Gifted Children: What Parents Want Teachers to Know

Gifted children are misunderstood and so very often miseducated, and they may even be bullied, envied and shunned. Being gifted is not at all what many people believe it to be. There are myths and unfounded stereotypes which portray gifted individuals as having an easy, successful life because they were blessed with being smart–nothing is further from the truth than this fallacy.

Many in education–teachers, principals, school board members and superintendents–buy into these myths and stereotypes believing that gifted children will be just fine in school without the educational accommodations they are being asked to provide and fund. This has led to some devastating consequences for our gifted children such as acting out in class, daydreaming, boredom, refusing to do homework, giving up and dropping out. And that is just in school. At home, the consequences of an inappropriate, unchallenging education can turn into severe emotional and social issues.

As a gifted advocate, I have seen first-hand these painful consequences of miseducating our gifted children. I have also watched as teachers and schools looked beyond a child’s giftedness in search of the root of these problems in school, believing that there must be a learning disability or some other psychological or medical reason for a gifted child to not be excelling in school.

Many in education and in our society as a whole do not believe that gifted children can struggle in school and that is because there is a lack of understanding of the facts about giftedness and the traits and needs of our gifted children. In our schools, one solution often proposed by many gifted advocates, professionals and specialists to help dispel the myths and misunderstanding is teacher training–for teachers already in the classroom and for college students studying to become a teacher. If more educators understood what giftedness truly is and means, maybe we could curtail some of the negative consequences gifted children experience in school. Maybe then we would see more gifted children reach their potential instead of dropping out of school.

This presentation is for all educators and was compiled using quotes from parents who have experienced the many struggles of helping their gifted children try to navigate a world where they are often misunderstood, feel like they don’t fit in, and where they are even bullied, envied and shunned. Without the appropriate education they need to progress and be successful in school, gifted children can fail to achieve, give up, act out and drop out of school. Gifted children are often not the stereotypical academic high-achiever we may believe they are.

The original quotes used in this presentation were gathered from parents of gifted children who answered the question, “If you could tell someone–a teacher, neighbor or friend–just one sentence, one idea about gifted children and that one idea was going to stick with them, what would you tell them?” on my Crushing Tall Poppies Facebook page here. These are heartfelt and knowledgeable quotes from parents who know that raising a gifted child is not easy and can often be heartbreaking.

Please share this presentation with those you feel can benefit from knowing and understanding more about our gifted children. This presentation is shareable, printable and can be downloaded. Click the image below to see this presentation.

Gifted Children- What Parents Want Teachers to Know (1)

9 Comments on “Gifted Children: What Parents Want Teachers to Know

  1. Good presentation, but I would really appreciate some mention of twice exceptional children. Our school district seems to understand gifted more than 2e. To them, 2e is just gifted with written output issues… so not the case. Thanks!

    • Sherry,

      That is a great suggestion and I can certainly add to the presentation to help with the understanding of 2E. When thinking about your suggestion, I had used quotes from parents and wondered why none of them brought up 2E kids. My guess is many of these parents do have 2E kids–like the one sentiment about having a child with one long leg (giftedness) and one short leg (exceptionality/LD) and still being expected to run the fastest. I’ll see if I can tweak it to emphasize 2E.

      Also, I do have another presentation which is also free and shareable: A Gifted Child Checklist for Teachers which does have a section on gifted children with learning differences.

      Thank you for your suggestion, Sherry!

  2. Thank you for this, I can relate to most of it. I have shared it and also messaged it to some friends who find themselves in the same boat. Please keep up the good work, I think you’re doing a brilliant job.

