Today’s guest post is written by Joshua Raymond, parent of three gifted girls, founder of a local gifted advocacy group, board member for the Michigan Association for Gifted Children, and team leader working with Avondale Schools in Michigan to explore starting a gifted magnet school.
Reflecting back on my time as a gifted student and what my daughters are experiencing now, here are some things I wish my teachers (and theirs) knew.
- I intensely want to learn. Learning is really fun for me. Coming to school and ‘learning’ what I already know distresses me. School was supposed to be an exciting place full of knowledge. Now I want to escape it.
- I tuned out after the third time you said that. In fact, research shows that the repetition needed for most learners makes me learn less. I usually only need it once or twice and am eager to move to the next item.
- I want to make connections and explore. I’m wondering how what we learn in biology this year is connected what we learned in earth science last year. I have a billion questions! Most of them would take the class far afield and you don’t like that. Can you recommend a book to me instead?
- I may be poor, a minority, or have a learning disability. I can still be gifted, so please don’t underestimate me.
- I don’t want to be singled out. Academic success isn’t tolerated like success in sports. Grouping several of us who are ahead to work together gives me a support group and doesn’t make me as much of a target for bullies.
- I can be very intense. Sometimes I am a huge wave with intensity on display and sometimes I am a riptide with intensity below the surface. My intensity can be physical, mental, or emotional. Please try to understand me, not just punish me.
- I want other kids who understand me. I hate when I’m the only gifted student in the classroom, so please don’t split us up to make classrooms equal. I need friends too.
- One would never put a third grader in a seventh grade classroom or a seventh grader in a third grade classroom. Academically, I’m a seventh grader. In maturity, I’m still a third grader. I don’t fit well either place. Help!
- I’m not really good at mentoring struggling students. I skip steps in math and reading comes very easy to me. Both of us end up frustrated and I miss out on learning time. Saying that teaching a subject will make me understand it thoroughly is bunk. I’m not the student who needs that!
- I won’t know it until later, but I need to work hard, overcome obstacles, and recover from failure. Breezing through school harms me in the long run. But please make it meaningful work, not just more work!
- Getting 100% isn’t good for me. It probably means that the material was too easy and I didn’t learn what I needed to. Worse, ‘perfect’ becomes part of my identity instead of ‘striver’ and it becomes about the score, not the learning.
- I need to know I’m gifted. It isn’t for my ego. I need to understand that what comes easy for me doesn’t for all students. Help me understand that they need the repetition and extra help. I know this sounds odd, but this is my normal and I wonder why others aren’t like me.
- But sometimes I am a bit arrogant. It’s hard to develop intellectual humility when I’m the smartest student in the room and ace every test. Intellectual humility is important for me to develop, but that is not the same as embarrassing me when I make a mistake. That is just cruel.
- I have struggles and questions too, but I’m afraid to say anything in front of the class. I don’t want to seem dumb. Please check in on me once in a while.
I know you are busy, but I hope you will take the time to understand me better. Ask your district for professional development on teaching gifted students. Read a book about gifted learners. Attend your state’s gifted association’s conference and take some classes in the educator track there.
Thanks for listening! I’m eager to learn and if you help me do that, you’ll be one of my favorite teachers!
The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.