Top 5 Misconceptions about Gifted Students … and setting the record straight!
Many articles have been written about the misconceptions surrounding gifted students, but I want to address the top 5 which I feel are the most detrimental to the fulfillment of potential of gifted students.
#5 Gifted students don’t do the work they’re assigned. It’s a waste of my time to differentiate.
True. Gifted students often balk at work given them which they already mastered years before. Instead of using this as an excuse for not giving them meaningful and challenging work, consider first why this is happening. Expecting a gifted student to do something simply because an adult tells them to do it or because everyone else has to won’t work. It simply won’t.
Consider this … a gifted child may learn to tell time before she even starts preschool. In kindergarten, she dutifully sits in class and listens to the teacher explain how to tell time. It’s fun. Her hand goes up every time the teacher asks, “What time does the clock say?”
Students are asked to do specific assignments in the expectation that they will learn from them. If they already know the material, of what value is it? For them, it becomes ‘busy work’; work without purpose. Gifted students need a good reason to do the work. As the years go by, it only gets worse.
#4 Gifted students are already where they should be.
Where might that be? Proficient? Advanced? Who is to say what is standard for the gifted student? How is intellectual growth measured for someone who has reached the ceiling on all the standardized tests they are given?
Kids go to school to learn or that’s what we tell them. But what if they aren't learning anything? And who cares? All children should end the school year at a point reflective of their time spent in the classroom showing real growth.
This is particularly difficult in the test-driven climate that prevails in so many schools today. More emphasis is mistakenly placed on closing the achievement gap rather than realizing the inherent problems of ignoring the excellence gap. In fact, most educators do not distinguish between the two.
It only takes a cursory view of international assessments to realize that the present system simply isn't working for countries like the U.S. Fundamental changes must be made to how education in its most basic form is perceived by those who teach and those who determine policy. Ignoring the needs of students who are identified as gifted and those who should be identified but are not because of prejudicial attitudes about the very nature of giftedness is reflected in the mediocre performance on these assessments.
#3 Gifted students are the responsibility of the gifted teacher/specialist.
In the best case scenario where a gifted resource teacher even exists, how often do gifted students see them? Unless your school has a stand-alone program, this may happen only once a week or less at the elementary level. At the secondary level, it may never happen. So … on which day of the week are they gifted?
In schools where full inclusion is in place, this may even be a non-starter. Gifted children find themselves in classrooms with teachers who have never had any instruction or professional development in gifted education in their entire careers. Priority has been given to dual-certification with special education in most undergraduate programs today; programs totally devoid of any reference to the needs of gifted students.
#2 Teachers don’t have time to work with gifted students.
Dear Mrs. Conrad,
I have 23 other students in my class to worry about. I don’t have time to work individually with your child. His grades are fine. Why are you pushing him?
Your child’s 3rd grade teacher***
The day that email arrived in my inbox, I began to understand that things were not going to be fine. And sadly, I was right. My response was less than professional and not exactly how I would advise other parents today to respond … but I do know how frustrating it can get when your child’s teacher does not see that they have needs that aren't being met.
There is a difference between not ‘having’ the time and not ‘taking’ the time. When my child began to engage in attention-seeking behaviors, teachers and administrators suddenly found time to address the situation. Unfortunately, by then it was too late.
With the emergence of technological advances in the classroom and the ubiquitous availability of global perspectives and free professional development online, finding the time is much easier than it once was to meet the needs of gifted students.
#1 It is elitist to give gifted students opportunities that other students don’t get.
I worked in special education for 12 years. Never once did I hear complaints about our kids going on field trips or having extended computer time when the classroom teacher was overwhelmed by her regular education students. Not once. Not ever.
It is detrimental to the well-being of our children not to provide opportunities for them to be mentally stretched whenever possible. It is widely recognized that the most effective education is an individualized one. The ‘elitist’ argument is only an excuse to deny students an appropriate education based on their needs.
Parenting gifted children is hard work! It requires you to know and understand the nuanced sentiments of educators who may not fully support your efforts to advocate for the best possible education for your child. Enabling conversation rather than stifling it will benefit your child. Being prepared with answers to the misconceptions that surround the nature of gifted students will be a step in the right direction.
* Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
** Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
***Of course, not all teachers approach their jobs this way … but I did keep the email. So, no need to send me the ‘I can’t believe a teacher would say that’ comments.