Guest post by Angela Abend
I will gladly jump on the This is Us Express as I delight in the fact that the writers will introduce Randall as a gifted child in an upcoming episode. When I heard Randall cry, “I don’t want to be different,” my heart sank because he, at that moment, became every child I have ever taught as a gifted education teacher.
The need for gifted education programs in our public schools for children like Randall far surpasses the need for our gifted children to just be challenged academically.
Gifted children do deserve stimulating school work that offers opportunities for them to stretch beyond what they already know and/or can learn very quickly. Their ability to think divergently needs to be celebrated while gifted students must also be challenged to develop appropriate growth mindsets at an early stage of their scholastic developments.
Without these experiences, their switch is often flipped to fixed because they may not have been provided with authentic avenues to try, to take risks, to dig deeper, and ... to fail. Freshman year at a competitive university should NOT be the time for a gifted child to try to develop a much-needed growth mindset.
Beyond the academics, there is a social-emotional need for gifted education programs in our public schools. As our classroom teachers struggle daily to meet the diverse needs of their students, the child who has already mastered the grade-appropriate curriculum and beyond, understandably, is not often the focus of attention.
The opportunity for children with a similar way of thinking to come together to collaborate is needed. These students are often separated on tiny islands and asked to help classmates who may not yet understand classroom material or asked to be leaders in so-called group projects. It’s quite frustrating to ask a thoroughbred to slow down and eventually, stop.
And you know what? Gifted children often give up the idea of running, completely.
Lastly, gifted students MUST find their tribe. They need to know that they are not alone in their academic interests, their obsessions, their over-excitabilities, their intensities, their struggles, and in their way of perceiving the complex world around them.
Parents of gifted children need to come together to understand the asynchronous development of their children while the world around them considers them “blessed” to have children who have charted to one side of a bell curve. Their journey is far from an easy one, and so often not discussed in open forums.
Dare we say the g word in public?
So, to the writers of This is Us, please share Randall’s gifted story with the world. His birth and introduction to the Pearson family was complicated enough, but do provide an accurate lens to the lives of the gifted through the story of his life. Show the trials, tribulations, and joys of growing up gifted in an era when it was probably least understood.
Gifted educators are often the first to validate and help these students and families understand the complexities of giftedness. Please open that door a bit wider and let them know they are far from alone.
Angela Abend is a veteran teacher in the Oceanside School District where she is presently the gifted/enrichment specialist.
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress 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.