Thursday, March 10, 2011

The "G" Word

This week I had a meeting to discuss an Enrichment Program for gifted and talented students at my school.  When discussing who to include, the question was asked: “What sort of gifts are we talking about?  Sporting, music, or whatever?”  The outcome of the meeting was that the program should be extended to include middle and lower ability kids too, because it had value to all students.

ARRGGGHH!!!  I don’t know why we are so afraid to use the term “gifted” as it relates to intellectual giftedness!  And why do we feel anxious about providing gifted kids with education that meets their needs?

When we use the word “gifted” to describe children or students, there are many around us that find that term a little uncomfortable and indeed confusing.  In fact, many people are reluctant to use the term at all, because they feel it is suggesting that children who are not gifted are somehow of less value.

“All children are gifted, in their own way” is a statement we hear often from those who feel uncomfortable with the g-word.  Perhaps they are confusing “gifts” with “strengths”.  All of us have at least one area in which we can do better or enjoy more than others.  But all of us are not tall.  All of us are not the fastest runners.  All of us are not gifted!

I love this presentation by Michael C Thompson Are All Children Gifted?.

Perhaps if we viewed intellectual giftedness as being an issue of need, rather than one of worth, we could feel more comfortable using the term.  If students are gifted in an area, be it sporting, fine arts, social leadership or intellectual pursuits, then those students have different needs from most of their peers and we need to respond appropriately to those needs.  Maybe we need to rethink the term "special needs" to include the other end of the bell curve too.

Back to the enrichment program...there are plenty of opportunities in school for talented sportspeople and musicians.  I don’t see how opening up enrichment opportunities that are meant to be for GATs kids helps serve them.  I like Passow’s criteria for judging the suitability of curriculum for gifted learners:
1.       Would all learners want to be involved in such learning experiences?
2.       Could all students participate in such learning experiences?
3.       Should all children be expected to succeed in such learning experiences?

If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then the “enrichment” course is not sufficiently differentiated for gifted learners.

I left the meeting feeling frustrated and disappointed.  I also felt that until the majority of educators aren’t afraid to use the G-word and they truly “get” what gifted kids need, then my kids won’t be part of that education system, because I can do a better job at home.

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