I find that I am unable to attend Twitter #gtchat at present due to a busy schedule, so I have decided that I will sometimes write on #gtchat discussion topics, and make just one tweet linking to my blog post, as my way of supporting this wonderful online happening each week. Sometimes my post will be very brief, depending on the time I have available.
Today, the chat will be about that controversial label we use for children with exciting potential – “gifted”. Gifted children were “children with special abilities” in New Zealand schools, until internet searching became a common way of teachers boosting their own knowledge. It then became important to understand that these kids were “gifted” in most of the international literature, and that this word made a better search term. Gradually it also became the main term used in schools. But is it best?
I do think the word stands in the way of the identification, and therefore the support, of many “gifted kids”. And yet, local and international conversations about a better term only reach consensus with one’s nearest and dearest. This, I suspect, is groupthink rather than wisdom.
In New Zealand, what gifted means is defined by each school. This has plusses and minuses. However, in terms of the label, it gives each school an opportunity to talk terminology. Schools will need a knowledge of terms like gifted, high potential, high ability and twice exceptional to access the literature, but in their discussions of giftedness and what it really means, there will be teachers and parents who say, “But I wouldn’t call these children gifted. I would say they were …”.
The word or description that goes in the blank space must be written down and treasured. This is a term that works in this school’s community. Remembering this term will help with identification, and therefore support, of gifted children at this school. They may end up with a word bank of a dozen terms that catch the attention of members of their school community when they come up in conversations between teachers and parents.
Let’s be open to a range of terms and “widen the net” we use to catch kids who are showing us they could be more, do more, if we would only let them.
Back when I was at school, very few of us stayed on until the final year of high school – the seventh form. I mentioned to an old classmate, while I described my role in gifted education today, that our whole seventh form would probably be considered gifted kids today. “It is hard to think of us as gifted,” he said. “We were just getting on with it.” Sometimes even that is a clue – the kids who are just getting on with it may be showing a task commitment that those seeking to identify the gifted would do well to notice. Let’s value all these phrases that widen the net!