Saturday, August 1, 2015

Gifted? DON'T JUDGE.

photo credit:  Morguefile.com
For many Teachers of the Gifted (TOG) the first week of school is the most frustrating, as the new teachers meet the kids identified as gifted for the first time.  For some reason, there's an underlying assumption that all gifted kids are like Roald Dahl's Matilda, searching with self-motivated enthusiasm, for the perfect challenge in every class.  

The reality is that this assumption causes the "Elephant in the Room" discussion in the faculty room, day after day, as various colleagues mention a student's name and ask "What's the deal with (fill in name here).  How is he/she gifted? "  I spend a lot of time that first week answering, "I just teach them, I don't identify them!"  Which, quite frankly, ends the conversation, but also does a great disservice to the potential for continuing educational discussions on what gifted kids really look like.

There is a wonderful teacher training presentation that has been distributed by the fabulous website, Crushing Tall Poppies, that uses the words of parents of gifted kids to call attention to the variety of issues that should be addressed when working with these amazing kids.  (Take the time to read though it -- some of it may surprise you.)

I asked for additions to the list, and got these responses:

  • Gifted...it isn't what you think it is.
  • Being gifted is of very little value except that it denotes potential; the value is in how you use your "giftedness".
  • Not a parent of a gifted student but was one myself. I was in a good program for 1.5 years then moved to a school district without a program. I felt labeled and out of place at both schools. But that was the late 70's.
  • God wired them to think differently, but humans came up with the confusing label.
  • What some people in the world call disabled actually amounts to giftedness!!!
  •  People with big ideas cannot fit in tiny boxes!!!
  •  They are sensitive and feel deeply.
  •  School Districts don't do enough to support these kids and this program . . . We're too busy trying to save the under achievers and these kids are the ones that are left behind . . . If you don't have parents and a few good teachers/mentors to guide them the "gifted program" only looks good on paper.
Each and every one of those responses is exactly on target.  Einstein wasn't the greatest student, nor were some of the greatest minds and innovators of the 21st century.  Sometimes the simple act of asking these folks to conform could, literally, result in the downfall of society.