Attention Teachers:

You DO Need Special Training to Work with Gifted Students

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Undercovering the Myth

MYTH: Teachers are being adequately trained to teach the gifted.

REALITY: This is not true, as only a handful of the universities across Canada offer courses in teaching the gifted. Training in this area of exceptionality is hard to get. The whole concept of "giftedness" conjures up uncomfortable feelings of elitism within the general population. The field of education is no exception. These uninformed negative feelings, opinions and beliefs, often inhibit the services desperately needed by our gifted population, especially our gifted children.

10 Things to Know About Gifted Students

1. They are students with special needs.
Statistically, a student with an IQ of 135 is as far from average as one with an IQ of 65. The curricular modifications we are willing to make for students performing below grade level - changes in content, process, product and learning environment - are equally appropriate for students of high potential.

2. Gifted students don't "take care of themselves."
Gifted students don't come to us having all the knowledge they need to reach their full potential. Teachers may find gifted students threatening or feel they have nothing to teach them. The reality is that classroom teachers are gifted students' best chances for having their gifts recognized.

3. They may require any of a range of services.
Gifted students generally benefit from two types of curriculum modification - acceleration and enrichment.

4. They are not all teacher-pleasing apple-polishers.
While many gifted students find school very satisfying and stimulating, several more fly under the radar, troubled by common demons such as boredom, oversensitivity, disorganization, perfectionism, self-doubt, antagonism, sarcasm and immaturity.

5. They need opportunities to be with other students like them.
Gifted students need time to be with their same-ability peers. In fact, the typical approach to cooperative learning (mixed-ability groups of 3-5 students) often does an injustice to gifted students.

6. The "gifted" label does not really matter.
Labelling a child "gifted" does not change the learning needs that she had before the label - and the learning needs are what require our attention.

7. They mature at different rates in different domains.
Asynchronous or uneven development in physical, emotional, social, and cognitive domains occurs in all children, but it is more pronounced in gifted students because their intellect invites more adult treatment.

8. They exist across cultural, gender and socio-economic groups.
It is the responsibility of teachers to consider each child individually and not against a hypothetical image of a typical "gifted child."

9. They need strong advocates.
Teachers of the gifted are believed to have it easy. Parents of the gifted may be considered braggarts or possibly delusional, even though they are usually more adept at identifying giftedness than teachers are. Despite these obstacles, gifted students need administrators, teachers and parents who believe in their potential and seek to have their talents developed. Gifted education is not a frill - it is the nurturing of our future leaders.

10. They don't need teachers who are gifted, but they need gifted teachers.
Teachers of the gifted do not need to have high IQ scores and mile-long resumes. Instead, gifted students need teachers who are cheerful and enthusiastic about learning, value student discovery, employ flexibility in their classroom approach, and have a sense of humor. Most importantly, they need teachers who are genuinely interested in teaching gifted students, with all their quirks, challenges and diverse needs.

For more information:

Tips to Support You as a Teacher

#1. Take advantage of PD and AQ courses, to increase your knowledge on working with students who are gifted.

#2. Talk to other educators who have worked with gifted students when advice or support is needed.

#3. Review the student's IEP, as frequent as needed to ensure you are supporting their program.

#4. Structure the day to establish consistent routines that allow for time to work with students individually or in small groups.

#5. Walk” the classroom. The teacher needs to be close to students, actively observing or engaging with students as they are learning to not only gather assessment data, but reinforce learning and give constant feedback.