It’s ok…to Not be Gifted
I have been teaching since 2006 and working full time with gifted students since 2013. I have lived and breathed AIG in these past 7 years. I’ve been all in. I love my students and their families and I love to see creative programs that challenge students and help them grow. I enjoy seeing students hold on to their excitement and love for learning. My colleagues, present and previous, have become family. I’ve worked with students at every grade level, Kindergarten through 12th grade. It has been a true blessing.
I had the honor of being named the 2020 Outstanding Teacher in Gifted Education by the North Carolina Association for the Gifted and Talented. This was a bucket list item for me and I will always treasure that moment. I mention this background because some people look for credibility. There’s some of my credibility before I give you my opinion.
A complex process
After all of these years, I still don’t know everything there is to know. There are many areas within education that are challenging. It’s not always easy to make the best decision on identification and service, to understand and meet the needs of twice exceptional students and the highly gifted, and to support students and their families as they deal with mental health issues.
I worry that I didn’t do enough for particular students. Who are we overlooking? Who do we see but not challenge? How do we define giftedness? How do we define talent? Who gets to participate and who doesn’t? How do we know we are getting it right?
One of the things I do know, and feel confident in saying though some may not expect me to say it, is that it is okay to not be gifted. I am passionate about gifted education. I am a cheerleader and an advocate to ensure gifted students get what they need, but as an educator I want all students to get what they need. Gifted education is not what all students need.
Any lengths necessary
I never realized what lengths some parents will go to in order to have a child identified as gifted until I became an AIG Facilitator. I had a new student move in one year. His parents shared with me that he was gifted. But when I called the school, they told me that they had no record of any such identification. I explained this to the parents to let them know I was looking into the situation. In the meantime, the parents were very persistent and pushy. They requested testing. The testing results were very low, quite far away from what was required for gifted identification. Conversations with parents who really, really want their child to be academically or intellectually superior are difficult when the data shows otherwise.
I received a letter from one of the parents, who was also a teacher. I read it anxiously, knowing it was from the previous school. “The child is highly gifted”, the letter said, “and has been served in gifted programming.” The only problem was that the letter was a fake! I knew because the parent forgot to change one part of the address under the school name so it didn’t match up. Total forgery. The parents had been communicating with me by email. I replied and explained that I had some questions about the letter. I had already spoken with school, of course, and they confirmed that the letter did not come from them. Suddenly, things shifted. I never heard from those parents again.
Just not true
There seems to be a perception that if a child is not gifted, they will not get an appropriate education. Somehow they will not be successful in the grand scheme of life. These ideas just aren’t true. Lots of experts in the field agree that even the most gifted child won’t find success if they don’t put in effort. Hard work matters. Hard work can bridge the gap.
The child who is successful puts their ideas into action. They stick with a task past frustration, and they know how to fail and start over again as many times as it takes. Gifted students may lack or struggle with these skills. Successful people interact with others and have leadership abilities. It’s not just being able to boss others around and prove you are the best, the fastest, or the smartest. It’s being able to consider that other ideas may be better than your own, and truly learning to work collaboratively.
Gifted isn’t good
One of the hardest lessons for me as a parent is admitting that what I want, or what I thought I wanted for my child, may not be what is best or what she actually needs. Every child is different.
Janet Kragen wrote an article titled “Gifted Isn’t Good” which says, “So gifted students aren’t good/better/best. They’re needy/needier/neediest. And for those who need it, gifted education is a necessity – a necessity designed to meet the unique educational needs of an outlier group.”
Every child is not academically or intellectually gifted and it’s okay. Teaching for 14 years, I have seen a lot of hardships that students encounter. The most important thing is not that every child is gifted. It’s that every child is appropriately educated and healthy; mentally and physically sound.
For more information:
Kragen, Janet. “Gifted Isn’t Good.” National Association for Gifted Children, www.nagc.org/blog/gifted-isn’t-good.