Tired gifted and talented student using a laptop computer trying to research something or finish homework on time while seated at desk with head resting on arm

There are many schools of thought among parents, teachers, and administrations as to what to do with children identified as “Gifted and Talented”. What this means and how to provide for the greater potential of these children is constantly debated. Should they be accelerated to college prep? Separated from the other children? Given more creative opportunities or more analytical challenge? The fact of the matter is that no one knows for sure, but part of the problem may be because ‘GT’ kids are being treated as if they are all the same. The most successful GT programs do their best to encourage the individual talents of each student while the worst treat the entire group as though they should excel at every subject or drop out of the program.

What Gifted and Talented Really Means

When a child has been identified as gifted and talented, this means that they have a greater potential for learning in at least one subject. GT kids can be exceedingly creative or intensely analytical. They can be socially mature or delayed, they can be introverts or extroverts, goofballs or unusually serious. In other words, you can’t stuff them into a single easy to categorize box. The one thing gifted children have in common is a love of learning in at least one or two subjects, but even what these subjects are isn’t universal from child to child. Some are destined to be mathematicians, some artists or musicians, architects, writers, scientists, the list goes on. What they need is the opportunity to explore their talents and move forward at their own pace without being held back by curriculum standards.

Gifted and Talented vs Advanced Placement

When deciding how to run your Gifted and Talented program, it can help to understand how not to do it. One of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen in school districts is assuming that GT children are (and should be) good at everything, then GT programs become indistinguishable from Advanced Placement. ‘AP’ programs start around middle school and are for kids who are ready to work hard in a headlong stretch toward college. It tends to involve harder work and a lot more homework. One or two AP classes a year in your favorite subject is manageable and can be fun, but more than that and there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the extra homework.

Prevent Gifted Burnout: Don’t Demand Too Much

Gifted children are not workhorses. In fact, they tend to prefer to let other classes slide a little in favor of pursuing their talents. They need more time to think and explore, not more time doing homework and yet some schools work on the false impression that GT simply means ‘academic superstar’ and pile on the AP classes and maintaining this schedule is expected in order to keep your ‘gifted’ qualification. Now kids are forced to ‘drop out’ of the gifted program or shoulder up under difficult work that may not suit their gifts. This can cause dejection and burnout in your brightest students, turning what should have been a shining star in one or two subjects into someone who’s disenchanted with school entirely by the time they hit the 10th grade.

Gifted and talented children have the potential to make their parents and school districts proud, but very few of them are talented at absolutely everything. Yes, it’s tempting to challenge a bright child but it’s wrong to crush their spirit by asking too much. Instead of heaping on the homework in advanced placement classes, give your gifted children opportunities to learn at their own pace and experiment in their subjects of choice. Open up AP and higher level classes to them, but don’t demand that they participate in nothing but advanced classes. If you want what’s best for your gifted and talented children, cut the homework and offer them learning experiences instead.

The Tenney School believes strongly in a child’s right to learn at their own pace. All children have talents, passions, and can love learning if we nurture their interest in the world around them. For more helpful insights on helping your children and students learn in a way that’s best for them, contact us today.