In many settings, having special intellectual or creative abilities can be more of a disability than a gift. Most of the time, the governance of institutions is set to the pace of the vast majority of people in the high-density middle of the ability curve. Those people who make special demands on the system, in the high or low ends of the ability distribution, find that resources may be insufficient to give them what they need. Here’s more about gifted and talented children and how learning environments can make all of the difference.
The Nuisance Factor
The standard way of determining giftedness is a standardized test, like an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test. In some quarters, giftedness is defined as an IQ over two standard deviations from the mean, which is an IQ greater than 130. First of all, not every student is tested in that way. Judgment about giftedness is most often made by teachers in the classroom. Errors in such judgments are frequent. Students with exceptional abilities often do or say things that are viewed as outlandish and treated as if they have a disability. As a poet once wrote:
“If a man found poetry only in dreams,/ Poetry would eventually leak into life/ and the people would say, ‘that’s odd.'”
People with special talents and abilities are often needy. Even if they could be correctly identified, most schools don’t really have the human resources and educational materials to satisfy truly “gifted” students. They often don’t know why they get restless and bored in school and why their behavior so often gets them in trouble with teachers and classmates. They hit a “class ceiling” at the point the resources of the school are exhausted. Often, the families of gifted children do not have the means to enhance the education of their children to get beyond the resource ceiling of their school.
Saving Gifted Children
- Gifted and talented students are not the easiest to teach.
- Nor are they always the strongest students.
- Gifted students often need help maneuvering the world outside of school and need emotional support.
Recent research at the University of North Carolina has suggested that 20 percent or more of school dropouts are gifted children, although gifted students who are correctly treated and receive special incentives and recognition rarely drop out.
Perhaps the best way to diagnose the malady of giftedness is not an IQ test, but the test of challenge. If a teacher can get beyond the smokescreen, the one thing that gifted students crave is a challenge that takes them beyond the ordinary and into a new world where they can achieve something extra and receive the rewards that go with it. Students whose interests and attention are fully occupied with the normal routine of the class will usually not be willing to accept extra challenges.
Learning Environment for Gifted and Talented Students
There are advantageous learning environments for gifted and talented children once they are identified.
- Learning environments that benefit gifted children are designed to be open for students to show personal competence, develop self-awareness, speak-up for themselves, take risks in the name of curiosity and develop confidence. Mistakes should be treated as learning opportunities. Expectations in the environment should be high. Students should be expected to support and trust each other.
- Learning environments should be open enough to support collaboration and cooperation. Peer relationships should be strongly encouraged. Individual differences should be recognized in the context of team structures.
- Students should be enabled to practice in leadership roles to develop leadership skills. The programs should be outward looking, developing leadership potential beyond the classroom.
- Students with gifts should be encouraged to demonstrate their language competence and other skills in a meaningful way. They should be encouraged to demonstrate their competence in appropriate public ways.
The Tenney School
Tenney School offers a one student to one teacher ratio. We will tailor learning with personalized mentoring, one lesson at a time as we provide the kind of community environment that helps gifted and talented children feel understood as they develop needed competencies. Please contact us to learn more.