I titled this blog months before today. Every time I tried to sit down and fill in the page with my thoughts I got lost. There is so much to be said on the subject of teaching gifted students, or better yet, raising gifted students. In my last year of teaching I had the privilege of teaching a mixed ability classroom (technically all classrooms are mixed, but this one housed all the gifted students on the grade level and filled in the other seats with everybody else). I call it a privilege now that it is over. Had you asked me during that year I probably would have gone on and on about how “different” it was teaching with gifted children in the room. Some days they were my saving grace and on others I wanted to switch classes with the teacher across the hall. The discussions we could carry on and the ideas that would be sparked in that room were at best described as fascinating. It influenced my “average” students to reach higher. It also caused a great deal of anxiety on both ends of the learning spectrum. I watched my gifted kids cling to each other because they often felt “different” and my other students battled with their own feelings of inadequacy because there were very few instances where they could outshine these peers. All in all, we learned and grew as a class and it ended up being one of my best teaching years ever.Despite our passionate debates and creative presentations and fluid atmosphere of learning, I often wonder if the classroom, my classroom, any classroom, had been enough for this highly intelligent group of students.
In a study done by David Lubinski, professor of psychology and human development at Peabody, it was found that “the exceptionally smart are often the invisible in a classroom and miss teacher input and external motivation.” http://zeenews.india.com/news/health/health-news/gifted-children-might-be-invisible-in-class-study_25952.html. Had there been only one or two gifted children in my class that year, I could definitely have seen this happen. Instead my class roll consisted of ten identified (meaning tested and given a federally mandated individualized education plan/IEP) and about three high potential (possibly gifted, may just be high functioning, either way-very smart). With these numbers in a class of 27, they dominated. However, this design is not the norm.
If you are a parent of a gifted student, you already know the struggle. How often does your child complain of boredom, poor peer interaction and just an overall lack of enthusiasm for school? Postdoctoral research fellow and co-researcher, Harrison Kell, explains that “there’s this idea that gifted students don’t really need any help.” Kell goes to state that “these are people with very high IQs, but still won’t meet their full potential unless they’re given access to accelerated coursework, AP classes, and educational programs that place talented students with their intellectual peers.” http://www.medicaldaily.com/how-gifted-children-are-held-back-unmet-needs-and-limits-educating-top-001-266538
So what do you do if your child’s school isn’t meeting his or her needs?
1. The first thing to remember is that they do not fit in. They are different and because of this difference their needs on all levels, academically, emotionally, socially, psychologically, are going to be different than that of an average child. Accepting, understanding and embracing this as parents is the first step in helping your gifted child.
2. Inform yourself on your child’s rights. Gifted children are loosely categorized as Special Needs. There are federal laws protecting their rights. Know which resources your district provides and where they are located. If the school your child is currently in is not capable of meeting their needs, then requests can be made for location placements.
3. Encourage your child’s interests, strengths and weaknesses. One of the advantages of having a gifted child is often their communication skills. Discuss these things with your child and research outside programs, venues, and groups that may be able to keep your child motivated, learning and challenged outside of school.
Remember, at the end of the day this is your child. The school system was not designed to meet the needs of all children 100%. While it needs to do its part, so do we as parents, more specifically, as the parents of (gifted) students.
Gifted children might be invisible in class:study http://zeenews.india.com/news/health/health-news/gifted-children-might-be-invisible-in-class-study_25952.html
Weller, Chris How gifted children are held back: unmet needs and the limits of educating the top 0.01% http://www.medicaldaily.com/how-gifted-children-are-held-back-unmet-needs-and-limits-educating-top-001-266538
Tolan, Stephanie S. Gifted education digest: Helping your gifted child (1990) http://www.gifted.uconn.edu/siegle/tag/Digests/e477.html