Education Opinion

Harnessing High Potential

By Tamara Fisher — June 15, 2011 3 min read
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Some of you may have noticed that I like to dabble in photography. It’s a (current) third passion of mine (with gifted education and politics being the other two). I bought a new camera very recently and it has given me an analogous lesson about gifted and high potential students.

Five years ago, I reached a point where I finally felt I had the supplemental income to purchase a good camera that would do what I wanted in a camera. I did a lot of research, read a lot of reviews, and bought myself a Panasonic Lumix. I loved it. It was intuitive, had nearly all of the features I wanted, and helped me take amazing photographs. Time has passed and technology has improved, and I decided it was time to upgrade. (I wanted more zoom capacity, among other things, all still within a camera I could fit in my pocket). I also knew I wanted to stick with the Lumix since I was so remarkably pleased with my first one. Two weeks ago, I made my purchase.

I’m now discovering that my new camera is very much a “high potential” camera. It has far more bells and whistles than I had anticipated. Its capacity exceeds what I was looking for and is beyond what I am normally able to use and figure out on my own. It is a “gifted” camera and I’m realizing I’m going to need some help learning how to harness its high potential.

Gifted children come to us equipped with a multitude of advanced capabilities and potentials, but - just like me with my new camera - they don’t necessarily naturally and immediately know how to harness all of their capacity. The bells and whistles are there, but the skills to harness them and use them effectively often are not. And some gifted children - plus parents and teachers of gifted children - don’t even realize some of the capacities with which they have been equipped. It is sometimes hidden or untapped in addition to being unharnessed. I’m certain there are amazing things my camera can do that I am still far from discovering. And I’m already thoroughly impressed with it, no matter what is left to uncover.

Unfortunately, because these gifted little “cameras” function well within the basic expectations of our classrooms, we often assume we are meeting their needs and utilizing their full potential. We may still recognize them as gifted because they do so well at meeting our basic expectations, but have we honestly discovered all that they can actually do? And have we honestly called upon them to do it? It breaks my heart to know that the answer is often “no.”

When that gifted student walks into your classroom, think of your brand new television or computer or car... You know, the one that has you flummoxed because it’s so complicated, the one that can do so many things you’re not even sure where to begin with it, the one that you need help with in order to learn how to harness all of its capabilities. Then remember that the gifted student in your classroom feels the same way about himself that you feel about that new-fangled gadget. He’s just wishing for someone to help him learn how to discover, harness, and realize his full and actual potential. And as the teacher or parent of this child, when you realize the child in front of you has come equipped with far more bells and whistles than you had expected, more than you know what to do with or how to help her manage, go on the hunt for the resources that will aid in your quest to assist this remarkable little “camera” in harnessing her real potential. The bells and whistles are there, but the skills to harness them and use them effectively often are not. It’s up to us as the adults in the room to step up to the plate and assist these children in finding and creating their own user manuals. We don’t expect Olympic athletes to “get there” on their own. Let’s not expect our Olympic learners to “get there” on their own, either.

Here are a few great places to get started!

Hoagies Gifted Education Page

National Association for Gifted Children

Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted

The Association for the Gifted

Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration

A Nation Deceived

The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children

The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented

The Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students

The Davidson Institute for Talent Development

Research-Based Resources (from the NRC/GT) (and more)

Great Potential Press

Prufrock Press

Free Spirit Publishing

Creative Learning Press

The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted 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.