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?”


Classroom Clock*

She’s proud of herself. Her classmates bestow praise on her. In first grade, she remains patient and answers questions when asked directly; but begins to notice her classmates whispering. In second grade, it’s no longer fun and she begins to wonder how many more times she’ll have to hear the explanation. She’s beginning to get annoyed with her classmates. Why can’t they get it and move on? Third grade brings with it exasperation and she notes the agitation in her teacher’s voice because she isn't paying attention. By fourth grade, she can no longer hide her boredom and begins to complain to her parents about why she has to go to school at all? And so it goes

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.


Image courtesy of Pixabay 

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.


Technological Advances**

#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.


Image courtesy of Pixabay



* 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.

Comments

  1. Great points. They need to be repeated. Often.

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    1. Thanks, Gail! I couldn't agree more. So important for parents of newly identified gifted children.

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  2. Lisa, have I told you lately how much I love you??? Lol! Thank you, thank you! As always you get to the crux of the problem.

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    1. Thank you! Your kind words are greatly appreciated!

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  4. Some students display behaviour problems when they are not interested in or engaged in the work being presented. Behaviour problems along with underachievement on assignments lead teachers to not believe that the student is even gifted! They feel less motivated to enrich/extend a program to a child who is disrupting the classroom and not even meeting the expectations of the "normal" assignment. This is a vicious circle. If this child is not interested in what is being taught or how it is being taught then he/she will not be engaged, therefore not learning and often times becoming disruptive. Differentiation and choice are essential for these kids. Less work for the teacher in the long run if the child is engaged and therefore not interrupting the learning of others. EVERY child has the right to an appropriate education, not just the ones who are easy to teach.

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    1. I could not agree more and have addressed the issue of underachievement many times in this blog. I love you comment, "Less work for the teacher in the long run if the child is engaged" and so much more beneficial to the student. Thank you for taking the time to respond to this post.

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  5. Keep up the good work! As a parent of two gifted children I have seen each one of these myths played out in both of their academic careers. There are a few educators I have met along the way that have been a gift to our family, but they are rare. One of the points that could be added is the potential for harassment that exists for gifted children. Thank you for your advocacy on behalf of our children.

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    1. What an excellent point ... 'the potential for harassment that exists for gifted children'! I actually plan to talk about that in an upcoming post on inclusion. And ... that harassment can come from both other students as well as from adults within the educational system. Thank you for your kind words.

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  6. Soo tired of hearing how busy my sons teachers are. I feel like asking them how they keep their jobs if theyvcan't do it efficiently. :/

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    1. As a parent, we wear many hats and are expected to do the impossible. I think teaching has changed over the years. Much of what teachers can accomplish is based on the support they get from their districts. That being said, I can empathize with your feelings of frustration when you encounter the teacher whose priorities may not align with yours.

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  7. all teachers need to learn about gifted kids. ALL schools need to group by achievement and put at least six gifted students in at least one classroom. This may require grouping across grades.

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    1. Pelskate ... you voice a very legitimate concern of the gifted community - including coursework in gifted education at the undergraduate level as well as a part of ongoing professional development. In many schools, you are correct to point out, there are not a lot of gifted students and multi-age grouping can be a great option!

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  8. Our district in Rochester,mn has about 20% gifted students w/pullout classes once for math and once for verbal. THat is 84 minutes every 6 days.THey don't want to group.gifted kids together Again the G/T numbers vary.One large school grouped by achievement, including one filled with gifted students and found that all groups learned more.. Other schools have fewer gifted students and could at least group them all in a single class per grade level - and fill in the rest of the class with high achievers.

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    1. Over the years, I have seen just about every iteration of gifted programs out there. I think 'pull-outs' are mostly so that school districts can say they are doing something. Gifted children are gifted more than 84 minutes a week. Our district discontinued qualifying for AP classes at the high school level because they said the gifted kids were acting like a cult. The AP became so watered down once anyone was accepted that they were worthless. Teachers spent most of their time with those kids who couldn't keep up and were only there due to parents pressuring the school.

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  9. Thank you for sharing this with us! You are not only helping people in the US, but also worldwide. I live in Sydney, Australia and we have an education system much like the US with many misconceptions due to a lack of knowledge about gifted children.

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    1. Glad to know that it speaks to a global audience. I have several contacts in Australia and they have shared similar sentiments about the education system there. You may want to check out Jo Frietag's website, Gifted Resources, at http://goo.gl/W57It for additonal resources there.

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  10. Thank you for this article. Sometimes, I feel completely inarticulate in expressing my thoughts about my oldest daughter and our current educational dilemma. This is very useful. Thanks.

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    1. Happy you could use the information. It can be difficult to express feelings 'in the moment'. Being several years removed from having children in school, I find it much easier to express myself.

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