Gifted and talented: “but of course”

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”
Meaning:
–  What matters is what something is, not what it is called.
Origin:
–   From Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, @1600:

Yes but- recently read about a school that has the label “gifted” in its title. The school is in the States, and according to the article doing something unique. Kids are getting access to AP classes and IB classes and enjoying having a “rounded” education wherein everyone takes the same basic classes- expectations- “C”  to remain in the program. HMMM

Here in Ontario, the term gifted may have a different connotation. The term highlights a student’s ability to think outside the box, seeing connections that might be missed by others, and recognizes the very real situation that many gifted students manifest- asymmetrical learning, focused awareness and knowledge ahead of their age group, in one or more specific areas. Moving a child into a gifted program, suggests that the teacher here will now be able to not only further challenge the student(s) but that also the teacher will recognize social and emotional differences gifted individuals might display. True, the academic mark- the A, or B, or C may not be the “be all” or “end all” in the program, however, the somewhat skeptical side of me questions when the bar for students is set so low. Students are so very aware of not only their own likes and dislikes but also of what and where they fit into any program. I have had students share their versions of themselves, stating clearly what they think about school, the labeling process, and the opportunity to socialize. So I continue to envision a learning environment in which the gifted and talented thrive through participation, and learn to accept, pragmatically if not wholeheartedly, that some aspects of learning, the testing, be they standardized or situation specific, need not be cause for anxiety, and they (tests) should not be ignored. When one aspect of labeling a student involves the question of “potential”, students can choose to not demonstrate knowledge, or as is also often the case, to not let on when they haven’t actually absorbed a concept- saving face is so much easier for some than admitting to ignorance. And here is where the educator must have thorough knowledge of both the student(s) and the area(s) of study. It is no surprise when so many of the home-schooled students do demonstrate superior focus, greater depth of knowledge, and broader reach, than the students in some programs. Working with a very broad range of students has provided me with the recognition that sometimes, like Mark Twain* suggested, it is important to not let school interfere with an education; equally important, to not be confused by a label – to look for the person inside.

 

FYI: both my children did receive the title “gifted” when in elementary grades. My focus and curiosity and reach to discover how and when to step back and allow each one to discover his/her personal strengths continues. As a parent and as an educator the term “special needs” resonates, suggesting the wonderful high notes all children bring and the awareness that no label ever truly gets to the heart of a personality. They say one is lucky if able to share one’s passion: how very lucky am I!

*Mark Twain is generally credited with the quote- perhaps because his two primary characters, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer spend much of their time running away from “civilization” and when in school appear to take a lot of “whippings”.

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Thank you

“Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights”. – Unesco.org

 

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