What many educators do not understand is that a “gifted” child is not necessarily “academically gifted”. Gifted children are defined in different ways depending on where you live and work, but a gifted child is generally considered someone who shows superior intelligence in one or more areas and who thinks at a more advanced rate than the standard for his or her peers. A gifted student might be a mathematical whiz, but be clueless when it comes to history and science. For this reason, many gifted children are stunted during their education and never are able to realize their full potential.
In the lower grades (before high school) there are often groups or classes dedicated to the placement of gifted children. Kids are evaluated by teachers and administrators and placed according to their skills. In Missouri, these classes are called GT classrooms, which stands for Gifted & Talented. In high school, however, no such classes exist, and although there are Advanced Placement courses, these are in no way restricted to gifted students.
The problem, as I stated in the first sentence of this article, is that gifted students do not always make straight A’s. In fact, they might earn more C’s and D’s than other letter grades, and might be reluctant to do homework or to participate in class. You will only discover their true intelligence through conversations in class and by listening to them speak. They will often have highly evolved insights into material studied in class, and they might write exceptional papers or test extremely well.
Whatever the case, gifted children should be allowed to realize their full potential, and to grow with the caring support of educators and parents alike.
1. Talk to the parents.
Whether there is an academic or behavioral problem or not, talk to the child’s parents. Let them know that you have noticed an exceptional mind in their child, and that you hope they know how special the student is. Ask for their support in improving study habits and challenging the student with more complex material.
2. Encourage their ideas.
In class, if the student comes up with an idea, encourage them to continue to participate. Ask their opinions in one-on-one discussions and find out what makes them tick. Let them know that intelligence is an admirable quality, and that you hope they will explore it in the years to come.
3. Help them reach an understanding about identity.
Many gifted children are shunned by their peers or have difficulty fitting in. Help them to identify their strengths and use those strengths to their advantage. Inform them of contests in their strongest subject and let them know that you are available to help them grow.
4. Inform the guidance counselors.
Guidance counselors are hired for their abilities to help each child grow and learn. Let your school guidance counselor know that a particular student shows an aptitude for certain things, and have the counselor invite the student in for a talk. The counselor can use certain aptitude tests, personality tests and other materials to determine the child’s potential.
Gifted children are often non-conformists, perfectionists, avid readers and easily frustrated. They don’t understand why their minds work differently from others, or why certain concepts come so easily to them. Help those children to explore their gifts, and to find meaning hidden within them.