As schools scramble to meet the standards associated with No Child Left Behind, it’s good to know there are still individuals who take the time to appreciate the qualities of accomplished students. The authors of Intelligent Life use anecdotes of their own and others’ interactions with gifted children to illustrate these characteristics.
The stories in the book give clear examples of each gifted-child trait. As the pair points out, a student may be intense, creative, and curious in one subject or on one assignment, but not another. Gifted children are not “better” than other students, but they learn differently, (“faster,” according to the authors), and they “like to learn more about things.” They’re caring, curious, intense, persistent, and sensitive, to name a few characteristics—sometimes in ways that can both please and annoy teachers.
“You probably have a gifted child in your classroom,” Isaacson and Fisher say, if, for example, “she decides to stay in during recess to organize the art supplies in your classroom by color, type, texture, size, and availability.” Another giveaway: “He can explain in detail everything there is to know about different types of stars, but he can’t find the pencil on the floor beneath his feet—even when you point directly to it.”
The book also highlights how inconsistently children’s abilities are labeled; a student who’s inquisitive can be viewed as a disruption in one class and seen as gifted by another teacher in a different school. Such perspectives can affect students’ academic careers, self-esteem, and life choices.
Getting parents and teachers to communicate at all can be a giant project, so it’s no small feat that Isaacson and Fisher—an engaged parent and an experienced teacher, respectively—have written such a cohesive and thoughtful book. Their success stems from an obviously deep admiration and respect for each other and their students.
David Lee Carlson taught secondary English before becoming an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the English and curriculum and teaching departments of Hunter College at the City University of New York.
A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2007 edition of Teacher as Intelligent Life in the Classroom: Smart Kids & Their Teachers