Given the chance to advocate for himself, my gifted 14 year old sure had a lot to say about being gifted. As parents, mental health professionals and teachers of gifted children, we advocate, research, discuss and share about gifted children among ourselves, online and in person, but it seems we don’t often hear from the gifted children themselves about how they feel about being gifted. How do they really feel about being gifted? The good? The bad? The unacceptable? If given the chance, what would they want others to know about them and being gifted? What bothers them the most? What things would they want us to change?
I gave my son the iPad and let him have free reign. “What are the most important things you want everyone to know about how it feels to be gifted?” Here is a look at the 7 things a gifted child wants us to know and understand about how it feels to be gifted child today.
Testing and memorizing: Please don’t judge my knowledge based on how well I do on an objective test. Testing my knowledge based off of a test grade where I needed to memorize superficial, basic facts and then spit them right back out doesn’t work for me. I think gifted kids need you to do more interactive assessments where we can discuss or model our understanding of the information. Gifted kids can’t just take in information and then just spit it out at a moment’s notice. I don’t learn through memorizing various, random facts, and being judged on how well I can memorize those facts and provide the correct answers to you on an objective multiple-choice test. I need more in-depth discussions and lessons using scenarios. I need to get into more depth in the subject in order to learn. I need you to provide modeling of the information and give me a chance to visualize all the connections to the information. When I’m given multiple choice and true-and-false tests all the time, I just shut down.
Homework: When you give me homework on information I already know, I think to myself, “why would this benefit me?” Then I just don’t feel like wasting my time on it. I would rather dig deeper or go farther into the subject or move on and learn other things. Isn’t that why I am in school? I need to continue to learn. Plus, teachers don’t usually grade homework, so why would I bother? Teachers are just giving homework because in their mind, it is helping us and that is just because of how they are trained. Sometimes I think that it is just because they want to continue the torture at home, too. So, when kids are given homework, it is like teachers feel better just giving us more work, and kids will just go home and Google the answers anyway and not really learn anything. Why would I need to do this if I already know the information? Homework should be more meaningful and in depth or thoughtful. If you have to give out homework for practice, why can’t you only give it out to the kids who need the practice? I once asked a girl in my class who always made all A’s why she does her homework since she already knew all the information. She answered, “Why wouldn’t I? If the teacher assigns it, then I have to do it to keep making A’s!”
Challenging the teacher: Teachers should allow and accept differing opinions from us. Teachers should understand that I have opinions and ideas of my own and I may not agree with the teacher. If I tell you what I think and it does not agree with what you think, why should you get mad at me? I’m not being disrespectful or showing off, I just think a lot and I have lots of different ideas to share. We should be allowed and expected to think for ourselves and be able to share our thoughts without you getting mad at me. I had a teacher once who hated me for telling her when she misspelled or mispronounced a word. She took it out on me and bullied me until I had to leave the school.
Being different and not average: Just because gifted kids or any kids are different doesn’t mean we are wrong or bad. Just because we aren’t average, doesn’t mean we are bad. Gifted kids always seem to stand out and get singled out. It sure seems safer and better to be average and be like everybody else in school.
Making bad grades: If a gifted student is making bad grades or is not turning in his homework, don’t assume he doesn’t know the information or that he is just being lazy. Maybe you are not teaching or testing in a way that is best for the student. This happened to me, and my teachers kept telling me I just needed to work harder and do my homework.
Friends: Socializing in school just sucks because most often nobody seems to understand what I am talking about. It always seems to be over their head or they don’t understand what I’m talking about so I need explain it to them, and then I get called a know-it-all. It makes me misunderstood.
Bullying: Anybody who is different or who stands out will get bullied. Gifted kids are more likely to get bullied by other kids and even by their own teachers. Parents and teachers need to know this and teachers should watch to make sure the gifted kids in their classrooms are not being bullied.
I was not surprised by most things on his list given his negative experiences in our public schools, but I had not really considered how strongly school, education and learning had woven itself into a dominate force in his life, and in his living. As his mom, and now that we are homeschooling, I am glad he spoke out because I can now be very mindful of his learning needs as I guide his education. And I hope that his list provides you some insight into the thoughts and needs of a gifted child.
What things would your gifted child want you and others to know? What would she say if given the chance to advocate for herself?
Video: On Being Gifted: Common Questions and Misconceptions