Instead of learning new concepts, in order to survive academically, my child learned to work the system.
Stephanie N., President of the Arizona Association for Gifted & Talented.
Our family has lived in Arizona for the past 20 years. All four of my children have been identified as gifted and that has made life very intense in our household. Raising gifted children is not easy. Some commonalities among my children are issues with perfectionism and emotional intensities. Though the issues are common, each child’s struggle has looked different. The struggles have been very individual. And, unfortunately, gifted children can develop unhealthy strategies to deal with these struggles and their strengths can actually mask these unhealthy mindsets.
When one of my children was in advanced classes in high school, he received low grades. One reason for this was because he struggled to find a connection with his teachers. For example, on the pre-assessment for AP Physics, this child received an 85% while almost everyone else received scores in the 60% range. The teacher had a Ph.D. in Physics and so I was excited to speak with him about differentiating the material for my son. When I asked the teacher what could be done differently for my son, he said, “Nothing.” He stated that my son would still learn by doing all the same assignments as the other students. So, my son was being asked to earn a grade by learning to jump through hoops, not by learning new material. Every child deserves to learn something new each day and this was denied to my son. He mentally checked-out of the class and received a D for his lack of effort. However, the teacher had made an offer to the class at the beginning of the year, that if you received a high score on the AP exam, he would give you an A for the entire course. My son planned all year to do well on the AP exam and sure enough, he received a high score and the teacher changed his D to an A. What did my son learn in this class? He did NOT learn physics. He did NOT learn to work hard. He did NOT learn to ask questions. Instead of learning new concepts that would foster his love of physics, he learned that what he brought to the table was not valued. In order to survive academically he learned to work the system.
Gifted children need to be valued for who they are holistically – intellectually, emotionally, etc. They should not be valued on the basis of their product, including their ability to jump through hoops. Their desire and quest for learning should be nurtured not stifled. So will gifted students be fine on their own? No, they will not. We need to move beyond this myth. We need to ask, “Do they have what they need to thrive? Are they learning the necessary skills that will carry them forward into creating a successful future?” The philosophy and strategies of gifted education teach to a student’s strengths and provide supports for their areas of struggle. This philosophy benefits all students!