By Amanda Parker
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My eight years in general education taught me so much about gifted learners. Sadly, I spent most of those years teaching to the middle. I lived my days believing several myths about gifted learners. I would like to unpack a few of those myths for you, so you won’t fall victim as well.
Myths about gifted learners:
1. Gifted learners can challenge themselves and keep themselves entertained in the classroom.
WRONG. The truth is, when gifted learners are not learning and engaged, they will find other things to do. These things are not always good choices. As educators, we need to challenge them and ensure that they will learn something new each day.
2. All students need the same assignments.
WRONG. Sure, it’s easiest for your grade book if you can enter the same assignment in for each student. That will keep things nice and tidy for you – the organized teacher. But, that’s not what kids need. If a student can demonstrate understanding of a concept after two problems, then don’t make him do more. This will only push him to work incorrectly or to stop being motivated. Don’t worry about a “picture perfect” grade book. That’s not what students need most.
3. Gifted students are the “good kids.”
WRONG. I deal with just as many behavior issues as the next teacher. And, if a student exhibits behavior problems that does NOT mean that he doesn’t need an extra challenge. In fact, that could be an indicator for those behaviors. Bored children can lead to naughty children. One of the worst things you can do is write a child off as needing services because of his behavior.
4. Enrichment is “extra-curricular.”
WRONG. Receiving enrichment should never be a reward. It should never be taken away due to a poor choice. Enrichment should take the place of the learning that is happening in the classroom. They should not be expected to do “more” work just “different” work.
5. Gifted students get great grades.
WRONG. Many gifted learners do not get good grades. This is a reflection on the teachers and what has been asked of the student. This basically sums up the other myths I discussed. Students will not receive good grades if we as teachers fall victim to the first few myths.
These are just a few that I thought would be a good start. After thinking through these five myths, I have developed 5 mission statements for what we do believe about gifted learners.
1. It is our purpose to serve the needs of high ability and gifted children in the most developmentally appropriate manner.
2. All children have the right to learn something new in school every day.
3. Each child can grasp success. However, it is necessary to provide opportunities for children to reach beyond…to achieve excellence.
4. Students have specific and changing academic needs that demand a responsive and flexible educational plan.
5. Students should have structured opportunities to interact with peers of similar abilities and interests.
Amanda Parker is a 13-year educator with experience teaching 3rd-5th grade and now, since earning her TAG endorsement, a K-5 Talented and Gifted teacher in Adel, Iowa. She is proud to teach at US News’ 7th best Iowa school