  3. Hi Celi;
    Thank you for a wonderful presentation. It seems to me that, at least for me, everything that could have been done wrong in my education — especially elementary school — was done wrong. I was repeatedly chided both by students and my teachers as to why, if I spoke about astronomy and the Medieval era, about history and so forth with such articulation, why was I not a good student, why wasn’t i like one of the teachers’ pets, Jane Smith, who was a very well-behaved and nice girl, straight A student, and generally almost perfect; she was on the chubby side, but that was overlooked; she was an ideal student.
    Not me, I was constantly bored, asked difficult questions, corrected the teachers’ spelling and grammar (and was usually right), and generally was a “difficult” student.
    Getting tested didn’t help. Once it was discovered that I had what then would be called a “genius” IQ, or now, exceptionally gifted, the expectations of me went UP, not down. I was expected to be good at every subject, not make mistakes, be a perfect learning machine. And I was bullied, by teachers and students alike.
    Come high school, and my parents were told there were no programs in our (large Canadian) city for gifted students. The provincial teachers’s association/union had managed to negotiate the disappearance/non-existence of giftedness, because it was unfair to other less able students, a result of the 1960s/1970s policy of radical education “motifs” in the universities that were very much in vogue, especially the idea that gifted kids were simply the result of middle-class hot-house parenting.
    My parents were given a choice: because I had a disability, I could be treated as a gifted student, eligible for the “mini-schools” at two of the twenty or so schools in the district, or be treated as a disabled student, eligible for “special learning” in “the trailers” at my high school; I was the only student to that point who was thrown out of the special learning program for reading books at a far-too-advanced level; When I was dismissed, I was reading John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, a book about medieval castle battlement defenses, and (all at the same time) a book called “You can trust a communist — to be a communist”. I had finished Communist Manifesto and wanted to get a different perspective. Oh, and how old was I? 13 years old, and reading books suitable for third year university.
    I really did not flourish as a student until university (surprise, surprise!), and when I learned to write papers on the university computer (that was just prior to the PC revolution), my grades on term papers went from C’s to A’s and B’s, because, freed from the mechanics of writing, I could focus on content instead. I’ve done 14 graduate school courses, 12 of them academic graduate level courses (Masters level) and, in the academic ones (the other two were experiential), of 12 courses, none were lower than A minus, and the majority were A+.
    I believe I learned more on my own and from my (brilliant) parents and various tutors, than I did in school itself. I think the same was true even in university, where my extra-curricular reading constituted 60% or so of my learning and studies.
    it’s not good to dwell on, or live in the past. I mention it not to bemoan my fate, for what is done is done. I offer it only as an illustration of the points you and others have made, not just in this blog post and presentation, but so many others you’ve put together, Celi. Thank you for the opportunity to share.

    • John,

      I know you understand that your story has the same plot as many, many other gifted students’ stories of their experiences in school. Sad but true…no, it is more than sad, it is despicable and unacceptable. A friend of mine just this morning sent me a research study exampling exactly what you went through in school and it was published in 1992, 23 years ago, and yet schools are still miseducating, misdiagnosing and neglecting our gifted children.

      “I believe I learned more on my own and from my (brilliant) parents and various tutors, than I did in school itself.” My oldest son who was the obedient, straight-A and ideal student said this also when he graduated with his MBA. He is a brilliant industrial designer who said he learned more about design outside of school because in school, he was only doing what he needed to do to give the instructor what he wanted in order to get his A in the class. Like Sir Ken Robinson has said, “schools kill creativity” and I would add they can also kill the love of learning in a child who should not be held back from learning at his accelerated pace.

      Maybe I should do a sequel presentation and gather statements and ideas from gifted adults who know what it is like to be held back in school, be mistreated and miseducated, and still suffer the consequences of this into adulthood!

      John, as always, thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Your story always shows us why we all need to work together to advocate for all gifted individuals!

      • I really appreciate the effort and the heart behind this, but it’s way too long and some of the quotes are off putting (Like help needing bottom wiped). I wouldn’t expect any teacher to go through this, sorry. Needs to be heavily edited. I also can’t forward it as a prez of a gifted ed advocacy group in my school district because of the quote you have “what you often find in gifted programs are academically compatible children”. First of all, that isn’t referenced as to source, and even though I may agree anecdotally, I can’t risk alienating the parents of the academically compatible children (as a parent of of a HG and PG kiddos) because they are just as frustrated as I am with their child needs getting met as well, and volunteer and advocate with me. Just a different perspective, again, I appreciate the effort and would look forward to a more edited version.

        • Deanie,

          I really do appreciate your comments, but I can’t edit the direct quotes of the parents who submitted them–what they said are their true feelings, experiences and opinions–and I quoted them exactly as they had written them. I understand that some of the quotes may be off-putting to some, but this is real-life for these parents and it is not up to me to change that.

          And I have to disagree, in part, with the need for credible sources to back up the statements. Anecdotal evidence is just as valid as data generated from research studies. Both need to be listened to and considered. However, I do know there are references to back up the statement that many gifted programs include both non-gifted high-achievers (academically compatible) and gifted students in their program for funding and diplomatic reasons.

          I’m sorry, Deanie, I can’t consider a more edited version because then I would be dumbing down and censoring the messages these parents felt were important to send. This is how they really feel, it is their reality, and sometimes the truth is not always politically palatable. I realize this presentation may not please everyone, but as we know, giftedness is an uncomfortable and controversial subject, and advocacy is a delicate balancing act.

          I really do understand your advocacy position and having to be diplomatic and not alienate allies–I was there two years ago when I established and worked to organize the North Alabama Association for Gifted Children. I was often given the advice to “coat my words with honey” in order not to alienate teachers, principals and school board members. It wasn’t easy.

          For now, I’m just a former public school teacher and a mother of three gifted children and I am trying to do my part to advocate for all gifted children especially those who do not have an advocate, to bring giftedness out of the closet and into a place where we can all discuss it reasonably and logically, and to improve the education and the lives of all gifted children–as imperfect as some of my efforts may be.

          I appreciate your feedback on this presentation. I do have another: A Gifted Child Checklist for Teachers, which is more research-based. Thank you, Deanie, for taking the time to share your thoughts and thank you for being an advocate for gifted children!

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