In recent years a lot of educational emphasis has been on intervention programs for students who struggle in the classroom. Students who have trouble in core subjects like math or language arts can easily become the primary focus of educational attention. Much of this imbalance in the system has to do with maintaining high standardized test scores for the school, perhaps less because of the welfare of the students themselves. In California, for instance, much of the financing of gifted and talented programs has vanished altogether in favor of increased attention to the disadvantages students.
Gifted and talented students need what Middle School Teacher, Josh Work calls, “uppervention,” not intervention. They need to be challenged in new ways and given tools and opportunities to explore and test their abilities. Uppervention requires dynamic teaching, with teachers putting in the personal attention on individual students. It also requires a close working relationship and investment with the school by the parents.
The special potentials of individual students is not always easy to spot. In a crowded classroom, the products of special talent often get missed. Many teachers develop an eye for the average and miss what is extraordinary. Often students who exhibit special development in their skills are simply ignored, and sometimes they are even punished for failure to follow the mold.
Not all gifted students will be easy to identify. They may not appear to be gifted. Often they appear exceptional in less constructive ways. Gifted students can not be stereotyped. They come in both genders and all ethnic groups. They aren’t always the best academic achievers in a conventional classroom. There are gifted students who show deep inconsistencies in their school work, getting Ds in some tests and As in others. Teachers are often led to believe they cheat because of the inconsistent patterns. Gifted students have a deep need for intellectual stimulation and often fall behind when the subject matter doesn’t challenge them or when the school is too busy attending to less gifted students.
In schools where the views of teachers are tuned to recognize talent, the gifted student has a chance. Then the school system must be able to provide curricular flexibility so that the talented student can focus on activities that build those abilities. Often these individualized kinds of activities require extra staff investment.
Flexibility and creativity is essential in aiding the development of students with high ability. If the school environment is too undemanding, the student is quickly bored. If the student’s abilities are recognized, but the challenges can not adjusted, to demand growth progress will be stymied or the gifted student may become distracted and even rebellious.
Each assignment and activity can be designed to challenge students with recognized abilities. If a student shows special abilities in mathematics, an art project can be designed to challenge math abilities, for instance fractal or mathematically based designs.
Assignments can be designed for depth, probing more deeply into subjects of interest. Organizing small groups of students with similar interests and abilities to cooperate on special projects can be enormously important for social development as well as the development of important work habits. Often gifted students need challenges to enable them to recognize their own abilities. They may have doubts about themselves that can be laid aside with success in a challenging project or assignment.
Emotional freedom can be a very important aspect of gifted childhood education. Often teachers lose sight of the fact that gifted children are still developing emotionally and sometimes come from families living through change or conflicts which challenge the student emotionally. Teachers of gifted children must have the kind of intimacy with students that enables them to tailor schoolwork to account for the students’ emotional state, perhaps relaxing an assignment load when things get too difficult.
The mission of the Tenney School is to promote individualized learning through concentrated, student-centered teaching. Please contact us to get to know us.