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. I love our AIG programs in North Carolina and the work that is done to ensure students are challenged and continue to grow. I enjoy seeing students hold on to their excitement and love for learning. I love my colleagues, present and previous, and they have become family. I’ve worked with gifted students at every grade level, Kindergarten through 12th grade, and it has been a true blessing. Recently, 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 and so there’s some of my credibility before I give you my opinion.
After all of these years, I still don’t know everything there is to know. There are many areas within gifted 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. I lose sleep over students who may have been overlooked. I don’t enjoy difficult conversations with parents who really, really wanted their child to be academically or intellectually gifted, and the data shows that they are not.
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. And, what some students need is not gifted education.
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 student move in one year whose parents told me that their child had been identified as gifted in the previous school, 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 requested testing which was honored. The testing came back very low, far away from what was required for gifted identification. One of the parents, who was also a teacher, sent me a letter from the previous school saying that the child was gifted. 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 and so 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. I never heard from those parents again.
There seems to be a perception that if a child is not gifted they won’t get an appropriate education or they won’t be successful in the grand scheme of life. This just isn’t true. Lots of experts in the field of gifted education agree that even the most gifted child won’t find success if they don’t put in effort. Hard work matters and it often bridges the gap between a child who is gifted and a child who is not. The child who is successful puts their ideas into action, sticks with a task past frustration, and knows how to fail and start over again as many times as it takes. These are skills gifted students may lack or struggle with. Successful people interact with others and have leadership abilities – not just being able to boss others around and prove they are the best, the fastest, or the smartest but being able to consider that other ideas may be better than their own and truly learning to work collaboratively.
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. After being a teacher for 14 years and seeing all that students encounter as they get older, the most important thing to me is not that every child is gifted but that every child is appropriately educated and healthy; mentally and physically sound.
Kragen, Janet. “Gifted Isn’t Good.” National Association for Gifted Children, www.nagc.org/blog/gifted-isn’t-good.