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Beam Me Up: A Case for Challenging the Gifted


You’ve met them: the little girl who went to space camp or the boy wouldn’t stop talking about dinosaurs. They’re the kids who are oft called nerds, geeks or dorks by classmates, who grasp math equations and science concepts easily, and who may know more than their teachers. But the typecast is not always correct, and misconceptions abound in the case of the gifted child. No definition is universally agreed upon, and interpretations of the terms “gifted” and “talented” are seemingly eternal.

Like all people, the gifted come in different shapes and sizes, have different needs and excel at different subjects. As students, they are not necessarily the ones who turn their homework in on time or who raise their hand eagerly every time the teacher asks a question.

Experts emphasize that highly intelligent kids, while brimming with intellectual potential, have needs that are not always met in traditional classrooms: Gifted children commonly have divergent thinking or visual-spatial learning styles that need extra care; some research indicates gifted kids are more likely to drop out of school or get into trouble with law enforcement, to have depression or anxiety; and emotionally, they often become isolated from their peers, are perfectionists and are extremely hard on themselves. It’s estimated that 20–25 percent of gifted children have social and emotional issues, almost double the rate for the general population of students.

Thusly, the common perception of educating a gifted student—that they don’t need extra support because they already understand the lessons being taught—flies in the face of the reality.

“I kind of consider it a learning style. Gifted is a terrible term for it. It’s not like a gift, in which they don’t need help from teachers,” said Debra Goldberg, who is a mother of two highly gifted teens in Boulder County. “…And it’s often the public’s perception that they will make it on their own. Research says this is not true. The more highly gifted a kid is, the harder it is for them to be identified and the more likely they are to have social or emotional problems, because they are so different.”

Certain expectations come with being labeled gifted, and that can be a lot for a child to handle, especially in school. Many sources interviewed for this article say keeping gifted students engaged—potentially nurturing the next Bill Gates, Maya Angelou or Mark Zuckerberg—comes down to keeping them challenged in the classroom.

“All students need to work hard,” Omdal said. “And it helps society for schools to help create students who are ready to solve the problems of the world.”


email no info send march17th/09

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