Last year was my first year as a gifted and talented education resource teacher and coordinator. I knew about negative 50% about gifted education services. Seriously: Little-to-no professional development in previous districts, no mention of gifted education services in my undergraduate courses, and little visibility. There is no one person or place to place the blame: gifted education is a strange animal. To eliminate some of the oddness, strangeness, and mystery surrounding gifted education, let’s take time to discuss 3 myths.
1. Myth: Gifted education is elitist. You know what and who I’m talking about. You casually mention an activity that your child participated in as part of the gifted program at your school and this person goes ham (with a capital H).
“Well, how come if Johnny gets to go to third grade for reading, Jimmy has to stay behind in first grade for reading? That’s not fair! ”
Gifted education is one of many modifications and differentiation available for students. Sometimes this looks like meeting in small groups with a teacher, while often, this may be a special assignment in a typical classroom. Think of gifted education like you would special education: changing the curriculum to meet the needs of a student. Would you tell your neighbor, whose child is on the Autism spectrum and receive specialized services, that she is elitist and participating in an unfair system? I doubt it, and leads to my next point.
2. Myth: Gifted kids are pretty typical. If by typical, you mean they all breathe oxygen, then you’re correct. On the contrary, gifted kids are not typical. There’s the stereotypical gifted child: quick, alert, ready to learn, eager to please, good vocabulary, excited to be at school. Yes, these students exist, but they’re not the whole of your school’s gifted population. Against popular belief, gifted students come from all walks of life and have varied ability levels.
For example, a student may have a gift for English language arts and reading, but may have a special education IEP and receive services for other needs. Sometimes, the disability masks the child’s gift, or vice versa. In the same field, an English language learner may have a knack for math, but still may not have English proficiency. Don’t be fooled: gifted kids come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
3. Myth: You can’t help your gifted child. So very false. You CAN help your gifted child! It may seem daunting at first, but there are plenty of resources to begin. If you live in Kentucky, Google the Kentucky Association for Gifted Education. There are so many great resources and events for parents just like you! On a larger scale, the National Association for Gifted Education is an excellent resource. You can also help your child by participating at school, discussing options with his or her teachers, and becoming an advocate for gifted students.
If you have any questions, tips, or comments about gifted learners or supporting gifted education in your area, drop me a note below. I’d love to hear from you.