By Dawn N. Lewis, Ed.D, Adjunct Faculty
So… you have tried everything you could think of to get that one child to stay on task. You have tried multiple behavioral strategies, you’ve changed his seat so that he is closer to you, and you may have even assigned a peer buddy. How about this one; being the fabulous teacher that you are, you have even met with the parents numerous times to figure out what to do with this child. Now let’s be honest with one another. At any point in time did you ever think that you might be dealing with a child that is gifted?
This is the situation I found myself in two years ago when I began teaching Steven*. Steven was a 4th grade student who never seemed to stay on task. He constantly had to be redirected during instruction time. He was disorganized to the point that homework was a hit or miss in terms of making it back to school the next day. Needless to say, my frustration level with Steven* was beyond a 10. However, one day I assigned the class a project in which they had to work in groups. The project consisted of designing a tennis shoe and making a presentation on the unique qualities of the shoe. Well, to my surprise, Steven’s* presentation was the best in the class. Not only was his drawing amazing, but Steven* was able to stand before the class and explain in detail his tennis shoe concept. Have you ever seen the cartoons where the character’s mouth literally falls to the floor when they have been shocked by something? That was me. All this time I was thinking, “This kid just doesn’t get it!” When in reality, I was the one that didn’t get it. Steven* was a gifted learner.
Many of us are familiar with the term “talented and gifted”. If you are anything like me, your image of the talented and gifted student may be a little bit misconstrued. Educators are used to analyzing assessment data and determining where a child falls on the intelligence spectrum. We expect gifted children to be at certain academic level and display similar (positive) attitudes about learning. However, there is a group of highly gifted children that is being ignored or misdiagnosed as needing special education services.
Many gifted children may lack emotional maturity and find it difficult to con
trol their behavior, even though they may have highly developed cognitive skills. Often time’s teachers are looking for the gifted student to display their “talent” on standardized assessments, classwork, or homework. Students like Steven* must be provided alternate opportunities to showcase their “talents”. It is the responsibility of the adults to provide appropriate education and differentiate the learning so that children like Steven* can obtain the same level of success as their “typical gifted” peers.
So what happened with Steven* you ask? Instead of pulling my hair out and trying to get Steven* to conform to my way of thinking, I decided to ask Steven* what he wanted to learn and how he was going to show me he had learned it. Steven* and I embarked upon a journey that consisted of several project based tasks, oral presentations, and lots or drawing. Steven* was able to find a level of success that he could be proud of and I stopped pulling my hair out. I must admit that if Steven* had not be in my class that year, I would probably still think “gifted” students all presented the same. So thank you Steven* for showing me that “gifted” students are just as diverse and unique as the world we live in.
*Not the student’s real name