Gifted or just bright?

About 13 years ago I was a Gifted and Talented program administrator for a public school district. It was part of my job to train the teachers and the administrators how to identify gifted and talented students. Flash forward to today. I was browsing Pinterest this morning and I saw this pin from Presently…

Bright vs. Gifted

Traits of both high achieving and gifted students

It reminded me of many conversations I had with parents who desperately believed their child to be gifted just because he/she was getting straight ‘A’s’ and was a model student. Teachers often refer students who listen well, complete their work on time, and receive ‘A’s’ to the gifted program because that is the perception of a ‘good student.’ However, gifted children do not necessarily fit that mold.

Gifted children think differently. These children may not get good grades or be studious. “(Albert) Einstein clashed with authorities and resented the school’s regimen and teaching method. He later wrote that the spirit of learning and creative thought were lost in strict rote learning.”(1) Gifted children may challenge a teacher’s answer or even disregard a method of teaching because they know a ‘better way.’ This often causes trouble in the classroom. A truly gifted child may not receive good grades or teacher references because his/her behavior may be disruptive. A teacher who is savvy to the characteristics of gifted students will recognize divergent thinking, questioning, and creativity as true signs of giftedness.

Parents need to be educated too! I myself would LOVE to believe that my children are gifted. But I will probably never have my children tested. Why? The test itself can be stressful to take and the end results can be devastating to a child’s self esteem. If the test results indicate that the child has an average IQ the child may interpret this to mean that he may never excel at anything in life. If the results reveal that the child is gifted the child may believe that he can never make a mistake. The dangers on both ends are to risky for the little benefit identification offers—in my opinion.

Many schools offer little by way of differentiated learning for gifted students. Most schools adopt the philosophy that gifted students should have opportunity for extra classes. But this simply means that the gifted student has to complete his regular classroom work AND his gifted class work. Adding MORE work to a student’s plate and allowing less time for creativity and free thinking is not my idea of encouraging a gifted mind. If your school believes in lightening the load of a gifted student by ‘testing out’ of unnecessary repetitive learning to allow for more creative projects OR if they differentiate classroom learning by offering varied lesson plans to students with differing abilities while covering the same topic—THEN I would say identification will allow your gifted student to enjoy school more. Unfortunately, these school programs are few and far between and with the current state of our education budget as a nation and class sizes increasing, I don’t see much hope ahead for this type of gifted program.

SO what can you do to encourage your bright or gifted child? Encourage your child to think outside the box AND the book. Create lots of opportunities for your child to explore his/her areas of interest. Free up your child’s time so that he/she has lots of opportunities to create and invent new games/projects/ideas. Get your child a journal so that he/she can record his/her thoughts, ideas, and dreams. Provide an area in your home that is your child’s work space. Fill the area with paper, pencils, markers, crayons, wood, nails, glue, clay, wire—anything your child can use to create models, sculptures, figures, and drawings of his/her ideas. AND never stop encouraging creative play. Never squash an idea with an adult’s version of what will work or not work. All great inventions and inventors experience failure and learn from it.

So whether your child is gifted or just bright—encourage creativity and learning through hands-on projects. You never know what they will invent.
(1)Quoted from:Wikipedia–Albert Einstein

For more information on Gifted Children:

2 thoughts on “Gifted or just bright?

  1. Teachers have no idea how powerful they are sometimes. I wish all teachers could have the professional training necessary to identify gifted children with the correct set of criteria in mind. I am glad that you had the determination to move past the teacher and seek help from the guidance counselor/principal. Good job Mommy!

  2. Oh, this blog strikes home. My youngest son is gifted. We saw many of the qualities listed in the right column and recognized them early, as my oldest is also in gifted classes. We approached his first grade teacher and asked that he be tested, as he was quite “bored” in his regular classroom…despite giving him many creative opportunities outside of school. She saw him as disruptive, as he would finish his work early and want to get up out of his seat. He hated being done early…and she would never have “extra” things for him to do.

    Her response? She refused…because “there is a lot of writing involved…and he ‘doesn’t do well at writing.’ ” She came to this “conclusion” because he would freeze-up when she sat him in front of a blank piece of paper & tell him to “write a story about anything.” No cues, ideas, etc. Just stare at a blank sheet of paper. At the time, even my then-fifth grader’s teacher would give them topics. He didn’t want to write because he was afraid of “messing up.”

    At the time, the teacher was the only person who referred students for testing. I contacted my older son’s gifted teacher & asked how to override the first grade teacher. Long-story-short…I emailed my request for testing to the guidance counselor and principal. It didn’t occur until the summer…but he surpassed the older one’s scores and started in 2nd grade.

    Three years later, he writes complete chapter stories (on his own, no prompts or “ideas” needed). I cringe at how his first-grade teacher stifled him and disregarded our concerns.

    If he wasn’t gifted, that would have been fine. However, I recognized the potential…and wanted him tested. 🙂

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