, 2015

GIFTED. Smh.



"Children are extraordinary.  Each in their own way."  claims one website.  I've heard colleagues say things like "All kids are gifted at something."  Honestly, the identification as "Gifted" is not widely understood, nor is it a cause for celebration.  

It is simply a state of intellectual being.

Somewhere along the way, it became a competition. I know it started before the "My son is an honors student at ABC Elementary School" bumper stickers, although that did little to support the population, causing criticism, finger-pointing, and a lot of "SMH!" when the alleged "gifted" child failed to perform in a way society deemed to be appropriate.

I've ranted spoken before about the nay-sayers and critics of identifying/identified gifted students who shrug their shoulders - or worse- when a high-IQ individual performs less than expected.  It astounds me how many people have an opinion strong enough to weigh in on the topic, without really knowing anything about the intricacies of such a diagnosis. 

While I've encountered many adults who critique or criticize giftedness, I've never heard anyone who questioned a label (in public) of a learning support kid.  (Imagine - "How the heck can HE be learning support?  He seems SOOO NORMAL?"  "She doesn't need an IEP, she can make change without a calculator!")

Somehow, somewhere, the idea of a label of "Gifted" became something of a badge of honor, despite the fact that it often carries a social stigma, an entire quiver of frustration in the classroom, and often an emotional inferiority complex so paralyzing that kids fear answering a question incorrectly.

So why have the label at all, if it's that scarring a process for all involved?

Because it's a diagnosis that requires treatment.  Not in the medical sense of the word, but in the educational sense.  A student identified as high-ability is fabulous.  Any parent of a high-ability child should be applauded for the work ethic instilled in their child, and the level of performance and proficiency demonstrated.  Having said that, there is an entire additional population of kids identified as gifted who have intellectual potential that is untapped.  
 
So the label exists to call attention to the potential of the kid who will never call attention to himself in the classroom. Gifted Expert, Carol Bainbridge, wrote an interesting article for AboutParenting.com recently.  I loved her quote: 

"But gifted kids aren't like other kids, any more than evergreen trees are like all other trees. Gifted children are children, but the term "giftedness" tells us a great deal about those children who are assigned that label. We need to help others understand that label, not work to get rid of it."

If you're an educator, or a parent trying to understand why your kid is identified, or maybe NOT identified, as gifted, consider spending some time this summer learning a bit about this under-served, and often under-identified, population.  (You could start at the one-stop shopping site, http://www.hoagiesgifted.orghttp://www.hoagiesgifted.org)

Yes, all kids have gifts and talents.  But not all kids are gifted.  If they were, we wouldn't need the label.