This is not meant as a rant against teachers. They have a demanding and often thankless job. I have worked with many children who have received a remarkable education. And my own kids were fortunate to have crossed paths with many wonderful teachers throughout their school years.
There are some teachers who don't understand giftedness, do not have the time or energy to address these students' needs, or refuse to provide gifted services as a result of school policy, pressure from other parents, misconceptions, lack of training, or misguided opinions unsupported by actual evidence or research.
Below are 25 signs your gifted child is misunderstood at school. These are evident when your child is...
1. expected to succeed just because she is gifted, without requiring additional instruction or resources beyond what is taught in the regular classroom
2. perceived as demanding just because he is curious, questions rules, and has strong opinions
3. not permitted to accelerate by subject or grade
4. not grouped with peers who possess similar abilities because administrators or other parents perceive this as elitist or exclusionary
5. allowed to read a novel during class because there are no challenging classroom activities
6. punished for reading a novel during class when there are no challenging classroom activities
7. required to "tutor" other students, resulting in alienation from peers, and possible teasing and bullying
8. singled out and recognized for being "so smart," resulting in alienation from peers, and possible teasing and bullying
9. blamed for her underachievement, even when it springs from chronic boredom and frustration with school
10. criticized when his social maturity lags behind his intellect
11. slapped with a label such as ADHD, "on the spectrum," or oppositional, without the qualifications to diagnose or an actual evaluation confirming it
12. told to wait and wait and wait... until the other students catch up
13. grouped with less able peers on group projects, with the expectation that she will help the other students with the assignment
14. forced to participate in so-called gifted "enrichment" activities that are neither relevant nor meaningful to him (e.g., trips to museums, musicals), since these somehow fulfill the school's "requirements" for having a gifted program
15. expected to take all honors and AP classes in high school, regardless of her interest in specific subjects
16. chastised for expressing enthusiasm over an accomplishment (e.g., "hey, I solved this math problem!") since it "might make other students feel bad"
17. overlooked when it is time for awards, especially if she has subject accelerated, as teachers "forget" to consider her during awards nominations
18. expected to believe that mixed ability classrooms are truly beneficial even when he clearly senses the fallacy of that argument
19. told that her educational needs are not as important as those of struggling or less able students
20. routinely given A's, even when the grade is achieved with little effort
21. never given an opportunity to work hard at school, develop study skills, strategic planning abilities, or learn from failure experiences
22. offered "extra" homework, assignments and worksheets to supplement the regular classwork
23. chastised for not acting as smart as he should, given his intellectual abilities
24. not given the necessary information for searching and applying for specific colleges that might truly challenge and inspire her
25. expected to fit in with all children his age, even though his advanced intellect, heightened sensitivities, overexcitabilities, attunement to social justice issues, and possible asynchronous development make it difficult
What can you do when many of the above inevitably occur?
- First, tune in to what your child needs most and identify what is necessary in each situation. Sometimes, this means contacting the school and intervening with teachers and administrators. Other times, it is better to step back, since involvement might create more problems, upset your child, or result in backlash. This is especially true for older children. Sometimes offering your child emotional support, coping strategies, ideas for self-advocacy, and resources outside of school may be the most effective approach.
- Get involved with advocacy on a macro level. Often, working on changing the structure of how gifted education is delivered will help both your child and the lives of many other children. Join local and state gifted organizations, enlist other parents of gifted children to develop advocacy goals, form a parent group, and learn as much as possible from sites such as Hoagies Gifted, NAGC, SENG and Davidson's Forums.
- Make changes if necessary. If your child is distressed, miserable or languishing in an educational system that cannot meet his or her needs, get help. If it is financially possible, some parents find alternative options, such as private schools, cyber schools, charter schools or homeschooling. If affordable, find activities outside of school that are meaningful and challenging. If your child is anxious, depressed, or acting out, consider therapy. What is most important is staying attuned to your child's needs, and deciding when to intervene.
What signs can you add to the list above? And what have you done to help your child? Let us know in the comments section below!