Today our guest blogger brings us a parent’s perspective, and one which I hope will be widely read. Mona Chicks shares ten things she wishes every teacher understood about gifted kids. Thank you Mona!
Mona’s brand new blog is at http://lifewithintensity.blogspot.com/.
1. Not all gifted kids might seem “smart” according to common definitions. In first grade my son was failing at math, despite being able to do algebra in his head at home. But he adamantly refused to complete – or even to start – the “timed” addition tests that were given weekly at school. To him, it was boring addition, but even so he wasn’t convinced he could complete both sides of the page in the time given, so he refused to try (besides, he was – and still is – highly insecure about his letter and number formation so is resistant to completing anything written). It wasn’t until near the end of the year that we found out the teacher didn’t actually expect them to complete the tests – she just wanted to see them try.
2. Not all smart kids are gifted. There is so much more to “giftedness” than just being smart. Yes, intelligence is part of the equation, but I’ve met so many children who do well in school due to parental pressure and through plain old hard work. It’s not a quantitative difference, it’s a qualitative difference. And I don’t mean that my kid is better than another because he’s gifted – what I mean is that he is just DIFFERENT. He thinks differently about things, he looks at the world with different eyes, he experiences the world differently. His intensity goes well beyond intellect – although that might be the most obvious sign of giftedness.
3. Just because a child is gifted does not mean that child will be high performing. My child simply doesn’t care what you think of his work. He only cares what HE thinks of his work. If it’s not exactly what he wants it to be, he would rather you never see it. And I will guarantee that his idea of what he wants is far different than yours. There are ways to get him to show you even something that isn’t exactly right – but he’s got to trust you to show you.
4. Yes, he is smart. Yes, he can probably run circles around you when he’s talking about biology, chemistry, physics, or anything else scientific. But he is still a child, and needs the structure, discipline, and guidance of any other child. Corollary: just because he can talk like an adult and reason like an adult, doesn’t mean he has the self-control, wisdom, and maturity of adulthood.
5. Don’t try to out-think him, but be specific in your instructions. The summer after first grade, the kidlet was taking swimming lessons. He hates to put his head under the water, so the teenage coach was trying to convince him to do “bobs” (go completely underwater). She suggested he do 10 bobs. He said no. So she said, “how about 8 like you did yesterday, then two more.” He agreed. She started giggling with the lifeguard, laughing that the kidlet had refused to do the 10, but would do 8+2 (as if he didn’t know that was the same thing), when the kidlet started doing his bobs by fractions –“one-half, one-half, that makes one! One-third, two-thirds, that makes two!… “ He did all ten bobs in fractions, never putting his head fully underwater .
6. Embrace the unexpected. In kindergarten, the kidlet was still quite sad over the results from the previous Fall’s Presidential election. His teacher gave the kids an assignment to draw a picture of a noun – a person, place or thing. The kidlet chose to draw a person. When she was looking at his picture, she asked the kidlet whom it was, expecting it to be a grandparent, friend, or teacher like the other children had drawn. The kidlet responded, in an exasperated voice, “It’s John Kerry… you know, the man who was SUPPOSED to be President!”
7. Allow creativity in routine tasks. Kidlet’s second grade teacher gave out a math worksheet, knowing it was going to be difficult to convince kidlet to do it. She agreed when he asked if he could do it his “own way.” He translated each number to its correlating element on the periodic table (by atomic number), and completed the math problems that way – and then created an “answer key” on the same paper so his teacher wouldn’t have to look up each element.
8. Just because a student won’t do something doesn’t mean he can’t. The kidlet’s 5th grade math teacher came to me quite upset because she was convinced that he couldn’t do multiple-digit multiplication problems. She told me I needed to teach him, since he wouldn’t learn it from her, and she gave me a page of problems for him to do with the instruction that I would need to help him. We got home and he pulled out the sheet – I asked if he needed help, he said no. I asked him why he didn’t do it in class, and he said that his teacher wouldn’t let him do it in his head. I told him to write it all out for his teacher so she could see HOW he was doing it in his head – he finished all the problems in 5 minutes (and they were all correct).
9. Most parents really strive to do what’s best for their child. Please listen to them. The kidlet’s first grade teacher spent the whole year interrupting me and not listening when I tried to talk to her about my child. She didn’t listen to my child, either, and never had any clue the level of his ability. Instead she spent the entire year frustrated that he wouldn’t complete menial tasks, telling me all the diagnoses she suspected (all the usual suspects – ADHD, Asperger’s, ODD – all of which had been ruled out by physicians and therapists), and complaining that he lacked imagination because he only checked out non-fiction books from the library. He spent most of that year sitting in the hallway outside the classroom, reading the dictionary. On the plus side, the kid is a sponge so he’s got a great vocabulary, now! J
10. You won’t discover what a child can do until you give him the opportunity. I’m a pretty involved parent, and I know my child pretty well… but even I wasn’t prepared for the result when I took my 11 year old child to sit in on a college-level majors biology class. I thought I’d give him a taste for what’s coming to get him through the boring stuff. Instead, I discovered a place where he “fit” more than he’s ever fit anywhere else. This child who can’t sit still for 5 minutes, doesn’t ever seem to listen to instruction, and doesn’t want to complete any kind of assignment was completely focused and engaged in a 90-minute lecture on cell communication, answered questions, interjected useful information (on topic!), gave examples and offered complementary information that took the subject to a new level. The professor asked us to keep coming, because she was so intrigued by this little kid who knows more about biology than her biology majors. I suspect he might become a sore spot with some of the students, since he keeps showing them up with his knowledge (despite the fact they’ve been reading the textbook and he hasn’t even seen the textbook), but I think it’s also a challenge to them to answer a question before he does.
Base image by Flickr member allthesepieces, CC licensed attribution, non-commercial and share-alike.